Blue Light Services Embrace Government Call To Share Information

Employee round-table discussion
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Security project beats Barclaycard and KPMG to European award.

Crewe, May 17th, 2013 – “Regulatory compliance is not about getting a tick in a box,” says Martin Sugden of data security experts Boldon James, “it’s about protecting the public from information leakage and facilitating better working between stakeholders.”

And in the case of Boldon James client South-West Fire & Rescue Service (FRS), better working can sometimes be the difference between life and death…

Fire and rescue services in England need to be “transformed” to become more efficient and effective, a government-commissioned review announced today. Sir Ken Knight, who recently retired as the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser, called for more information sharing and collaboration between emergency services and insisted the review was about adjusting the service to current needs, not cutting it, and called upon emergency services to “adapt and change”

Sir Ken’s report follows last month’s London forum where chief officers, emergency planning professionals, heads of resources and procurement, heads of ICT, heads of operations, and heads of information met at an Inside Government debate investigating how Blue Light Services can be ‘transformed through innovation, ICT and technology’.

Meanwhile, the five Fire and Rescue Services in the south west of England – Dorset, Avon, Cornwall, Devon & Somerset, and Wiltshire – have come together in a ‘Secure Information Interchange Programme’ to improve information security and facilitate the sharing of information with their external partners to improve community safety, they concluded that policy and training was not enough – a system was vital to enforce protective marking of documents created!

“South West FRS holds personal information on vulnerable and high-risk people and we have to protect this information, as its loss or release to unauthorised personnel would affect credibility and trust with other services as well as with the public,” commented Graham Saunders, South West FRS Programme Manager. “Although the training helped participants understand why they were being asked to handle information in certain ways, it didn’t help them do it uniformly or enforce it for them.”

The Secure Information Interchange Programme was designed to raise South West FRS’s policies, procedures, systems, governance and IT infrastructure up to the stringent requirements of UK HMG standards. Boldon James CEO Martin Sugden explained: “The tight management and control over access and dissemination of information residing in emails, documents, file stores and across intranets & extranets was a core requirement to enable South West FRS to gain Protective Security Framework (PSF) accreditation. A number of other Fire and Rescue services had attempted to implement manual protective marking solutions to manage and control access to this information, but these purely manual solutions tended to focus on national and regional resilience planning, where most documents were classified and sent to the FRS in paper format and did not extend to other datasets. South West FRS recognised that it needed to partner with a highly experienced and specialist organisation if it was to achieve PSN compliance and SPF accreditation and realise real and measureable improvements in its services across the community. This, combined with the fact that there was no uniform information security procedure in force across the FRS resulted in the decision to adopt a software solution.

South West FRS had specified that the solution should integrate tightly and seamlessly with Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, Microsoft SharePoint and support mobile devices. “Equally importantly”, explained Graham Saunders, “the solution had to force all end-users to use and specify the HMG Protective Marking security classification of information. Although we accepted that training would be necessary to achieve rapid adoption across the FRS, the solution had to be easy-to-use, intuitive and provide comprehensive help screens, as we did not want our staff to have any issues or problems. Ease of administration and management was also a key requirement, as was the ability to roll out the solution in phases to end-user groups, and full support during core business hours.”

South West FRS stakeholders evaluated several proposals before deciding to partner with Boldon James. “We were impressed with the Boldon James solution because it was easy-to-use, administer and manage,” added Mr Saunders. All five members of South West FRS have rolled out Boldon James solutions and are successfully achieving the fundamental objectives of the programme: the accreditation and connection of the FRS participants to the PSN, improved information security, compliance with the CFOA Protective Security Framework and the secure, timely and cost effective sharing of information between the FRS and its external partners. Working closely with South West FRS stakeholders and the IT departments, Boldon James installed and implemented Email Classifier, Office Classifier, OWA and SharePoint Classifier. “These four products provide comprehensive management and control over the access and release of information sources from emails, Microsoft Office documents and SharePoint content, putting labelling at the heart of the data loss prevention strategy by giving users the ability to apply relevant visual labels,” explained Martin Sugden. “They also allow South West FRS to enforce compliance with HMG Protective Marking security classification and conformance to the Cabinet Office Security Policy Framework.”

The Boldon James solutions are giving South West FRS the confidence that its information systems will protect the information they handle and its external partners the assurance that any information they share with the FRS will be stored and handled appropriately. As well as reducing the risk of the FRS breaching the Data Protection Act, the solutions have also encouraged the FRS to critically review its information systems, their value to the business and who has access to the data – potentially providing an opportunity to reduce IT infrastructure and administration costs and thereby an assurance that the FRS gets maximum benefit from the information held and processed.

“The programme of work leading to Accreditation has provided us with a comprehensive set of tools and policies to ensure that all our sensitive information is appropriately safeguarded and staff are aware of their responsibilities for managing information,” said John Aldridge, Deputy Chief Officer, Wiltshire FRS and SIRO . “This, in turn will allow us to share information with our partners to enable us to provide a more effective service to vulnerable people in our communities. The increased level of security, provided through this South West collaboration project, will improve the Fire Service’s operational response capabilities and may save lives in the long run.”