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Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Operational learning

National Operational Learning (NOL) is an integral part of National Operational Guidance (NOG), which exists to facilitate continuous improvement in the sector. It provides a vehicle to identify new or emerging risks, monitor trends within the sector, recommends remedial actions, promotes best practice and shares learning across all UK fire and rescue services. NOL forms part of the maintenance process for the NOG products. NOL outcomes will be one of the factors considered when changes are made to guidance and will ensure the review of NOG is as effective as possible. 

The aim is to capture operational learning from UK fire and rescue services, the wider international fire and rescue sector and from partner agencies. This will support proactive and reactive learning.

Service engagement in the process is vitally important to ensure that guidance remains as current and appropriate as possible.

The process has been designed to capture learning and check it against the guidance framework of hazards, control measures, strategic and tactical actions. The identification of gaps in guidance will be addressed and, where necessary, content will be consulted upon and amended using the existing NOG governance structures.

Learning events will be collated and analysed by a central team within NOG, known as the NOL secretariat, in partnership with internal and external experts from across the fire sector and academia. The secretariat will propose recommendations to the National Operational Learning User Group (NOLUG) who will decide on the required actions. 

NOLUG is a national group formed by strategic leads from across the UK fire services, multi-agency partners and representative bodies. NOLUG are the decision-making body of national learning and sits within the NFCC structure of National Operational Effectiveness Working Group (NOEWG).

Operational learning should be intrinsically linked to NOG. An understanding of NOG and the hazard and control measure approach is required to submit good quality operational learning cases. It is also important when identifying internal learning that may only require local action. However, this may indicate a need to review policies or procedures that may have caused the learning case.

A service must plan for how the operational learning and assurance elements of the organisation will feed into NOG, the continuous improvement cycle and service policy and procedure. It has been identified in service and by the NFCC that the issue of high turnover of Single Point of Contacts (SPoCs) and high turnover in operational assurance departments in service affects the quality of learning submissions. Handovers are often not detailed enough, and experience is lost due to the volume of turnover. Services and the NFCC can mitigate this by ensuring consistent, detailed and good quality handover from the outgoing SPoC to the incoming SPoC.

New SPoCs are encouraged to engage with the NOL secretariat at the earliest opportunity.

The NOL Good practice guide provides a step by step guide for how learning within a service should be processed.