National Audit Office Report into the ESN Published

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The National Audit Office has published its report on upgrading emergency service communications: the Emergency Services Network. It contains some difficult observations on the risks involved. Interestingly the Home Office has been allowed some additional text after the conclusion.

The National Audit Office has published its report into upgrading emergency services communications. That's the ESMCP or ESN to you and me.

The report makes interesting reading. I'd encourage all of you with an interest in Public Safety Communications to read it.

There are some stark phrases used by the authors. "Overall, the programme, the Home Office and other sponsor bodies appear to be underrating the seriousness of the risks ESN poses." I actually don't think that is the case. I've had some involvement with the ESMCP and with the Airwave project before that. There are some very good people involved with this project with a great deal of knowledge and experience. The report does go on. " In general, the programme has a positive delivery-focused culture that has helped it retain staff and manage issues as they have emerged." So not all bad.

Aside from the inherent issues of deployment, testing and training there must be huge pressure to use the network once it's installed. This is something we never achieved with Airwave. With the proliferation of mobile working solutions around the public safety arena now, there will be issues about staff carrying multiple devices and only using the ESN as a very expensive voice network.

There is no point in repeating the whole report here. Follow the link to the web site and see what you think. There is a little used comments section on our website after each article. It would be interesting to hear from you what you think by commenting.

British APCO has always stood for the interests of public safety communications users. We are your voice. We understand that this is a complex and challenging programme and believe the best way forward is to continue working with the Home Office, suppliers and the ESN teams around the country to bring the programme to a successful conclusion.

The NAO report shows that though the hard work may have started, it must continue in order to exploit the potential of the ESN and deliver true benefits to users. We intend to make this one of the subjects dealt with at our main B-APCO event in Telford next March.

The Home Office has already agreed members of the ESN team will attend our Autumn Event in Newcastle on the 9th & 10th of November. They will be a key part of that event. If you are involved in ESN then you need to be there for the latest information and to hear how the team are dealing with the issues identified.

Ian Thompson

B-APCO Operations Manager