FIRE union chiefs in Greater Manchester have claimed new control room arrangements for the north west are creating "dangerous delays" in emergency response times.

Leaders of the Fire Brigades Union say they have issued five safety critical notices over the centre in Warrington, which took over call handling for Bury and Bolton in May 2014.

This was brought into stark relief by Storm Ciara last weekend, claims the FBU, when staff were inundated with calls.

Union bosses say such delays can seriously impact on the abilities of frontline crews to mobilise firefighters and fire engines.

The notices are said to include:

• Failures in the mobilising system to document and record addresses, requiring staff to log off and on again before mobilising resources

• The mobilising system slows down to “unusable” levels during incidents on motorways

• Attempts to issue resource proposals are met with frozen white-out screens

• Risk-critical information is not properly communicated to control staff, such as whether the occupier is a hoarder, whether there has been a firearms risk, whether there is a risk of violence to crews

• Failure to send critical emails including arson threat referrals and accident/injury report forms, due to a migration to a new Microsoft Outlook server

Lynda Rowan-O’Neil, FBU Control Staff national committee, said: "We’ve repeatedly warned that these IT failings are dangerous, but have been ignored.

"Our control rooms are desperately understaffed and conditions have become completely untenable.

“The control room mergers involved massive cuts to staff numbers, which have seriously undermined our ability to handle the overwhelming volume of storm-related calls.

“We cannot keep allowing outdated, malfunctioning IT systems to delay emergency response. It’s no secret that, in an emergency, a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death. These failings could genuinely endanger lives.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, added: "We are deeply concerned about the litany of failings in fire control. Without efficient, well-staffed control rooms, it’s impossible to quickly mobilise resources to a fire, or understand the risks when firefighters arrive.

“This is coinciding with one of the worst storm seasons we’ve had in years – it isn’t safe for firefighters or the public.

“It’s an utter disgrace that emergency fire control bosses have ignored the concerns of their own staff for so long.

"The FBU is fully behind our members taking on these safety-critical issues and will be applying pressure nationally and regionally."

The call centre covers 5.5million people, from Crewe up to Carlisle.