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by the NFCC


Public disorder

Hazard Knowledge

Public order may go through phases, perhaps starting with tension in a community, group or crowd. This could turn into disorder, with actions including disruption, damage or violence. It may then deteriorate to serious disorder or rioting, with violent protest, criminal damage, looting and the use of weapons or fire. 

Disorder may be contained at a single location, but may spread to a wide geographic area, sometimes at a fast-moving pace. It can range from being loosely organised or opportunistic, through to being well-organised, sometimes using social media. 

The hazards presented to personnel in situations of disorder or serious disorder include: 

  • Thrown or dropped objects such as: 
    • Bricks 
    • Stones 
    • Concrete blocks 
    • Petrol bombs 
    • Fireworks 
  • The use of knives, firearms or improvised weapons such as: 
    • Hand tools 
    • Vehicles 
    • Aggressive dogs 
  • Incendiary devices 
  • Fire setting, with the fire setters sometimes remaining in the area to observe firefighting or set more fires 
  • Booby traps 
  • Ambushes 
  • Damage to, or theft of, fire and rescue service equipment and vehicles 
  • Improvised obstructions or barricades to delay or trap emergency responders and their vehicles 
  • Biological hazards (biohazards), especially if there have been physical attacks on people 

Although those participating in public disorder may not target the fire and rescue service, personnel should be aware that their role may put them at risk during disturbances. Lone working of personnel should not be allowed if there is a risk of public disorder.

Police resources may be limited during public disorder and may be unable to attend when requested. This should be considered during the risk assessment of fire and rescue service activities.