Fire brigade control rooms in small towns often have old computers, too few staff and no back-up if their system goes wrong, the Fire Service Minister said on a visit to Birmingham yesterday.
Jim Fitzpatrick said plans to replace the 46 control rooms in England with nine regional centres from 2008 would modernise the fire service and better protect the public.
The former London firefighter also promised that the Government would foot the £988 million needed for the centres, rather than taxpayers as has been claimed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
He said local fire stations would still respond to fires, but that calls would be taken at the regional control rooms to save about £20 million a year.
The Midlands regional control centre will be based at Wolverhampton Business Park and will replace West Midlands, Hereford and Worcester, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire brigade control rooms.
Speaking at a visit to Handsworth fire station, Mr Fitzpatrick said: "We believe the public would be better protected with regional control centres.
"After September 11 we carried out an assessment of the 46 fire control centres across England and found that many were not up to scratch.
"Many, particularly in small towns, were operating without the latest equipment in terms of computers and technology. Several had far too few staff, who as a result were under extreme pressure, and others had no back-up facility if their system went down.
"We need to bring the buildings up to a better standard and link up control centres so that they if one goes down another can take over.
"What we are doing is making sure that every region will come up to the standard of the regional control centres already pioneered across the country, such as in London.
"The July 7 terrorist attacks showed how effective the London regional control centre was. It was able to deal with the situation and take calls about fires in the region."
Mr Fitzpatrick said the regional control centres would employ 1,000 of the 1,300 staff who now worked in control centres across the country.
He urged those who did not want to be transferred to the regional centres to work for local authorities or fire brigades so that they could use their knowledge of the fire service.
He said: " The Fire Brigades Union has exaggerated the threat of redundancies. We hope there won't need to be any."
The FBU has said it fears the proposals could lead to even further cuts and that a regional control room would not provide the same service as several brigades.