What is National Operational Guidance and why do we need it?

National Operational Guidance (NOG) is the foundation for developing operational policies, procedures and training for firefighters to deal with incidents effectively and safely. It is 'industry good practice' for everybody in fire and rescue services to draw on.

As its name suggests, National Operational Guidance is:

National: It can be adopted across the UK and is available for individual fire and rescue services to consider its implications on their own policies, procedures and training. Some of the guidance may not be relevant to all fire and rescue services as this will depend on the range and scope of services the fire authority has agreed will be provided, usually through its risk management plan. 

Operational: National Operational Guidance only applies to working practices at operational incidents. It doesn't cover corporate policy guidance, equipment, technical notes or fire safety. It describes the activities, hazards and control measures that need to be considered at incidents.  The control measures describe what should be considered and included in each fire and rescue service's operational policies (strategic actions) and it also includes the actions that should be taken by firefighters and officers at incidents (tactical actions). This informs each service's operational policies, procedures and training, bringing consistency across the UK. 

Guidance: It builds on the legacy of previously adopted guidance and includes the most up-to-date thinking from subject matter experts from both inside and outside of the fire service. It has been scrutinised and approved through a rigorous peer-review process.

National Operational Guidance simplifies the development of policies and procedures in fire and rescue services. 

Every fire and rescue service is obliged to carry out its own risk assessments and identify appropriate control measures to protect its staff and communities. The risks in different services are often very similar or identical. 

National work to identify hazards and control measures closely aligns to local risks and complete adoption of National Operational Guidance will often be possible. Having a national, high quality product to draw on improves the quality of service delivery and saves a lot of time and money when different services are doing broadly the same thing.

It is also much clearer to those outside the service (including coroners or those responsible for matters such as public inquiries) that the service has a sound body of intelligence and good practice on which its activities are based. They will base their expectations of the service on National Operational Guidance and will expect it to have been appropriately considered. 

Who produces NOG and how is it governed?

London Fire Brigade, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Local Government Association work together to develop a programme of guidance to replace the existing manuals and bulletins. 

There is a Strategy Board comprising representatives from each organisation that oversees the programme and agrees the new guidance (central government is now represented by the Home Office).  

There is a high-level stakeholder group with representatives from across the services in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) as well as the fire sector, such as the trades unions and professional associations. This group debates every new piece of guidance and makes recommendations to the Strategy Board. 

The programme team with representatives from across UK fire services works out of London Fire Brigade headquarters; it co-ordinates and completes the work on the Strategy Board's behalf. 

Principal officers from across UK fire and rescue services lead guidance projects. Many of them are also the Chief Fire Officers Association's lead member for that area of work. The project teams comprise subject matter experts from both within and outside the service and each has a professional project manager in place. 

How is National Operational Guidance structured?

National Operational Guidance is structured in a single framework of all of the separate activities found at incidents and the hazards, knowledge and actions required to carry them out.

In the past, one of the problems of having individual guidance for particular types of incident was when the same actions were performed in different circumstances. If new guidelines were issued on how large cordons should be, then every piece of published guidance that included setting up a cordon had to be changed. And because they were published in writing, then every copy had to be changed too.  

Because the guidance is presented in an online database, all of the information relating to each activity is in only one place. Therefore, if it needs changing, it only needs to be done once.

Can I copy and share the information, diagrams and content of the website?

Yes. The content was written by the fire and rescue service, for the fire and rescue service. You can use it however you wish, though please be aware that the content could be updated at any time, so as soon you print or transfer the content onto another/offline platform it is potentially out of date.

Be sure to bookmark items of interest to your NOG profile to ensure you are always kept up to date with any changes. 

Will a gap analysis be available for each piece of published guidance?

Yes, there will be a gap analysis available for each piece of published guidance.  
This will include:

  • Operations 
  • Incident Command
  • Environmental Protection
  • Transport
  • Subsurface, height, structures and confined spaces
  • Fires and firefighting  
  • Fires in buildings under construction or demolition
  • Fires in waste sites (including renewable energy facilities)
  • Wildfires
  • Performing rescues
  • Industry
  • Fires on board vessels
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Fires in the built environment
  • MTFA (This strategic gap analysis will only be available in the NILO area of Resilience Direct)
  • Utilities and Fuel
  • Water Rescue and flooding

Please note, Initial Operational Response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear Explosive (IOR CBRNe) guidance is being merged into Hazardous Materials guidance and the strategic gap analysis for Hazardous Materials will be updated accordingly.

A digital and dynamic strategic gap analysis tool is currently in development and will be available to all services soon. In the meantime, please refer to the base gap analysis documents. You will be able to transfer your entries into the digital tool once available. 

What will happen to old guidance now we have operational guidance?

The previous guidance, including manuals, Home Office publications, generic risk assessments, letters to chief fire Officers, information bulletins and other documents are now classed as 'legacy guidance' and can still be seen on this website. 

National Operational Guidance includes relevant material taken from the legacy catalogue. There is still a great deal of residual material that remains useful but is not appropriate for National Operational Guidance and there is other material that can be archived or deleted.

There is a project that is carrying out a detailed review of the old material.  Some of it will form part of training material, or foundation documents that support the new guidance. When this work is completed all the old material that is still relevant will have been categorised and its new location signposted.

What is the training framework and how does it link in the NOG programme?

The training framework allows trainers to create, commission and deliver training with ease. This will assist organisations and individuals to implement the guidance through training.

NOG should form the basis for operational training. The training specifications bridge the gap between guidance and training delivery. Together, these define the requirements for operational training and they have been mapped against the National Occupational Standards to provide a clear and comprehensive foundation. 

The framework is not prescriptive and only provides the content and syllabus for training delivery. The flexibility built into the framework allows fire and rescue services and other organisations to align their training arrangements so that training can be delivered in a method most appropriate for their employees. 

The training specifications within the framework are the new element currently being developed and are designed to provide learning outcomes for knowledge and understanding and practical application. This knowledge and understanding is based on hazard knowledge, control measure knowledge and any related foundation material and the practical applications are based on tactical actions. 


Will training specifications be developed for each piece of published guidance?

Yes, there will be a training specification for each piece of guidance. There will also be a specification based on Foundation for Breathing Apparatus and separate specifications for the four levels of incident command.

The training specifications are divided into knowledge and understanding and practical application. This knowledge and understanding is based on hazard knowledge, control measure knowledge and any related foundation material and the practical applications are based on tactical actions.

How can you help services to implement National Operational Guidance?

The Business Change Team has been working with services throughout the duration of the programme. Over the last 18 months the team has visited all fire and rescue services across the UK at least once to inform them about NOG and help them with the initial steps to implementing NOG into their respective services.  

The team has developed an easy to use model and process that reflects best practice for implementation of the guidance and also provides an ideal opportunity for both regional and national collaboration.

To address barriers to implementing guidance provided at a national level at a local level, the team held a number of regional workshops to share the best practice model and explain how it provides an effective and efficient approach to implementation. This has the flexibility to import local documents to address identified local needs.

Although there are significant advantages to this approach we do understand that not all services will want to follow this model. To ensure other needs are supported, we have collated and mapped ways in which implementation is being undertaken across the UK and will use this to support services that require a different process to implement NOG and maintain their guidance in the future. 

The Service Integration Tool will support services with implementation, it will provide access to NOG products and assist with the future maintenance of an individual service’s guidance framework and integrated local content.

The Business Change Team have gained extensive experience and knowledge in the process of implementation, understanding the difficulties experienced by services and is well placed to help and support services. 

Please contact engagement@ukfrs.com to speak to a member of the team about implementation of NOG or to arrange a visit. 

What is a scenario and how do I use it?

A scenario is a compilation of tactical actions from National Operational Guidance relevant to a specific, or a number of similar incident types.  Scenarios are structured to support the decision-making process of incident commanders.  They are not intended to be a step-by-step instruction manual, replace local procedures or provide all the underpinning knowledge required by incident commanders.  Scenarios are aimed at supporting incident commanders regardless of their duty system, development and experience.

Tactical actions provide prompts for incident commanders to consider activities, hazards and control measures from National Operational Guidance.  All of the tactical actions will be linked to the knowledge about that activity, hazard or control measure in the National Operational Guidance.

Scenarios are based on good practice and developed in consultation with every fire and rescue service in the UK.  As lessons are learned from operational incidents guidance will be updated and any changes will be reflected in scenarios.

Scenarios can be used in any environment where components of National Operational Guidance might be applied to an incident.
These might include:

  • Initial firefighter and incident commander training
  • Continuing maintenance, development and assessment
  • Support caller interrogation by fire control
  • Influence decision making at operational incidents
  • Operational assurance and monitoring
  • Development of incident plans for specific sites

Was the development of scenarios influenced by Incident Command psychology research findings?

In dynamic situations incident commanders do not follow a linear decision-making sequence; research in this area resulted in the development of the Decision Control Process.  At some incidents, it may be practical to take actions without full situational awareness or having a plan for the resolution of the whole incident.

The scenario headings are structured around the Decision Control Process and draw on elements from the Joint Decision Model and National Operational Guidance.  This approach embeds the use of the Decision Control Process and JESIP in training and operations.

Scenarios are not intended to be viewed as a linear document and when viewed on ukfrs.com information can be accessed independently through any of the section headings.

A tactical action should be written in plain English, using active voice, and feature the key information at the beginning. They should include enough information to be clear and unambiguous about the intended meaning.

Scenarios are broken down into sections to keep the amount of information presented in line with an average person’s working memory.  Too much information can overload an incident commander and result in critical information being forgotten. The aim is to keep each list of tactical actions around 5-9 points.

Is there a facility to access scenarios on the incident ground?

We are looking to develop a Scenarios application for local installation on Mobile Data Terminals (MDT). This will will not only give access to the base scenarios, but will also provide the ability to dynamically bespoke them based on the specific hazards faced. There will be a series of discovery workshops in Autumn 2017 to determine the technical and user requirements. The team is seeking input from services to ensure the specification is fit for purpose. 

Are you confident that the NOG products will be fully interactive on appliance MDTs?

The NOG website will be accessible from any device with an internet connection and modern browser. The website has been optimised for mobile devices.

In Autumn 2017 the team will begin work on the Dynamic Scenarios application. This will be a dedicated app for MDTs for use either at incidents or during training. The application will be developed in accordance with all applicable Emergency Services Network (ESN) Code of Connection requirements. MDT providers will be engaged with and invited to be part of the discovery and development process to ensure compatibility and fitness for purpose. 

How will NOG support the implementation and integration of the Service Integration Tool into local FRS ICT departments?

The project team has worked closely with a cross-section of services to capture technical and user experience requirements and IT considerations to inform the specification for the Service Integration Tool. Services will have the opportunity to consult on this specification. 

The result of this work will be a core product that will be available for free for all fire and rescue services. A number of ICT integration options may be available, but each could have differing costs in terms of onboarding, support and maintenance that would need to be borne by each service. It will be up to the individual fire and rescue service to determine which integration option to take and our developers will work closely with your ICT teams to facilitate this.

Do you have any assistive technologies in place to help with accessibility?

Yes, we have developed the website to meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards and have installed BrowseAloud to provide the speech, reading and translation support tools you require. Check out our Accessibility page for more information on how this tool works.