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Introduction

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 the categories of physical hazards and health hazards as classified by the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of classification and labelling of chemicals.

Hazard and control measure knowledge relating to generic hazardous materials incidents can be found in National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials (tier one) and should be used in conjunction with this guidance.

This guidance is supported by supplementary information contained in A foundation for hazardous materials, which may support training or pre-planning.

See National Operational Guidance: A foundation for hazardous materials [add link]

Fire and rescue services respond to a wide range of incidents involving hazardous materials that have the potential to cause harm to firefighters, the surrounding community and the environment. Fire and rescue services 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 primarily deals with accidental hazardous materials incidents. The operational principles are essentially the same for deliberate, malicious or terrorist events. However, terrorist or CBRN(e) events 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

For these reasons there is guidance in National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials for Initial operational response (IOR) and Special operational response (SOR) to a CBRN(e) incident.

The generic key roles of fire and rescue services at hazardous materials or CBRN(e) incidents are to:

  • Save life
  • Protect the public and other responders
  • Fight and prevent fires involving hazardous materials
  • Detect, identify and monitor hazardous materials
  • Manage hazardous materials
  • Protect the environment
  • Mitigate damage from fires or firefighting and rescue
  • Ensure the health and safety of fire service responders
  • Ensure safety management inside the inner cordon, other than during the initial stages of terrorist incidents
  • Provide health and safety management at incidents that involve other emergency responders
  • Provide an urban search and rescue capability

This guidance does not give information on the specific hazards and control measures relating to environmental protection. Although these are integral to any hazardous materials response, they are covered separately in National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection.