This section of guidance examines the hazards encountered by fire and rescue service personnel, other responders and members of the public at hazardous materials incidents. It contains hazard and control measure knowledge relevant to generic hazardous materials incidents, rather than specific types of incident such as a spillage of a corrosive acid. Material specific guidance is covered in the National Operational Guidance for Physical hazards and for Health hazards.
The fire and rescue service responds to a wide range of incidents involving hazardous materials that have the potential to cause harm to firefighters, other responding agencies, the surrounding community, animals and the environment. They may be called specifically to deal with emergency spillages or releases, or they may encounter hazardous materials at fires and other emergency incidents.
This guidance does not give information on the specific hazards and control measures relating to environmental protection. Although they are integral to any hazardous materials response, they are covered separately in National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection.
The operational principles for resolving hazardous materials incidents are essentially the same for accidental, deliberate, malicious or terrorist events. However, terrorist or Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (Explosive) events (CBRN(e)) require a more specific response because of:
- Increased security measures
- Increased risks to fire and rescue service personnel
- Complexity of multi-agency working
- Potential for multiple events caused by secondary devices
- Potential for perpetrators to use virulent agents that may be both persistent and difficult to identify
- Potential to change, remove or conceal safety signage and material information
- Potential to select locations that exploit the characteristics of the agent
- Need to exchange information with off-site intelligence and scientific advisers
- Potential for increased public exposure