COP26 Climate Change Conference 2021: Scottish Fire and Rescue Service preparedness

This report considers the appropriateness of steps taken by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in preparing for the forthcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26).

2 Our findings

27. Our overall impression is that SFRS staff engaged appropriately with partners, the other emergency management agencies and conference organisers and has undertaken a suitable level of response planning as a result. HMFSI acknowledge that, at the time of writing this report, not all the information necessary to undertake this work had been made available to the SFRS, such as the hours of operation for the Green Zone. Consequently some initial planning assumptions may require adjustment closer to the conference start date.

28. The SFRS's incident command system has been the subject of an inspection by HMFSI published[1] in August 2020. As set out in that report a key area of command support and the incident command system is Operations Control (OC). There are three OCs, located in the North, West and East of Scotland, the one covering the West Service Delivery Area (SDA) is located in Johnstone. Within each OC there is also an Incident Support Room (ISR), which is activated for any major incident, or other qualifying event in which the SFRS is involved, covering each SDA.

29. An ISR is a separate area within the OC which can be utilised for managing logistical support when there is a large or complex incident, event or series of events. The ISR will be staffed by a mixture of operational Flexible Duty Officers (FDOs), OC managers and control operators if available. The operation and procedures of an ISR are routinely exercised and tested. For the purposes of COP26 the ISR will not be activated, however a dedicated Event Support Room (ESR) will be active within Johnstone OC for the duration of the conference. The ISR facility will therefore remain available to support any other relevant BAU incident occurring at the same time as COP26.

30. The ESR, which is covered in further detail below, allows the SFRS to focus exclusively on managing the command and control aspects of any incidents involving the conference.

31. The structure for Command and Control during the conference period, from the perspective of the SFRS's involvement, is in our judgement appropriate and pays due regard to the need for inter-agency liaison and coordination.

32. In addition to planning for operations at conference venues during the event, the SFRS is also planning for adequate resources to be available, to enable it to carry out its day-to-day business regardless of the impact created by the event itself.

33. As is the case with other SFRS OCs, arrangements are already in place in the West SDA OC for calls to be diverted elsewhere should the volume of calls become too much for that OC. Fall-back plans for evacuation of an OC are not specific to the conference, and the SFRS is not intending to introduce any variation to these arrangements for COP26.

Planning and project management

34. As indicated earlier this is a UK Government-led event with a well-developed governance structure. Internal SFRS governance of the project is managed primarily through the COP26 Project Board, chaired by the Assistant Chief Officer Service Delivery. The stated purpose of the Board is to ensure that the SFRS efficiently plans for and effectively delivers a safe and secure environment for COP26. Figure 1 provides a visual representation of the governance structure.

Figure 1 SFRS COP26 Governance structure
This figure provides a visual representation of the SFRS's internal governance structure and its links to external governance arrangements

35. During our inspection we have sampled the SFRS project documentation which demonstrates the way in which the COP26 project is being managed, monitored and reported, with tasks being allocated and actioned by the responsible teams.

36. Planning for the event commenced in December 2019 with the preparation of the Project Initiation Document. Unlike other SFRS projects an internal business case was not prepared because it was envisaged that all additional costs would be recovered from the event organiser. However, after a lengthy process an agreed budget was formulated based on planning assumptions and governed by the COP26 Project Spend Approvals Board. Financial matters relating to the COP26 event are beyond the scope of our inspection.

37. There is a COP26 Delivery Framework, created by the UK Government Cabinet Office COP26 Unit and delivery partners, which sets out the aims and objectives of COP26. The Framework's first objective is that COP26 will be safe, secure and resilient. The SFRS is one of the delivery partners within the 'Safety, Security and Policing' workstream, one of 14 workstreams established within the Framework.

38. Part of the preparations for the conference was the establishment of the COP26 Event Planning Team (EPT). The EPT have fully embedded themselves within all multi-agency working groups and boards, while representing the SFRS at the appropriate level throughout the full term of the project. The SFRS's EPT structure is shown in figure 2 below.

Figure 2 Event Planning Team Structure
This figure is an organisation chart showing a visual representation of the Event Planning Team Structure

39. As part of its strategic planning process the SFRS has risk registers, included within these there is a specific risk analysis for national events. The Service Delivery Committee of the Fire Board is well sighted on risk analysis as it receives reports from officers on plans and preparations.

40. The COP26 team has three workstreams – Prevention and Protection, Operational Planning, and Training, Exercising and Readiness (TER). The SFRS planning and risk management is overseen by the COP26 Planning Board which includes key stakeholders such as Scottish Government. In addition, an internal Service Delivery Strategic Planning Group has been established. Both are chaired by the Assistant Chief Officer Service Delivery.

41. The LFB peer review was positive in relation to the project planning, management and governance arrangements. The review also concluded that the risk assessment and alignment to resource requirements was warranted.

Operational Readiness

42. Operational readiness is the principal purpose behind planning for the event. This can be broken down into the components of:

  • an assessment of risk, including the impact of broader risk such as concurrent incidents or events such as bonfire night or another wave of the pandemic
  • creation of a mitigation strategy
  • development of a resourcing plan to meet those risks, and
  • a TER programme to test and successfully deliver the plans, whilst maintaining the ability to respond to business as usual incidents.

43. The SFRS has created an Operational Planning Team. The team consists of ten operational staff led by a Group Commander. A planning structure has been created based on three elements, each managed and coordinated by a Station Commander.

44. These planning elements are for:

  • the event site: Scottish Event Campus (SEC) Island Site and "Last Mile"
  • national: other event-centred activities; including accommodation, arranged events, ad-hoc event sites, and
  • event co-ordination, structures and planning (OC).

Operational plans

45. As part of the mitigation strategy the development of pre-incident plans for the conference venues has been undertaken. It is common practice for the SFRS to 'pre-plan' for incidents and in fact it has a statutory duty to obtain information, usually referred to as operational intelligence (OI), that its personnel may require in the event of an incident. The Service routinely makes information it has available to its firefighters through a mobile 'tablet' device carried on fire appliances.

46. Pre-incident event plans are designed to provide information about premises, such as rendezvous points, hydrants and firefighting resources, utility shut-offs, and any special risks. In addition to the normal information, the event plans will also outline some advance thinking about the type and number of resources that may be required and what tactics might be used to manage an incident.

47. At previous large scale events, such as the Commonwealth Games, response planning included the use of dedicated 'geographically tethered' appliances, appliances allocated to, and kept at, an event venue. Due to the physical barriers, road closures and expected accreditation requirements, and therefore potential delay in initial attendance, COP26 planning also involves tethered SFRS appliances. There have been regular and frequent discussions with Glasgow City Council officers regarding the traffic management arrangements implemented during the conference and their potential impact on SFRS and wider partners. The Operational Planning Team is also considering requirements for specialist vehicles, equipment and personnel, although these will not be dedicated to event sites. There will be Multi-Agency Scene Assessment Teams dedicated to the conference and two dedicated COP26 National Inter-Agency Liaison Officers (NILO) to liaise with Police Scotland and other partners.

48. Venue Operational Plans (VOPs) are being developed for all event-centred venues and will be used to inform personnel of information, activities and response actions which apply specifically to these venues. At the time of writing these plans were not complete, although the Service were confident that they would be finalised in time. Relevant station-based personnel will be given a face-to-face briefing on the details of these plans in due course.

49. Existing OI data and building's schematics relating to expected and confirmed COP26 venues, accommodation and surrounding risks will be assured as part of the planning process. A 'fly-through' computer generated animation representation of the venue sites has been created and will be used to brief personnel involved in attending the venue.

Command, Control and Co-ordination (C3) infrastructure

50. The UN Joint Operations Centre (UN JOC) will be responsible for all physical security within the 'Blue Zone', the main conference site, which will be in operation 24 hours a day, for a period of two days prior to and throughout the entire conference. The UN JOC will have embedded representatives from the various interest groups, such as government departments, local authority and 'blue light' organisations. For SFRS resources, if required at an incident within the event arena, mobilisation would be initiated by the FDO based within the UN JOC, via the dedicated conference OC.

51. There will also be an Event Management Centre, with no SFRS involvement, which will be responsible primarily for issues linked to the management of diplomatic protocol, and senior attendees including, event security, transport and people operations.

52. Overall organising of multi-agency command and control for COP26 is the responsibility of the UK Government Cabinet Office COP26 Unit. There will be established a Multi-Agency Coordination Centre (MACC), hosted by Police Scotland, which will act as a standing command and control facility for safety and security provision, including incident control during the conference. The MACC, during its operation, will again have suitably empowered representatives from the SFRS embedded within it.

53. FDOs will be assigned to the MACC and to the UN JOC on a rotational basis. These officers will be in addition to those used for business as usual and will not be available for other incidents, events or on-call duties when assigned to the MACC and UN JOC.

54. There will be an established process and pre-arranged schedule for the flow of information across and between the various C3 elements and responsibility levels within those, (Gold, Silver, Bronze). The processes will allow the escalation of issues and their management, ensuring that there is consideration of the relevance to others within the information flow, filtering out detail as necessary. There is a pre-defined multi-agency daily briefing and reporting process which will be put in place, alongside the SFRS's own daily reporting processes. The SFRS's Gold and Silver commanders will remain as a virtual capability throughout the event, unless required, in which case they would attend their pre-defined locations.

55. In the event of a major incident, it will be dealt with following existing business as usual frameworks and processes, such as those set out within Preparing Scotland guidance.[2]

56. As mentioned before there will be a suitably resourced dedicated ESR at Johnstone OC to support the C3 structures. For specific scheduled events, such as the world leaders' summit, the ESR will be enhanced with further staff from SFRS's COP26 planning team and OC managers.

57. Tactical liaison officers (TLOs) will be based within the event site to support the investigation of incidents and any automatic fire alarm (AFA) actuations, and will then liaise directly with SFRS staff based in the UN JOC. It is acknowledged that the responsibility for incident investigation remains the responsibility of the duty holder.

58. OC staff will receive training and information on specific COP26 agreed procedures and mobilising protocols. This will be available to all OCs to ensure business continuity in the event of one OC providing resilience to another.

59. A Logistics Hub will be established at SFRS premises close to Glasgow where staff attending the event will be briefed and receive their accreditation prior to being transported to and from event venues.

60. The timing of the conference coincides with the traditional bonfire night activity as well as the Diwali festival. Bonfire night is normally a busy time for fire and rescue services. As 5th November falls on a Friday it is likely that this timing will impact on the size and duration of any activity, potentially extending it over the weekend. Although incomplete at the time of our inspection, as part of planning for COP26 the SFRS has undertaken a review and analysis of known or potential concurrent events, including bonfire night. The purpose being to understand the impact of associated concurrent events and take mitigating actions.

61. Our overall impression is that SFRS staff have engaged appropriately with the other emergency responders, partners and event organisers and have undertaken a suitable level of response planning as a result.


62. A Training, Exercising and Readiness (TER) strategy has been developed for COP26.

63. In order to ascertain what training is required a COP26 Training Needs Analysis (TNA) was undertaken that encompassed both business as usual and event-specific skills for specialist operational resources. The creation of the TNA also considered the Target Operating Model (TOM) for the number of personnel required for specific skill sets, for example the number of boat operators for water rescue.

64. The SFRS has a standard training programme for firefighters for general maintenance of skills and knowledge. The programme comprises a series of training for operational competence (TfOC) modules. Attainment of the modules is achieved in a programmed way, according to a Maintenance Phase Development Planner (MPDP). Core skill modules are completed annually, standard and advanced modules on a three-year rolling programme, with advanced modules, on some duty systems, specific to fire station risk requirements.

65. The majority of training being undertaken by personnel for COP26 is derived from the LCMS (Learning Content Management System) content and is delivered by Local Senior Officer (LSO) area training personnel. Further additional training courses are being delivered by National Training Centre personnel covering specialisms. The COP26 Training Team has had discussions with LSO area management teams to ensure that local training personnel are able to keep up with the training requirements relevant to this event.

66. This training is recorded using the PDRPro system. PDRPro is an electronic system to record training and learning development, both from formal training and from continuous development attained during incidents.

67. Core operational skills will be analysed using the PDRPro system on an ongoing basis to ensure continued operational competence through application of the current SFRS TfOC framework. Training requirements identified as a result of this will be addressed by the Training Safety and Assurance Directorate and LSO training delivery teams. LSO areas have the ability to amend the order of the MPDP schedule to ensure that crews will have covered the appropriate skills by the time of the conference, though in Glasgow this has not been necessary.

68. Cross Directorate engagement has been undertaken to analyse the training requirements for bespoke COP26 specialist operational resources.

69. JESIP (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles) is a multi-agency interoperability framework for responding to and recovering from emergencies in the UK. It provides principles and generic guidance on the actions that commanders should take when responding to multi-agency incidents of any scale. These principles are routinely built into incident command training.

70. Specific COP26 command skills training has also been planned for across the three recognised command levels, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

71. The role of the Scottish Multi-Agency Resilience Training and Exercise Unit (SMARTEU) is to provide a fully integrated and coordinated tri-service training and exercising framework to meet the demands and requirements of the three main emergency services; Police, Fire and Ambulance. All three services have officers embedded within SMARTEU. Discussions were held with SMARTEU to identify collaboration opportunities for training, with a number of multi-agency live play and table-top exercises planned and taking place prior to COP26. HMFSI observed some of these events.

72. There has been a sharing of information across 'blue light' partners around respective equipment and tactics. This information has also been used to develop briefing material for FDOs. There have been online briefing events for FDOs to ensure awareness around the specific C3 arrangements for the conference. Face-to-face presentations have also been delivered to over 700 personnel from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Specialist Resource stations.

73. Discussions have taken place with Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service to understand and build on experience gained as a result of COP21 in Paris and the recent G7 Summit at Carbis Bay.

Prevention and Protection

74. There is a Prevention and Protection Strategy for COP26 which broadly sets out the work undertaken to reduce both the likelihood and impact of fire on a successful conference. Much of the work around the Protection role of the SFRS, for example the inspection of hotels and conference facilities for fire safety issues, can be considered a business as usual activity, but on a much bigger scale than seen previously. There are however also other fire safety factors which require specific consideration and action taken in relation to locations where Heads of State, or similar protected persons may be residing.

75. A COP26 Prevention and Protection team has been established. This dedicated resource is augmented by using additional officers as demand requires, with the majority of fire safety audits being carried out by officers based within LSO areas and outwith the COP26 team. The dedicated COP26 team is responsible for all fire safety audits at the conference venue, including additional activity around the temporary structures, for example liaison with City of Glasgow Building Standards. The SFRS Fire Engineering staff will be providing assistance, particularly around assessment of these temporary buildings. Our understanding is that additional resources will continue to be available to the Prevention and Protection function to ensure compliance in the run-up to and during the conference. The Prevention and Protection COP26 team is led by a Group Commander with one Station Commander and one Watch Commander. Community Safety Engagement activity was originally intended to be a dedicated and resourced function within the team, this is no longer the case. Although smaller than anticipated the team is considered to be sufficient for the envisaged workload.

76. A COP26 Prevention and Protection Liaison Group has been established to help ensure that the Service has effective arrangements in place and acts as a link between the COP26 Project Team and the SFRS Prevention and Protection Directorate. This was described as being very helpful.

77. Although, as indicated above, there are no dedicated community safety engagement staff within the COP26 Team, engagement activity will still be carried out. There is a communications sub-group of the COP26 Project Team, which will co-ordinate all community safety engagement messaging activity. The Team will build on existing fire safety messaging, some of which will be tailored to specific COP26 audiences. For example those providing sleeping accommodation.

78. We have discussed with the Service the way in which it plans to engage with the community as a whole to manage demand for fire and rescue services over the conference period, particularly as the conference is happening at a traditionally busy time for the Service due to bonfire night. As the Service will know what pressures are created from previous bonfire night activity, it can draw on that knowledge to assess likely demand-related issues. The Service traditionally conducts a Bonfire night themed media campaign as part of its Thematic Action Planner for community engagement. As part of this activity there is increased engagement within schools, delivered by the LSO's Community Action Team, aimed at reducing fire-related anti-social behaviour.

79. We have been advised that community safety messaging at the conference time will focus on the acknowledged seasonal issues that affect demand for the SFRS. There will be specific messaging, predominately through social media using QR codes, #tags, and branding, aimed at conference visitors. Delivering a 'one stop shop' website of information. This detail will have a focus of delivering a safe event for visitors, covering fire safety within visitor accommodation, including camping. Some of this material will also be available as a visual 'infographic' printed booklet designed to be available at accommodation locations. There will be co-ordination of key messages with partners, targeted to specific audiences. Internal communication will also be delivered to SFRS personnel to raise awareness of the Service's plans for assisting in delivering a safe event.

80. The biggest challenge for the Prevention and Protection function has been around the number of fire safety audits necessary. Following an options appraisal exercise it was decided that all 163 hotels being used to accommodate guests linked to the conference should be audited. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure of businesses, particularly hotels has had an impact on the ability to access premises to conduct audits. At the time of writing this report not all premises had received a visit but these audits were expected to be complete by the end of September.

81. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SFRS implemented a modified response to AFAs. This modified response protocol is designed, with certain exemptions, such as some sleeping risk premises, to reduce the number of fire appliances mobilised to AFA calls. The modified response has at its core a policy of 'call challenging' AFAs in its OCs, including the West SDA OC, to ensure where possible that unwanted actuations are identified and the response cancelled or modified accordingly. This modified response should capture AFAs that form part of normal business as usual activity thus reducing the impact of these calls on resources available. As mentioned above, for the event locations, there will be officers on-site to investigate any alarm actuations and take any appropriate action necessary.

82. The Service has undertaken a detailed study of its AFA activity and particularly the negative impact of UFAS (Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals). An outcome of this work has been the publication of proposals and a 12-week public consultation exercise which runs from 19 July to 11 October.

Specialist response assets

83. An issue of particular importance is the specialist response capability for Marauding Terrorist Attacks (MTA). A response to an incident of this type would potentially involve emergency services, military and, UK and Scottish Government agencies, with emergency services operating under the JESIP principles and other nationally agreed protocols and procedures.

84. At a national level, a fire and rescue service response to this type of incident has been the subject of lengthy discussions between the employers and representative bodies, primarily the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), trying to agree the contractual terms under which firefighters would provide a response. At the time of writing this report there is no formal agreement between the parties.

85. The response to a MTA incident, can be broken down into sectors of activity, the 'cold zone', the 'warm zone', and the 'hot zone'. The 'cold zone' is a defined area within the outer cordon, but beyond the inner cordon. The 'warm' and 'hot' zones are within the inner cordon.

86. In the case of a MTA incident the 'hot zone' would be main locus of the marauding activity where there is an immediate threat to life, with the highest risk to the health and safety of both the public and responders. The 'warm zone' would be an area where the threat had been higher and had now dissipated sufficiently to allow for snatch rescues and the treatment of casualties, by a joint fire and rescue service/ambulance service response.

87. Currently the SFRS can routinely resource 'cold zone' working, as all frontline firefighters would be able to respond within this area. As the Service has to plan for such an incident, and to be able to provide a response within the 'warm zone', there are also currently a team of trained MTA personnel who provide this response on a voluntary basis. The size of this team is in the process of being increased, utilising fire station personnel from all three Service Delivery Areas and the FDO cadre, on a voluntary basis, to provide additional resources during COP26 and beyond. HMFSI are advised that whilst this variation to contract is until March 2022, there is provision within the contract to extend this date by mutual agreement. Discussion around this extension is planned to commence in January 2022.

88. There will be a considerable training requirement for the additional personnel. Whilst training is programmed and underway, at the time of the inspection, this is not complete.

89. Those firefighters who volunteer receive a payment for temporarily varying their existing conditions of service, in doing so are then contractually obligated to provide a response. This new provision of response will therefore cover Scotland for a limited period beyond the conference.

90. Currently the Service considers that it has sufficient volunteers to resource this capability, but this situation is less than satisfactory. The Service has committed, as part of this temporary variation to contract, to provide appropriate training, equipment and to pay a Specialist Responder Payment in order to provide a guaranteed 24/7 response. Until there is national agreement on this, the Service will have no option other than to use paid volunteers.

91. Whilst this arrangement will provide a response to events of this nature across Scotland in the short to medium-term, we believe that the inability to secure a permanent solution to this issue is disappointing.

92. More long-term progress on this issue, leading to the provision of a permanent resource, is clearly desirable for all parties and the communities of Scotland. HMFSI would strongly encourage both the SFRS and the FBU to continue in their efforts to find a resolution of the matter and to reach an agreement at the earliest opportunity.

Water rescue

93. The SFRS already provides a water rescue service on the upper River Clyde. Specialist crews are equipped and trained to provide a response. As part of the planning for COP26 a dedicated multi-agency planning sub-group has been established, chaired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). A water rescue crew will be moved for the duration of the event to a temporary location by the river, alongside partners from the MCA and the Scottish Ambulance Service. Although moved to be closer to the conference venue, the resource will remain available for BAU incidents as well.

Heavy Rescue

94. The SFRS has heavy rescue capability and suitably trained and equipped crews will be available should there be a need. In preparation for COP26 crews have been delivering information regarding this rescue capability to provide an understanding to partners within Police Scotland.

Rope Rescue

95. The SFRS can provide rope rescue resources, these would also be available should they be required. Crews have undertaken familiarisation of areas surrounding COP26 venues and will have access to venue structures when they are built. Crews have been engaging with Police Scotland's rope specialists and with British Transport Police to obtain a mutual understanding of procedures and capability. There are further rope rescue resources in the east of the country which will be available to cover conference events occurring in Edinburgh.

Post Event Debrief

96. The SFRS has set out, within the various delivery strategies for the event, an intention to plan a recovery phase and to undertake relevant debriefs. Offering all SFRS personnel involved in the delivery of COP26 the opportunity to provide feedback is seen as important by the Service. This will help identify and capture good practice and areas for improvement with a view to improving all relevant aspects of Service Delivery. The information may also provide a useful resource for future host countries of COP conferences.

97. To assist in the management of post-event activity, some members of the COP26 Project Team will remain in post for a number of months after the conference closes. The production of final debriefing material is anticipated by March 2023. HMFSI support the debriefing of relevant activity to assist and promote organisational learning.



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