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The guidance supports fire and rescue services to put in place a system for an all-hazards approach to incident command. It is an essential guide to the safe systems of work needed at an incident and is aimed at policy writers in each fire and rescue service to support them in producing their local guidance and procedures. This policy guidance is accompanied by The Foundation for Incident Command, which provides further detail and is essential reading for all fire and rescue service incident commanders and other personnel, including firefighters and fire control room operators.

Other emergency agencies will base their expectation of the fire and rescue service response to multi-agency incidents on the incident command system contained in this guidance. For this reason, fire and rescue services are expected to adopt this guidance. The guidance is likely to be considered as national best practice in any review or enquiry following a significant incident.

The guidance provides details of specific hazard and control measures that have been developed following a literature review. The control measures support a fire and rescue service in delivering assertive, effective and safe incident command.

The incident command system provides the incident commander with a clear framework to structure, organise and manage an incident. It can be adapted to all sizes and types of incident and will help them deploy and use resources in an efficient and safe way. The incident command system allows the incident commander to use health and safety arrangements, including operational guidance tailored to the characteristics of an emergency. Fire and rescue services should therefore ensure their policies and procedures are based on it. This helps the incident commander to achieve an appropriate balance between the benefit of undertaking planned actions and the risks associated with them.

National Operational Guidance: Operations gives guidance on operational planning and the storage and dissemination of risk information to the incident ground. Fire and rescue services should also refer to that guidance when preparing policies and procedures relating to the command of incidents.

Operational response is hazardous and firefighters respond to thousands of incidents each year. Some incidents need only simple actions and procedures to be dealt with effectively and safely, as risks are low. Others are more challenging and may quickly increase in size, complexity and duration. The Health, safety and welfare framework for the operational environment (the Framework) provides guidance to fire and rescue authorities to assist with planning the delivery of their health and safety responsibilities. It contains the safe person principles on which fire and rescue services should base their policies. The Framework and the application of risk assessment and control measures should not prevent fire and rescue service operations from taking place.

Commanding operational situations is different to managing controlled and defined situations or workplace scenarios. Commanders need a range of qualities together with command skills to deal with the wide-ranging nature of emergencies. Therefore, fire and rescue services must provide their incident commanders with the necessary training, equipment and resources to effectively apply the incident command system to any incident.

Assertive and effective commanders:

  • Are confident and self-aware
  • Are well-trained and competent
  • Have sound situational awareness
  • Are able to lead, direct and instruct others
  • Can communicate effectively
  • Are able to plan and implement
  • Can apply sound judgement and effective decision-making
  • Are able to adapt to changing situations
  • Are calm and controlled

Fire and rescue services must have selection processes that ensure personnel who are responsible for performing command functions are capable of doing so. They should appoint incident commanders that are able to demonstrate clear potential to deal with stressful situations where there is sustained pressure. Once appointed they should periodically be required to demonstrate competence in their role.

Fire and rescue services must ensure they appropriately train and assess their incident commanders. They should ensure incident commanders understand and have sufficient time and facilities to practice the skills they need for command. Fire and rescue services must equip them with the operational knowledge and understanding needed to resolve the full range of reasonably foreseeable incidents and enable them to adapt to those that are not.

More details can be found in the CFOA Command Training, Assessment and Qualifications Fire and Rescue Service Guidance and the National Occupational Standards for Fire and Rescue Services.