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Appendix D: Structured debriefing

Structured debriefs can inform the monitoring, audit and review process of the service to:


Identify and confirm good practice

Promote continued learning and assist in developing the experience of individuals and teams

Identify individual and team training and development needs

Assess competence through workplace assessment and a means of quality assurance

Confirm if current policies and procedures are effective and fit for purpose

Identify operational learning

Principles of structured debriefing

The structured debriefing process allows individuals and teams to systematically analyse and evaluate the operational tactics they employed during specific activities with other personnel. The process should help to identify, and support discussion about, the hazards and risks present at the incident, and evaluate the effectiveness of the control measures used to manage them.


Structured debriefs should be conducted in an open and constructive manner to assess standards against a number of predetermined areas.


Adequate time and preparation should be allocated to the process; it may not be possible to conduct it immediately after the incident. However, a structured debrief should be conducted as soon as is reasonably practicable afterwards, and ideally within four weeks.

In some circumstances it may be advisable for the structured debrief to be facilitated by an individual who was not part of the incident.


Participating in the structured debrief process should be considered as command activity, and added to the command continuous professional development hours of that individual. For further details please refer to Complementing incident command experience: A guide for fire and rescue.

Structured debrief attendees

By the very nature of fire and rescue service operations, there should be flexibility about who needs to attend a structured debrief. Some incidents may warrant only the incident command team being present, while others may need to involve those who have had a historical interaction with a site, premises or person.


Those who should be considered for attending a structured debrief include:

  • All officers with a significant command role at the event
  • Operational personnel who attended the incident
  • Fire control personnel
  • Fire safety officers
  • Incident ground assurance officers
  • Community safety officers
  • Fire investigation officers
  • External investigation teams, such as:
    • Air Accidents Investigation Branch
    • Rail Accident Investigation Branch
    • Marine Accident Investigation Branch
  • Training team representatives
  • Health and safety advisers
  • Resilience or emergency planning officers
  • Neighbouring fire and rescue services for cross border incidents or exercises
  • Other emergency services
  • Environmental agencies
  • Local authorities
  • Highways agencies
  • National Inter-Agency Liaison Officers (NILOs)
  • National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT)

Areas for consideration during a structured debrief

In addition to the areas identified for incident assurance shown at Appendix C, a structured debrief should also consider:

Sequence of events

A timeline of the incident, pieced together using all available information, including a comprehensive record of command decisions and operational practices captured at the scene; for more detail refer to National Operational Guidance: Incident command


  • Previous connected activity for:
    • Operations
    • Community safety
    • Fire protection
  • Previous safeguarding referrals

The fire control room

  • Review of the initial call
  • How did fire control personnel assess the severity of the incident
  • Did fire control personnel gather as much information as possible during the call
  • Review of initial resourcing decisions
  • Review of prompts and information sharing
  • Whether it was a critical incident

On-scene debrief

  • Did an on-scene debrief take place
  • Was any feedback from an on-scene debrief supplied


  • Was all incident information completed and returned
  • Fire investigation if applicable
  • Post-incident fire protection actions if applicable
  • Post-incident community safety intervention if applicable
  • Post-incident community intervention by partner agencies if applicable
  • Was any external feedback received
  • Have any freedom of information requests been received