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by the NFCC

Learning activities

Fire and rescue services should provide robust processes to initially identify operational learning outcomes, or ensure outcomes from previous operational learning activities and the changes arising from them have been successfully implemented. This can be primarily delivered by carrying out the learning activities as set out below.  

Incident assurance

Incident assurance should be a consideration for all incidents and be scaled to the nature of the incident. It can include:

  • Observations and reflection from incident commanders
  • Peer review of personnel involved
  • Mobilisation of an officer to the incident to carry out a dedicated assurance role

The information gathered can contribute to on-scene or structured debriefs.

Refer to Appendix B for a set of good practice points when carrying out an incident assurance.

On-scene debriefing

Debriefing personnel at the scene or in the control room, when their operational involvement finishes, is recognised as good practice. It offers the opportunity of recording key outcomes, observations and issues, and is normally conducted by an officer in attendance. Some of this learning may be about the activities of teams and individuals, with the potential to contribute to one or more identified operational learning activities.

On-scene debriefing also allows for personnel to begin to rationalise the incident they have been involved in, and carrying out an on-scene debrief should be an integral part of starting the welfare process.

Refer to Appendix C for a set of good practice considerations for carrying out an On-scene debrief.

Post-incident reporting and feedback

Providing a process for personnel to submit their own observations and thoughts following an incident, or more general observations that may not be related to a specific incident is recognised as good practice.

Post-incident reporting and feedback submissions may typically be sought following changes identified from previous outcomes from operational learning activities, or where appropriate the learning outcomes from Post-incident reporting and feedback often will form discussion points in structured debriefing.

Structured debriefing

A structured debrief process allows key personnel to reflect on their involvement with an incident, from the initial contact with the fire control room through to post-incident actions.

The process allows individuals and teams to systematically analyse and evaluate the decisions taken and tactics used, with their colleagues and managers. It is a means to identify and discuss the hazards and risks that were present at the incident, evaluate the control measures used to manage them.

Refer to Appendix D for the principles of structured debriefing.


Each fire and rescue service should establish when they will instigate their operational learning activities. This will rely on a number of factors within each individual fire and rescue service, and will be based on experiences and outcomes for communities' fire and rescue services serve, and not based soley on the level of response or resources sent to any incident.

Pre-determined triggers to initiate operational learning activities include:

  • A fire-related fatality
  • A declaration of operational discretion
  • A recall to an incident
  • A critical incident or incident of interest, for example a fatality following a rescue from water or unstable surface or following a technical rescue
  • An incident identified as requiring further investigation or sampling by an individual fire and rescue service, or at the discretion of the incident commander, Operational Learning Strategic Lead or SPoC
  • Where an incident falls into one of the nationally reportable incident categories, for example those detailed in The National Coordination and Advisory Framework (NCAF) England and the Fire & Rescue Service Supporting Guidance to NCAF
  • When needing to understand the success or failure of:
    • Changes implemented following previous lessons learned
    • Adoption of new policies, procedures, tailored guidance or equipment
  • Following:
    • Formal complaints
    • Accident and investigation outcomes
    • Outcomes from horizon scanning activities, including NOL and JOL action and information notes.
  • Identification of specific premises types, risk types or locations of interest