Where next for ECHO? Asks Richard Jenkins, Director of the alarm transfer service provider.
It’s little over three years since October 2020 and the first ECHO testing (involving Banham Alarms and Essex Police) hinted at the gains in police response ECHO connectivity could bring. 11 police forces and the public they serve are now reaping the benefits. The numbers speak for themselves!
Essex police, in the vanguard of ECHO early adopters reports the time taken from receipt of alarm signals to arrival at the scene of the incident is now averaging below 10 minutes. The Metropolitan Police are now arriving on site in an average time of 8 minutes, with the most rapid attendances in less than 30 seconds. This performance was unimaginable in the earlier era when the call handling alone (never mind ‘blues-and-twos’ responder time) was typically at 1-4 minutes.
Currently over 300,000 intruder and hold-up/personal attack alarms now have significant added security in ECHO-connected police force areas. ECHO supported alarm response is running at a rate of over 40,000 incidents per annum. Time savings alone are dramatic; as are the indirect efficiency gains in police control rooms (with call handlers focussed on other more valuable activities); yet the greatest benefits are in outcomes for victims and crime clear-up rates.
Independent research findings* into the effect of police response time on crime clearance rates has found a 10% increase in (i.e., slower) response time leads to a 4.7% decrease in the likelihood of clearing the crime, underlining the value of improved police response.
Since 2020, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Requirements for Security Systems has called for commercial Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) to pass alarm signals to the police digitally where forces are enabled. The NPCC lead, DCC Ciaron Irvine commented recently, “The progress made by ECHO and the 11 forces now ECHO-connected has made tremendous inroads in police control room efficiencies and police responders impact at the scene of intruder and hold up incidents, and I encourage all forces to get ECHO-connected at the earliest opportunity”.
The Joint Security and Resilience Centre at the Home Office (JSaRC), the professional security alarms and monitoring sectors, integrators (BT Redcare and CSL), trade associations (notably BSIA and ECA) and certification bodies (NSI and SSAIB) have been wholly behind the ECHO initiative as has the NPCC and Police-CPI.
It’s unquestionable that ECHO has moved alarm response into the digital age. There are the obvious questions: ‘Why (notwithstanding the success the 11 individual ECHO-connected forces have had,) have police colleagues in other areas been slower to take up the opportunity?’ ‘What’s down the track for ECHO-connected forces, the industry and its customers?’ and ‘What are the natural next steps or new ECHO services that might further support blue light services?’
Police force priorities are multivarious and ECHO sits on a schedule of ‘must do’s’ in each individual force. For some the configuring of control room software is relatively straightforward, for others more substantial upgrades are required. ECHO is standing by to support police colleagues get ‘ECHO-connected’. Once in earnest, some forces have been on-boarded within weeks. The beauty of the concept is that ECHO-connecting a new force in 2024 is a formality from the ECHO point of view, with Alarm Receiving Centres able to deliver signals to a newly ECHO-connected force via ECHO at the drop of a hat.
Enhancements industry would like to see include more comprehensive real-time feedback concerning alarm response status, for example indication of the police arrival time at an alarm incident, identification of the incident as a false alarm or other: valuable assistance to victims and informative regarding alarm monitoring and management.
Information regarding hazardous sites can be invaluable to first responders yet can change over time. ECHO could be the channel for periodic updates of police records bringing significant added value to the security of alarm protected sites, as well as improve police responder safety.
High Value Asset tracking alarms (not limited to high value vehicles), Lone Worker alarms, passing of geo-locational data in real time are also areas where added value might be delivered to the police via the ECHO platform. The true potential of such services will increase once ECHO connectivity has reached the majority of UK forces.
The future potential for other blue light services is significant e.g. Fire & Rescue Services. In 2021 the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) noted false fire alarms occur in the UK every two minutes, costing the economy an estimated £1 billion annually. Certificated alarms in higher risk environments e.g. in buildings of multiple occupancy, high-rise constructions, hotels, hospitals, warehousing/industrial activities, all could benefit from ECHO-connected alarm signalling in due course.
In all these ECHO nimbleness in upgrading connectivity will serve the blue light services as their priorities evolve.