Citizens live streaming from incident sites - Drawalism, captured in the moment
Citizens live streaming from incident sites – Drawalism, captured in the moment

Liveblog of UK BlueLightCamp Unconference session on video live streaming to emergency service control centres. Probe to errors, uncertainly and howling cries against grammar.

Matt Wroughton, West Midlands Fire

Everyone’s been hit by spending round cuts. West Midlands fire has 60 appliances, to cover a huge area. People and pensions are the biggest cuts, and that means losing people and engines – 10 to 15 might have to go.

What’s the impact of that? Response times going up will cost lives. Getting to a property within five minutes gives a much great chance of saving lives. They have 20 BRV – staffed with three people – for small incidents. They need to manage how they respond to incidents. They’re looking at everything they can to improve that. They’ve worked with Formula 1 teams to understand how they make pitstops so quick.

This project is a back-up to that. If they can handle a call within 90 seconds, get more information than they are right now, you get better and safer decision making. They got some app companies in – and they all said that you’ll never get enough local people to download it.

The video 999 call

Bluelightcamp streaming speaker

Over 50% of calls to 999 come from mobile phones. So, send a text message to the calling phone, with an URL in it. There’s a script there, to check that people are happy and safe to do this. They click on the URL, and the webpage has the option to start streaming, which comes into the control centre. They’re hoping to make it zero-rated for data costs – but right now, it costs and the caller is warned.

At the moment they’re using triangulation to get position. With this systems, they can use GPS and WiFi to pinpoint people. Integrate that into Command and Control systems, and you save 30 to 40 seconds of responses time. Streams are live, while a picture makes it easier for hoaxers. But they can send photos to the responders en route.

There are all sorts of benefits, particularly early identification of additional resources needed at the incident, before the first team arrives.

Open source?

They’re developing it, they want more emergency services involved and are hoping to open source it.

There are legislation issues around data protection with sharing the information right now – that needs to be explored. If we get enough people, we could get a large working party on it.

It’s being funded by West Midlands Fire right now – and that’s justifiable by the gains they’d get. If they can bring Police and Ambulance in, that enhances it. Doing it nationally would be good, but could slow it down. Coventry University psychologists want to talk to both the callers about the experience. Market research shows a 100% positive response from people.

Bluelightcamp streaming unconference session


  • At the moment, they’re just sending photos to the responders. Streaming? Possibly.
  • Legalities? Some worries about people hurting themselves while streaming – but if people call at the moment you don’t ask if they’re safe to cross the road before you advise them to try CPR, for example.
  • What is the effect on the 999 operator on seeing these horrors all the time? It won’t be used 100% of the time, only for incidents where there are resource constraints.
  • People faking incidents? it’s an offence, and you know whose phone was used…
  • People are already doing this from scenes. Yes – that can be used for post-event investigation. Will the media pay for this footage? Yes, possible revenue stream, but copyright sits with the person who shot it, so that’s complicated. But the general social media footage can help us learn from events, by analysing what’s shared afterwards.
  • How do you communicate with the streamer? Through text messages on the screen.
  • The link is only live while the call is happening. It goes dead afterwards. Thet deals with the risk of being flooded with video.
  • Fantastic opportunity to enhance search and rescue. We can talk to them, but have no context. The ability to do a 360 degree sweep could save them hours and hours.
  • Is there an issue with other phone activity being blocked during 999 calls? Only on Vodaphone.
#ukblc14 – Emergency Citizen Livestreaming
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