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by the NFCC

Protecting the environment

This foundation publication supports the National Operation Guidance: Environmental protection. It has been written to promote and assist the partnership approach adopted by UK environmental agencies and fire and rescue services. The aim of the partnership and this guidance is to protect the environment at operational incidents, during training events and as part of the day-to-day management of  fire and rescue service premises and activities.

Fire and rescue service intervention, such as the use of pollution control tactics and equipment, can significantly reduce the impact that spillages, fire water run-off, smoke and illegal disposal of hazardous waste can have on people and the environment. The impact and benefits on public health by protecting the environment should be considered when prioritising environmental protection.

The economy and communities benefit when fire and rescue service personnel implement environmental first aid measures, such as reducing fire water run-off, sealing a leak or blocking drains. It is more expensive and time-consuming to clean up pollution than to prevent or mitigate its effects.

Fire and rescue service personnel should be aware of how operational activity affects the environment, and how their actions can minimise environmental harm and promote recovery. Promoting a partnership approach between fire and rescue services and environmental agencies has helped improve multi-agency working and mitigated the consequences of pollution at operational incidents. Memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and agreements developed for working together at the local and national level have helped to promote and clarify these working arrangements. Similar agreements with organisations such as highways agencies have also helped embed environmental protection at operational incidents.

This guidance does not consider the impacts that climate change will have on the fire and rescue service; this is covered in the Communities and Local Government document, Effects of Climate Change on Fire and Rescue Services in the UK. However, by providing guidance on preventing and resolving incidents with the potential to harm the environment, it will ensure that the fire and rescue service is in a better position to respond to any increase in incidents that result from the impacts of climate change, which could cause such harm.

This foundation publication focuses on high-risk environmental activities at operational incidents, and includes advice and guidance on training for such incidents.

Non-emergency activities have implications for a sustainable society, for example, use of paper, energy conservation, vehicle use and management of waste. Considering such issues as part of an environmental management system (EMS) makes for economic, social and environmental best practice. Guidance on EMS and how the fire and rescue service can prevent pollution from its own premises is in the section, Environmental management.