M2GX is the official Home Office radio call sign allocated to
Strathclyde Fire Brigade.
It was previously allocated to Glasgow Fire Service (who like most other controls in the country didnt use the M2 and just called it GX) until Local Government reorganisation in 1975 when A and B divisions control in the Central Fire Station, Ingram Street, Glasgow continued to use it. In 1975 there were also 4 other controls:-
Charlie Control in C Division Headquarters, 5 Thornhill,
AF Control in Ayr Fire Station, 2 Station Road, Ayr. (this control room opened in 1963)
FN Control in Hamilton
Foxtrot Control in Clydebank Fire Station
Charlie Control was in the room on the left as you walked into C Division Headquarters, which was probably the Western Fire Area Control room before 1975 and would have had an M2?? Call sign of its own but I always knew it as Charlie Control.
In March 1978 rationalisation of Controls proposed that the five
controls would become two with one at Johnstone and the other at the new Cowcaddens
headquarters now being build. This never happened.
What happened (over a period of two years) was that Charlie and Foxtrot Controls combined to form Juliet Control (J for Joint Control) at Johnstone and then the other three (Glasgow (GX), Ayr (AF) and Hamilton (FN)) moved to Johnstone and it was known as Control. It would appear that the Home Office as governing body told Strathclyde Fire Brigade that it couldn't just call it Control and they would need to use it's call-sign so it is now called M2GX
In 1975 the appliance Call Signs were made up of one 1 letter and two or three numbers eg C73:- Station, C7 (Greenock) 3 (pump with over 45' ladder (the first appliance which was a Pump Escape)) or C113:- Station C11(Gourock) 3 (retained pump with over 45' ladder (the first appliance which was a Pump Escape). If Control was calling a station they would Say "Control to station C11, so as not to confuse it with appliance C11(One of Johnstone's pumps.) which would invariably answer if they were out.
Stations A1,A2,A3,B1,B2,C1,C11,D2,D13,E4,E16,F7,F24,F51 etc.
1 Pump with under 45 Ladder
2 Pump with under 45 Ladder
3 Pump with 45 or over Ladder
4 Pump with 45 or over Ladder
5 Turntable Ladder
6 Hydraulic Platform
7 Emergency Tender
8 Emergency Support Unit later known as Road Rescue Unit
9 Hose and Foam Tender/Foam Tender
At a later stage when the button boxes came in, all call signs were standardised to 4 parts with wholetime stations getting a 0 in front of the station number e.g. C073.
At an even later stage, maybe when stop codes were introduced, the numbers for appliance types were changed to
First Wholetime Pump
2 Second Wholetime Pump
3 First Retained Pump
4 Second Retained Pump
5 Aerial Appliance (Turntable Ladder, Hydraulic Platform or Aerial Ladder Platform.)
6 Road Rescue Unit
7 Control Unit
8 Specialist Appliance (Heavy Rescue Unit or Technical support Unit.)
9 Foam Salvage Unit, Damage Control Unit or Volunteer Support Unit.
Charlie Control, Thornhill, Johnstone.
? to ? Juliet Control, Thornhill, Johnstone.
? to ? Command and Control Centre, Thornhill, Johnstone. Photos
Officer in Charge
? to ? PFCO Jean Spence (Ex Assistant Group Officer Glasgow Fire Service)
1981 PFCO W. McCall
? to 14/3/2003 PFCO Ian Stocks (Seconded to HCIFS Scotland, Firelink Project)
July 2004 to 30/3/2012 PFCO Gillian Thomson (retired)
Feb 2012 to GC(c) Jacqui MacDonald (Officer in Charge of Operations Control)
1 Principal Fire Control Officer
1 Group Fire Control Officer
5 Fire Control Officers
8 Senior Fire Control Operators
8 Leading Fire Control Operators
44 Fire Control Operators
The staff are split into 4 watches (Red, White, Blue and Green) working 2 days, 2 nights, 4 days off with 1 FCO, 2SFCOs, 2LFCOs and 11 FCOs per watch.
Paisley computer firm to supply equipment
NEW £2m CENTRE FOR FIRE FIGHTERS
Johnstone is to become the nerve centre for firefighting in
And a Paisley computer firm have won a £400,000 contract to supply equipment.
The new communication system will cost a total of 32 million and make the regions fire fighters the most efficient and fastest in the world. It will save lives and property.
Johnstone was chosen because of its central location. Around 50 people will man the new control centre, which will go into operation in June next year.
The heart of the system will be two Data General SL40 computers and a single MV6000 computer. Data Generals Scottish headquarters are at Trident House in Renfrew Road, Paisley, and it was the local sales team who won the contract.
They faced tough opposition from 83 international companies. Their
winning bid was in partnership with I.A.L. Gemini of Middlesex who will supply computer
software and communications hardware.
Control personnel at Johnstone will have constantly updated information on the Strathclyde brigades 300 vehicles and manpower.
This means they can switch them to where they are needed almost instantly.
A large wall display will pinpoint the firefighters movements.
A fire spokesman said that the security will be at a premium in the new centre, which will have the task of handling all the fire calls in the region.
More than 52,000 calls were received from the public last year, and these will all be routed through Johnstone.
The information on the location and the type of incident will be fed into the computer, and an instant display on the VDU will show the best way of deploying units.
At the press of a button the controller can order the dispatch of the correct number of firefighters.
(Paisley Daily Express, Monday, May 2,1983. Page 1.)
Johnstones Fire HQ moves into new era of computer controls
Report:Paul Massey Photographs:Hector Lyle
FROM a chip pan fire in Johnstone to a major emergency at Glasgow
Airportlocal firemen will now be able to tackle blazes better than ever before.
Its all due to a new computer aided control system installed at Johnstones C Division Control Room at the Thornbrae.
The system became partly operational just over a fortnight ago, and the "Advertiser" was the first paper to see round it, along with the improved facilities at the nerve centre of Renfrewshires fire service.
Officers are now convinced that the new system will help appliances get to the scene of accidents quicker, and also reduce hazards for their own personnel.
Assistant Divisional Officer John Martin, who is attached to Brigade Headquarters at Hamilton, said:
"The new computer system allows our control room officers to link up with anywhere in "C" Division, as well as our appliances. This, we hope, will reduce the response rate the time between the call to the Control Room and the appliance leaving the station.
"That way we should be able to reduce fire damage and injuries.
"Its speed will also provide greater safety for personnel at the fire ground, because the increased flow of information will warn them of the various hazards they are likely to encounter.
At the moment, the new system is only covering "C" Division which extends from Renfrew District down to Gourock, Port Glasgow and Weymss Bay. Later this year the service will be extended at a cost of millions of pounds to take in "F" Division which covers the Argyll and Bute area.
The Johnstone control room handled about 4,00C calls last year and expects to double this when "F" Division calls are monitored there too.
In the past control rooms have tended to be what the term suggests a control system placed in a room invariably not really designed for the purpose.
Not at Johnstone, however. The chairs, adjustable lighting, and facilities have been placed with the efficiency of the operators in mind.
The system is based in what was the Stations old store room, It is fully carpeted and sound proofed so that the noise of overhead planes does not interfere with the work of the three Fire Control Operators and their Supervisor. There is also a stand by generator in case of power failure.
"We are also fully protected against intruders and possible terrorist attack," said Assistant Divisional Officer Martin.
"Anyone who wants to enter the station must first press a button on the outside door which alerts the staff. A two-way radio system allows them to identify themselves before being admitted, and they are also being monitored on close circuit television at the same time."
The Control Operators and Supervisor sit at desks in front of a large map of. "C Division. The map tells them at a glance where appliances are. They can also note if any schools, hospitals or other places are holding fire drills so that no appliance will be sent out.
The system is based on similar American control methods and provides radio links along GPO landlines.
Senior Fire Control Officer Grace Jeffrey explained: "Johnstone was chosen as the site for the new system as it is geographically more or less in the centre of Strathclyde.
From here the Operators can link up with our full time stations and part time stations, as well as having direct links with Glasgow Airports station and the control tower there. They are also linked up to the Fraser Exchange in Glasgow, which handles 999 calls.
Senior Officer Jeffrey, who was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours List for her 30 years service to the Brigade, also explained that the Operators undergo intensive training for six months before being allowed to handle the system themselves.
The training is carried out in a special room behind the Control Room, where equipment similar to the system can be used. A large glass window also allows a view of the control room at work.
Behind the training room lies a vast new equipment store, where the radio equipment is linked to the Post Office.
But not all the work at Divisional Headquarters has gone towards fire fighting equipment. The Stations officers now have a luxurious recreation room, with books, music, comfortable chairs and a fully equipped kitchen with cooker, oven, sink, table and chairs.
"Officers work either 10 or 14 hour shifts," explained Assistant Divisional Officer Martin, "so they can be working from either 8 am. till 6 p.m. or 6 p.m. till 8 a.m. Therefore its essential that they have a place where they can relax properly. The previous recreation room was very cramped and were delighted with the new facilities.
New toilet and shower facilities have also been incorporated into the Station.
It all adds up to a better service for the public. And in the non-stop world of fire fighting, where life and death are often at risk, these new facilities are no more than the Johnstone controlled officers deserve.
Brigade Fire Control
Official Opening Ceremony, Tuesday 20th August 1985,
Order of Proceedings
Platform Party Assemble
Councillor Gerald McGrath, DL, FBCO, DCLP, JP.
Vice Chairman, Police and Fire Committee
Opening Ceremony and Unveiling of Commemorative Plaque
Councillor James Irvine, JP
Chairman, Police and Fire Committee
Rev. Peter Houston
Strathclyde Fire Brigade Chaplain
Presentation of Visitors Book
Mr. Robert Calderwood, LLB
Chief Executive, Strathclyde Regional Council
Firemaster Clive B. Halliday, MIFireE
Strathclyde Fire Brigade
Vote of Thanks
Councillor Andrew Ferguson, JP
Chairman, Buildings and Property Committee
Tour of Control
In the early part of 1800 when a fire occurred during the night, the
watchman nearest it raised the alarm by sounding a rattle which consisted of a set of big
clappers made of loose pieces of wood which were tied together in such a manner as to give
a particularly loud rattling noise when shaken. At the same time as they were sounded he
shouted "Fire" mentioning where it had taken place. This signal was instantly
followed by the other watchmen, so that information was immediately communicated to the
constable of the night in the Police Office, who instantly dispatched two officers with
drums, to beat the Fire alarm, while the watchmen in whose stations any of the firemen or
carters lived, lost no time in getting them out of bed.
In Glasgow in 1873 a system of street alarms was devised by a fireman in Fire Brigade Headquarters, College Street, Glasgow. The apparatus was simple and consisted of iron boxes which were placed at strategic points throughout the city. When the glass cover of the alarm was broken the fire brigade were immediately summoned to that location. A further refinement was introduced to this system around 1890. When the brigade arrived at the street alarm, a small piece of apparatus which they brought with them was hooked into an iron eye in the wall, immediately below the alarm box, and a small pin taken from this portable apparatus was then inserted in a hole in the push knob allowing the box to be converted for the time being into a telegraph station, communicating with the headquarters, to which the superintendent of the brigade could send messages desiring an additional force or supplementary appliances.
This street fire alarm system was the first devised for public use to alert the fire brigade, in the United Kingdom and was hailed as an amazing advancement in services to the public. This system of alerting the fire brigade remained in use until the early 1960s.
Between 1930 and 1939, a number of small experimental schemes were set up, the majority operating on either medium or high frequencies.
There were two main reasons for their limited success-firstly, the wavelengths employed were unsuitable for communication to and from the vehicles and secondly, the small number of wave lengths available for general use severely restricted the allocation for schemes of this kind. The development of very high frequencies radically altered this picture by suddenly making a large number of channels available for short range communication services. These very high frequency channels were fortunately found to be remarkably effective for local mobile two way radio telephone schemes.
At this time with the rapid extension of the automatic telephone system and in particular with the introduction of dialled "999" emergency calls, the needs for street alarms lessened steadily.
The introduction of radio communications added considerably to the efficiency of the Fire Brigade in that from the moment an appliance left the fire station it was in full communication with the Brigade control room. Radio eliminated the previous unavoidable loss of time which was incurred in having to speak to control through the medium of the street fire alarm system or telephone.
When local government was reorganised in Scotland in 1975, Strathclyde Fire Brigade had five control rooms covering six divisions. These control rooms were situated as follows:
"A" & "B" DivisionGlasgow;
A study was carried out to determine the most efficient way of handling
the Brigade resources. The result of this study showed that a single control at Johnstone,
using a standard mobilising system driven by a computer-aided command and control system
would meet the Brigades needs.
After consultation with the Department of Architectural and Related Services work started in January 1980 to convert the premises at Johnstone which had previously been used as stores accommodation.
The divisional controls were amalgamated at Johnstone over a phased period and the various types of mobilising systems in use replaced by an "RFL Firecat" mobilising system. "Firecat" uses radio as a primary bearer and Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) as a secondary bearer.
A command and control system is interphased to the communications system.
Three interlinked minicomputers form the heart of the system. Attached to these are interphases to both micro computer controlled sub systems and external computers. All communications lines are attached to the three main computers via an intelligent data port switch which allows lines to be switched from computer to computer, either singularly or in blocks.
Main Operational Computer
The main function of the operational computer is to assist an operator from receipt of an incident call, providing information relevant to each stage of mobilising through to the termination of an incident.
The standby computer acts as a constant backup medium for live data on the operational computer and to constantly monitor the state of the primary operational computer ready to take over control of the system should failure occur.
Management Information System
This system is updated periodically from the operational computer and
from terminals distributed throughout the Brigade.
A resource availability system provides data communication between vehicle mounted data encoder units (button boxes) and the Brigade Control System computer. This communication utilises the Brigade V.H.F., radio network as a bearer circuit for data signal transmission greatly reducing the amount of voice traffic.
A wall display shows availability and status of all appliances within Strathclyde area and enables the supervising officer to determine the areas of depleted cover and deploy resources accordingly via the main computer system.
An interface connects between the operational computer and the Strathclyde Regional Council Road Departments computer allowing a "Greenwave" traffic light system to be used throughout the Greater Glasgow area.
The central core of the building is the control room which is manned 24 hours a day. Around this are offices and other ancillary accommodation facilitating movement and supervision.
Air conditioning is provided to the Control Room, Viewing area and Computer areas with a comprehensive system of extract ventilation serving all other areas.
Strathclyde’s command and control project
Work on the procurement of a
replacement command and control system for the brigade began in 1996. This
procurement process was seen as the chance to provide the brigade, not only with
a replacement command and control system, but with an integrated command,
control and communications system (IC3S) utilising cutting edge technology to
supply the most efficient and reliant systems available.
After extensive research, tendering and evaluation, the contract as prime contractor for the new IC3S was awarded on the 30th November 1998 to British Aerospace Defence Systems Limited (BAe).
The IC3S is currently undergoing installation and testing at the brigade’s new command and control complex at Johnstone. As prime contractor BAe are responsible for the various sub systems being supplied, in addition to their own Fire Information Manager (FIM) system.
Integrating with FIM are the following systems:
• Geographical Information System (GIS ) supplied by PAFEC now SER Ltd, Stapleford, Nottingham.
• Communications systems by Multitone Electronics Plc, Livingstone and Thorcom Systems, Worcester.
• Central RAS replacement by BBN Communications Ltd, Poole, Dorset.
• MIS by GEC Marconi now BAe Systems Leicester.
• Wall display by HARP Systems, Gosport, Hampshire.
Although the core of all these
systems is suitable for most brigades a detailed functional design stage
(lasting four months), was undertaken between BAe and the brigade to provide the
added functionality required.
Command and control system FIM
The FIM system provides control staff with comprehensive incident and resource management facilities whilst utilising user-friendly front end screens. The system is based on the Windows NT operating system running on Sun Enterprise 450 servers with Dell Optillex Pentium clients. In addition to the two main and one fallback server the brigade is also installing a separate training server. Operators can access a number of facilities from their workstations, including the Management Information System (MIS), the Geographic Information System (GIS) and general office facilities.
Functionality within the FIM system being provided to the brigade includes automatic pre-alerting of resources on receipt of an emergency call by utilising EISEC information from British Telecom. In addition to this, FIM will interface with the GIS system to provide a dynamic routing facility which provides a real time calculation and prioritisation of resources required. This will ensure that the appropriate appliances are proposed which will enable them to reach the incident in the quickest possible times.
Mobilising and communications systems
The new command and control (FlM) system will make use of a Multitone/Thorcom newly installed four site data radio system for primary mobilising. Mobilising data at 9600 Baud is transmitted via channels on the existing L700 microwave link network, which is also used for the brigade’s mobile voice system. This is then broadcast to the mobilising equipment at fire stations using the GD92 1200 Baud protocol. As a secondary bearer (which can also be configured as primary) the brigade uses ISDN 2 to all wholetime and retained stations, and PSTN to volunteer stations. The ISDNs are used for both mobilising and administrative data.
In order to provide resilience both at main and at a new standby control situated at Johnstone Fire Station, the brigade installed separately a new ‘Delta’ microwave link between main and standby controls and the main radio site at Sergeants Law near Paisley. This link allows access between both controls by a triangulated link allowing additional FIM, GIS, RAS and comms servers to be located at standby control. These can be accessed via the link allowing both sites to work separately or together in real time providing the brigade not only with one of the most up to date main controls in Europe, but also a standby control utilising exactly the same equipment and having the same capabilities.
Geographic Information System
The Strathclyde GIS system interfaces with RAS, MIS and command and control to give a powerful operational and statistical tool. The system is not only capable of displaying graphically the location of resources, but is also capable of calculating the effect of road closures etc in utilising the dynamic routing facility for resource proposals. From a strategic viewpoint the GIS will also be used for analytical purposes allowing the brigade to target areas of concern within community safety, such as malicious calls, fire safety campaigns etc.
Management Information System
The MIS supplied by BAe Systems Leicester provides powerful operational capabilities by interfacing with both command and control and GIS. Terminals located at each wholetime and retained fire station allow pre planning of resources and equipment, details of which are fed into the command and control system.
Wall display system
As part of the contract Harp Ltd have installed a rear projected wall display within the new control room. The display, measuring 5m by 3m and comprising of six interlinked screens, is PC controlled by supervisor workstations.
The new integrated command, control and communications system, together with the new control centre will place Strathclyde Fire Brigade at the forefront of technology within emergency service control rooms, and further improve the level of service delivery to the public for which it is responsible.
<PHOTO> As part of the contract Harp Ltd have installed a rear projected wall display within the new control room
(Fire Times April/May 2000 Volume 3 No. 3. Page 15)
Command & Control Centre
Opened by Her Majesty The Queen
Thursday 5th July 2001
The New Command & Control Centre
Strathclyde Fire Brigades new emergency Command & Control
Centre situated in Johnstone is the most modern and technologically advanced in the
British Fire Service. Its emergency call handling and fire appliance mobilising
systems enable the Brigade to provide a faster and more effective response to calls for
assistance throughout the Strathclyde area.
The new Integrated Command, Control and Communications System which has been installed in a new purpose built structure has placed Strathclyde Fire Brigade at the forefront of technology within Emergency Service Control Rooms, and further improved the Ievel of service delivery to the public for which it is responsible.
The new building and systems went "live" on 12th February 2001 in a seamless transition from the old systems in an adjacent building. As planned, no interruption to, or disruption of, any activities was experienced, and the highly trained staff who handle all emergency calls and mobilise the Brigades appliances 24 hours a day now have the most up-to-date tools to enable them to provide a more effective and efficient response to all emergencies.
The 67 Brigade Control staff form a dedicated and skilled team. They are adept at handling a wide variety of incidents and ensure that he public receive an immediate service at all times. The wide variance in the type of risk within the geographical area of Strathclyde places great demands on the staff who support incident attendances including forest fires, aircraft accidents, incidents at nuclear installations, domestic fires and road traffic accidents, which all require a unique and immediate response to ensure successful outcomes.
The professionalism of the staff has often been recognised and on two recent notable occasions formal awards have been made to individuals where they have used their skills in giving fire survival guidance on the telephone to members of the public trapped in fires, substantially assisting in their successful rescue.
It is a Brigade priority to continue to develop and support the systems and environment which enable the Control staff to consistently deliver this professional and compassionate service to all those who make contact for assistance.
(from the official opening programme.)
Controls emotional farewell
By Paul Sharp
Senior Communications Engineer
On Friday March 16 a major part of Strathclyde Fire Brigades
history was retired from active service. The Firecat mobilising system was decommissioned
at a ceremony attended by Communications engineers and Control staff past and present. The
final coup de grace was performed by communications engineer Jim Gardiner. Jim was
ably assisted by former colleague, now retired, Charles Rodgers, both of whom participated
in the original installation.
Manufactured by RFL Electronics, it was installed in 1982 to mobilise the former D Division. The system was the preferred choice of the Brigades project team at the time and was hailed as the cutting edge of its day. The system replaced sirens with high-tech pagers, and by 1985 it had been installed across the entire Brigade by Comms engineers.
The equipment ran continuously and carried out well over 1 million mobilisations in its illustrious career. Its serviceability and resilience endeared it to Control staff and Comms engineers alike. Its replacement, the Thorcom MDS700 system, has a lot to live up to but should serve the Brigade well over the forthcoming years.
Many stations throughout the Brigade still have the Firecats famous blue cabinets, only now they dont have to have a saucer of milk put down for them at night!
As the Brigade moves into the new millennium let us salute the Firecat system and the part it played in mobilising fire crews and saving lives over the years.
Firecat 1982-2001 remembered with pride.
<PHOTO> a tearful GFCO Gillian Thompson (left) is consoled by Charlie Rodgers, as GFCO Linda Coughlan, Comms Engineer Jim Gardner and SFCO Laura Kemp have mixed emotions.
(Semper Paratus, Issue No.6 Summer 2001. Page 7.)
If you know of any mistakes in this or have any additional information please let me know.
MAIN INDEX 1975 INDEX STRATHCLYDE INDEX