Command and Control: aspects of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Incident Command System

Examines the Service’s effectiveness and efficiency of areas within the SFRS Incident Command System (ICS), Organisational learning and IC Training, with particular focus on the Command and Control of Operational Incidents.

This document is part of a collection

1 Introduction and background

Fire-fighting and other emergencies attended by fire and rescue services are by their very nature, hazardous operations.

Chapter 2 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 ('the Act') sets out the Principal Fire and Rescue Functions of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). The SFRS must make provision for the purpose of extinguishing fires in its area (section 9(1)(a) of the Act), and protecting life and property in the event of fires in its area (section 9(1)(b)), for road traffic accidents (section 10(1) of the Act) and for other emergencies (articles 3 to 6 of the Fire (Additional Function) (Scotland) Order 2005).

In making provision under section 9(1) of the Act, the SFRS must secure the provision of the personnel, services and equipment necessary to meet efficiently all normal requirements (section 9(2)(a)), secure the provision of training for personnel (section 9(2)(b)), and make arrangements for dealing with calls for help and summoning personnel (section 9(2)(c)).

The Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2016[1] (Chapter 1, Strategic Priority 3, Response and Resilience) requires the SFRS to work with other public sector partners to evolve a holistic and dynamic process of identification, evaluation and assessment of community risk and Best Value in order to prioritise and target its use of resources to ensure an appropriate response to incidents across Scotland and support improved outcomes for communities. As part of this approach, the SFRS should promote optimal command, control, communication and tri-service co-operation in response to incidents.

National Operational Guidance (NOG)[2] is centrally issued good practice for UK FRSs to draw on. The NOG foundation guidance on incident command promotes the implementation of structured safe systems of work at incidents to enhance Firefighter Safety. It contains guidelines on requirements for Incident Commanders (ICs), including an obligation for them to be adequately trained and supported in carrying out the incident command function.

The foundation guidance supports fire and rescue services to put in place robust arrangements for Incident Command. It is a nationally accepted guide which promotes the implementation of structured safe systems of work at emergency incidents to enhance Firefighter Safety. It also establishes clear guidelines on requirements for ICs and an obligation for them to be adequately trained and supported in carrying out the function.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 includes a requirement on employers to provide information, instruction, training and the provision of supervision as is necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out how it will apply health and safety legislation to the fire and rescue service in the document Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Service 2010[3]. The HMFSI joint statement Health and Safety in the Fire and Rescue Service – Embedding Lessons Learned 2015[4], consolidates a number of public reports on emergency incidents attended by fire and rescue services (FRS), in which health and safety has been a leading theme. The Management of Health and Safety in the GB Fire and Rescue Service – Consolidated Report Based on the 8 Inspections Completed by HSE in 2009/10[5], targets health and safety management in the Fire and Rescue Services.

The Inspectorate's Scrutiny Plan for 2016-21[6] identifies Firefighter Safety as an area of interest for Thematic Inspections. Having considered a wide range of topics and following previous discussions with the SFRS, it was decided to focus on 'Areas within Command and Control' for a Thematic Inspection.

Within this Thematic Inspection, the Inspectorate also reviewed action taken by the SFRS following a previous inspection report that was laid before the Scottish Parliament in November 2014[7]. In particular, two recommendations in that report fall within the scope of Command and Control, these are:

1.  The SFRS should develop written guidance on the circumstances in which its staff can decide to depart from a Service policy or standard operating procedure (SOP), and the steps to be taken (such as record keeping) when this occurs.

2.  The SFRS should continue to develop a national training needs analysis and national systems to allocate training and skills maintenance, with specific emphasis on training all frontline incident commanders to level 1, and identifying how skills maintenance will be provided to incident commanders at all levels.

The first recommendation describes what is referred to as Operational Discretion within the NOG guidance.

This Command and Control inspection provides an opportunity for the Inspectorate to follow up and review how the SFRS has implemented these two recommendations.



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