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.

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2 About the inspection

Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland (HMFSI) is a body that operates within, but independently of, the Scottish Government (SG). Inspectors have the scrutiny powers specified in section 43B of the Act.

This inspection is conducted under those powers conferred on the Chief Inspector under sections 43B and 43C of the Act and was initiated by the Chief Inspector on his own volition. Further information about HMFSI can be found in Appendix 3.

The intention of this report is to set out the facts, present the Chief Inspector's independent view of the situation and, where appropriate, make recommendations to the Service for adoption in the future. These recommendations will be followed up by a re-visitation, after a suitable period of time has elapsed.

2.1 Methodology

The inspection methodology used is similar to our Local Area Inspections and previous Thematic Inspections. It provides a structure to our inspection which is risk-based and proportionate.

The inspection commenced with a desk top review of the SFRS's Policy, Procedures and data in relation to how the Service delivers its Command and Control and Incident Command functions. We undertook face-to-face interviews with personnel in the posts of Deputy Chief Officer (Director of Service Delivery), Director of Response and Resilience, Director of Training and Employee Development, staff responsible for delivering Incident Command Training, Incident Commanders (ICs) levels 1-4, staff responsible for Operational Assurance (OA), a range of staff from the SFRS Operations Control (OC) rooms, operators of Command Support Units (CSU), and Operational Firefighters at various locations across the Service.

The aim of our inspection is to assess the 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 within the SFRS in the following areas:

  • Defined roles and responsibilities on the Incident Ground and consideration of Interoperability and Intraoperability.
  • The command support structure and systems in use.
  • How the Service uses decision logs on the incident ground and how they are used to inform learning.
  • The application of sectorisation and cordons at an incident.
  • The debriefing arrangements in place for reviewing incidents, including how learning is fed back into policy and procedure development to improve performance.
  • How the Service's Operational Discretion policy is implemented and what records are kept.
  • How the SFRS delivers IC training levels 1-4, and ensures the maintenance of skills at all levels and reports and monitors IC competence.
  • Identifying and reviewing a SFRS structured debrief of a large scale incident which occurred within the last 18 months.

We visited Incident Command training venues, Service operational control rooms, relevant departments and a variety of fire stations whilst undertaking this and other Thematic Reviews together with Local Area Inspections, to gain a good overview. This enabled us to cross-reference the written policies, procedures and any data relating to Incident Command.

This inspection is not a comprehensive in-depth audit, albeit it is sufficiently detailed in order for the Chief Inspector to give a professional judgement on the activity and suitability of the Service's Command and Control function. It has established to the Chief Inspector's satisfaction the facts needed to draw conclusions and make recommendations where appropriate. The SFRS itself has a programme of internal audits which involve a detailed look at its Strategic Functions, and we do not want to duplicate that work, although we do take these into consideration whilst carrying out our inspections. The sampling methodology that we adopt is not guaranteed to identify all potential areas for improvement or good practice; we intend that it is a proportionate activity that provides an overview of the IC function, comparable with other inspections that we carry out.

Our report is the product of empirical evidence from our Local Area Inspections, direct thematic observations and interviews with strategic and function specific managers, along with other SFRS staff. It is reflective of the circumstance at the time of our visits undertaken from June to December 2019. We also incorporate the recommendations following our previous report Risk-Based operational decision-making in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service[8], in order to assess progress.

There are occasions where our observations could be reported against more than one heading. Our aim is to ensure that our findings are allocated in the most appropriate place or places to give a comprehensive understanding of our findings and therefore may be found within more than one heading.

During the inspection, HMFSI provided feedback to key SFRS staff including senior managers, so that any significant emerging issues and themes could be acted upon at an early opportunity.



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