Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has deployed a new shared service wide area network to cut costs and help improve response times.

 The Public Sector Network-compliant infrastructure from Virgin Media supports voice over IP to help cut costs and video conferencing.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, which signed a six-year constract also plans to use the network to share services with other councils and fire services across the country, including Kent Fire & Rescue in the coming months.  

Neil Moore, head of ICT at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said, “Sharing services is very much a reality for us. Knowing that we have a network that has a high level of security accreditation means that now and in the future we can share sensitive information, resources and knowledge with partners across the country.”

The WAN has been procured over the HPSN2 shared framework agreement launched in 2009, which is powered by Virgin Media Business’ nationwide fibre optic network.

The WAN connects 52 sites, including 51 fire stations and the headquarters in Eastleigh. Wider connections include another 16 partners including Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Over 1,900 staff at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service will have access to the network, operating at speeds of up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps), including 810 whole-time firefighters, 755 retained firefighters, and 370 support staff.

With the network staff can more efficiently access specialised systems that enable them to determine the fire risk to premises before they leave the station.  

Last December the government cancelled the £350 million FireControl project, following widely-voiced concerns over costs and delays. But it declined to reveal the settlement reached or any cancellation penalties that will be paid.

The scheme had been intended to merge 46 local fire control centres to nine "state of the art" centres driven by advanced IT systems