Norfolk’s emergency 999 calls could be answered across the east coast

Emergency 999 calls made in Norfolk could be taken by operators in Lincolnshire and Humberside under new fire service plans.

Officials are examining ways to create better links between the east coast fire brigades to help them cope better in busy periods and save cash.

Hertfordshire is also included in the project, which has received �7.2m of government funding.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue would retain its Hethersett control room, regarded as one of the best in the country, with the other three areas also keeping their call-taking centres.

The idea has emerged after the collapse of the previous Labour government's FireControl project.

This aimed to streamline England's existing 46 fire and rescue control rooms into nine purpose-built regional centres.

But the programme was scrapped due to spiralling costs and IT problems in December 2010.

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Harry Humphrey, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for community protection, said: 'We are looking at collaboration with others with fire control. We had considered going with Suffolk earlier but they went with Cambridgeshire instead.

'We are looking at an east coast thing with Lincolnshire and Humberside – that's something we are talking about. There's no definite decisions at the moment and we are looking at all options. As resources are tight, we are looking at collaboration as something we can do without loss of service.'

It is hoped linking up the four control centres will improve response times to emergencies.

Peter Greeves, Norfolk Fire Brigades Union chairman, said he was interested to see more detail on the proposals to learn what it will mean for the county.

Mr Greeves said: 'Norfolk has got one of the best systems in the country, if not the best. The change is more to do with resilience. We will have concerns if they try to reduce numbers of control staff.'

richard.wheeler@archant.co.uk

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