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Pedrógão Grande fire communications failure - emergency personnel should have made fewer calls

FireLeiriaSmallCarsThe company responsible for the emergency communication system that failed to function during significant periods of the devastating Pedrógão Grande fire claimed that the SIRESP system, "lived up to the complexity of the theatre of operations."

SIRESP, a private company that manages the state's emergency communications network, says that "there was no interruption in the operation of the network" nor "was there any station that was left without service as a result of the fire" that killed 64 people.

The report on the performance of the Integrated System of Emergency and Safety Networks in Portugal (SIRESP) was published today on the Government website and comes after the Civil Protection "Time Tape" has been analysed over the period of the fire.

According to the Civil Protection agency, on the first day of the fire in Pedrógão Grande there were at least five serious situations in which the command post could not be contacted because of communications failures but the company insists the SIRESP "matched the complexity of the theatre of operations, ensuring communications and interoperability of emergency and security forces," despite this not being the case.

Of the communications towers that were damaged by the fire, the company says that the system is duplicated to help communications to function even in "extreme situations" such as at Pedrógão Grande.

"It is demonstrated that the SIRESP Network worked according to the architecture that was designed for this network," reads the company's report into its own performance.

During the critical period of the fire, (from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on June 18th), more than 100,000 calls were processed through 1,092 terminals and over the five days that the fire raged, the number later increasing to 1.1 million calls at more than 3,000 terminals.

"These figures show that the performance of the SIRESP network was up to the complexity of the theater of operations, ensuring the communications and interoperability of emergency and security forces," concludes the company which goes on to blames the lack of communication systems on too many calls that served to overload the system's capacity to function.

Far from calling this a failure, the company puts the blame on too many calls between emergency personnel who at the time were desperately trying to coordinate evacuation and rescue activities but were unable to, leaving firemen without water and victims alone and helpless with many losing their lives as a result.

The various forces involved in fighting the flames could not communicate with one another so could not effectively organise themselves.

The report makes some recommendations such as increasing the capacity of the SIRESP system, reducing the number of users, making calls shorter and "avoiding private calls in emergency situations."

The Minister of Internal Administration has ordered an audit by the General Inspectorate of Internal Administration to assess the €40 million a year SIRESP system and its compliance with "legal and contractual obligations and its management, maintenance and inspection schedule.

The operator that manages SIRESP paid more than €6.67 million to its shareholders in dividends in 2016. The previous year, the company had recorded profits of three million.

The shareholders of SIRESP, a public-private partnership set up by the Ministry of Internal Administration, approved the distribution of dividends in January last year, even before the 2015 accounts were signed off.

SIRESP's largest shareholder is Galilei, the now insolvent company left in the wreckage of bust bank BPN.

Galilei owns 33% of SIRESP, PT (owned by Altice) has a 30.55% share, Motorola, which provided the insufficient technology, has 14.9%, 9,55% is held by Datacomp, and Esegur (owned by Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Novo Banco) has 12%.

The fire service has yet to respond to the recommendation that its personnel make fewer calls during such emergencies.

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+1 #2 dw 2017-06-29 22:35
SIRESP sounds like another monumental rip off. A corporate welfare scheme whereby public money is syphoned off in vast amounts in perpetuity.
0 #1 Charly 2017-06-28 10:54
Looking after a "black-sheep" ?

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