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by the NFCC



Hazard Knowledge

One of the main reasons fire and rescue services attend incidents is to reduce or prevent harm to people. As well as the risk of direct harm from the hazards of the incident, there is a potential risk to the dignity and well-being of people affected by the incident. Overcrowding, weather conditions, lack of appropriate clothing or shelter may present hazards to people who have been rescued, evacuated or are gathered at the scene. There could also be children or vulnerable adults involved in the incident. 

The physical or psychological impacts of an incident may not be immediately obvious; people who leave the scene may need to be contacted at a later date for assessment or treatment.  

However, the behaviour and volume of people may also have an impact on the incident, or on the emergency responders in attendance. The hazards people may present at operational incidents include: 

  • Obstruction of emergency responders 
  • Uncontrolled evacuation 
  • Unpredictable, aggressive, violent or illegal behaviour 
  • The uncontrolled spread of information, which could lead to unwanted behaviour 
  • Putting themselves at risk, or encouraging others to put themselves at risk 
  • Physical injury to themselves or others 

People may become indirectly involved, which could be due to: 

  • Concern about those involved in the incident 
  • Political or societal motivation 
  • A desire to assist with the incident 
  • A wish to observe the incident or the activity of emergency responders 

The behaviour of those directly involved in the incident may be influenced by their: 

  • Familiarity with the location 
  • Awareness about the need to evacuate 
  • Willingness or ability to evacuate 
  • Ability to hear or understand evacuation instructions 
  • Understanding of evacuation procedures 
  • Impairment by alcohol or drugs 
  • Perception of the incident and emergency response 

Transport incidents 

Fire and rescue services should consider the disruption to transport networks, and to the people using them, when dealing with incidents. Closing highways, runways, railways, ports or docks can have far-reaching effects.  

If people are held within the transport network, including stations or hubs, there can be an impact on public welfare. Unless they are kept informed, people may decide to self-evacuate, potentially along roadways or train tracks. 

Prolonged closures may lead to a build-up of passengers or traffic at the scene. This overcrowding can have an impact on the emergency response and place members of the public at risk.  

The impact of the incident on people not involved in the incident should be considered. Closing transport hubs, isolating power, stopping trains or closing airspace may have implications at other locations. Border control and repatriation may need to be considered if disruption is caused to international transport networks.  

Hazardous materials 

Failure to remove or isolate people from the scene of contamination and point of release of hazardous materials will significantly increase the impact upon their health, and the likelihood of further contamination occurring. Contamination of people may occur via their unprotected respiratory system.