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Exemplar Award Winner- Winner National Gazetteers Technology Award and Award 2011: West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has embraced open source technology to develop a dynamic gazetteer generator which they have called ‘Chimp’. Designed to bring together traditionally disparate data products into a single system, Chimp also provides integrated extraction, transformation and load functions.

The delivery of Chimp was divided into two phases with the first instalment tightly focused on the creation of an LLPG based gazetteer to integrate with a new command and control system. The second stage was to roll-out the resulting gazetteer solution to all aspects of the brigade’s activities.

The capabilities of Chimp have already been used to target, administer and prioritise over 120,000 Home Safety Checks across the region, and have enabled a recent ‘Area Risk Modelling’ project to help inform and visualise high profile policy decisions.


The primary aim of the command and control replacement project was to implement a modern emergency mobilisation system and build on the already high standards of service being achieved. The use of the NLPG was identified as a result of its links to the (now abandoned) regional FiReControl project. Following preliminary analysis of the data, additional objectives were set:

• localities must reflect names likely to be reported during an emergency call

• geographical coordinates must be validated and errors corrected

• spelling anomalies must be resolved

• missing names of organisations needed specifying

• a detailed model of the motorway system needed positioning

• over 112,000 pieces of location specific data, including, for example, emergency rendezvous points, asbestos presence and police arrangements, needed to be linked to the relevant local authority LLPG.

Meeting these objectives resulted in the creation or modification of over 1 million pieces of data, and the brigade’s current LLPG holding is in the region of 2.9 million records and 86,000 streets. This includes over 20,000 additional records created to assist in the correct identification of a location during an emergency call out. It contains purposely misspelled terms and alternative names to reflect local knowledge.

After completion of the initial data delivery, the focus shifted to integrate the data, using Chimp, within the brigade’s new command and control system, and finally extending the use of the ‘corporate gazetteer’ across all of the brigade’s business support systems.

In order to meet the requirements of business processes throughout the organisation, including community safety, legislative fire safety, statistics and integrated risk management, additional data objectives were established;

• household and postcode demographics supplied by Experian

• indices of Multiple Deprivation from DCLG

• water hydrant information from the water companies

• highway marker post data from the Highways Agency

• flood data from the Environment Agency

• telephone kiosks from BT

• additional datasets from Ordnance Survey.

West Midlands Fire Service is making the technology freely available under an open licence. So far, Staffordshire Fire Service is also using Chimp and two other brigades are working toward its adoption. Chimp is underpinning a drive towards partnership working and location based interoperability with other emergency services, and it is hoped that such collaborations will help to further develop the software in a pioneering, community driven direction.

Key benefits

• the exclusive use of open source technology, in adherence with Cabinet Office guidelines for best practice, has resulted in a significant avoidance of development and on-going costs per annum

• the development of a dynamic gazetteer generator, that will in turn be offered to other organisations under an appropriate open licence, will result in further cost savings / avoidance

• Chimp has helped deliver operational efficiency gains and improved the quality of policy making processes and decisions

• a future-proof solution that can be easily adapted to ensure compliance with changing statutory and legislative requirements, whilst allowing the benefits of the latest data products to be absorbed with minimal cost and development.

View from the authority

“Having failed to find a software solution that did what we wanted, it was decided to develop one in-house. The NSG stood at either end of this process, helping us to prepare the paper based records for the survey and validation process, and being the means by which TRO data are eventually communicated. The NSG is also instrumental in the process by which TROs are introduced, revoked or updated. So, in three years, we have moved from a paper based system with lots of missing orders that relied on officers’ memories to function to a full electronic system that is up to date and available to all.”

-Carl Dent LSG Custodian, and Asset Database Manager Northumberland County Council

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