Skip to main content

Developed and maintained by the NFCC

Control measure
Identify appropriate tactical plan

Control measure knowledge


When tackling incidents in underground rail, an understanding of the following is required:

  • Fire and smoke behaviour in enclosed spaces
  • Rapid smoke or firespread
  • Difficult or limited access or egress
  • Communication problems
  • The effects of high ambient temperatures
  • Physiological, psychological and biological hazards

Through pre-planning, liaison and exercising, fire and rescue services should have an understanding of the capability of the infrastructure fixed installations and fire suppression systems, to assist in safe and successful incident resolution. Effective plans should include the role of the responsible person and how this can support the emergency service joint operating plan.

Knowledge of the facilities, network actions at incidents and operating principles of train operating companies that may assist the fire and rescue service includes:

  • Plans or plan boxes
  • Intervention and evacuation points
  • Bridgeheads and firefighting lobbies
  • Fire-rated vision panels and spy holes
  • Firefighting mains
  • Communications systems
  • Electrical supplies for fire and rescue service use
  • Gas monitoring for pollution or untenable atmosphere indicators
  • Fixed firefighting and suppression systems

An awareness of the following should also be considered:

  • The effects of deteriorating conditions for those trapped or engaged in rescue, because of high heat, humidity and smoke logging
  • Tactics to overcome the difficulty in assessing the extent, nature and likely development of an incident, and difficulty in moving about and applying extinguishing media (because of vehicles, available space of infrastructure or storage arrangements, for example)
  • The effects of ventilation, smoke logging/backlayering - if there is no ventilation, the tunnels will rapidly become smoke logged; backlayering is a phenomenon encountered in tunnel fires, and occurs when the movement of smoke and hot gasses is reversed counter to the direction of the ventilation flow

Refer to National Operational Guidance: Fires and Firefighting - Piston effect.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Gather Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI) about rail networks that are underground or in tunnels.

  • Use policies, tactics and equipment that reduce the risks posed by the tunnel or the underground operating environment
  • Ensure established processes are agreed and included in fire and rescue services tactical response plans, and within infrastructure operators' plans
  • Ensure that policies and procedures are complementary and understood by all affected parties, through effective liaison with infrastructure managers and other emergency services
  • Reinforce procedures through pre-planning, continued liaison and periodic exercising, where appropriate

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Activating local or area-wide automated fire or smoke ventilation and/or suppression systems, normally by the infrastructure manager, on discovery of an incident
  • Maintain communication with the responsible person and fire control rooms to ensure the accuracy of information

  • Obtaining confirmation from the infrastructure managers on the status and operation of systems used to protect members of the public, staff and firefighters, such as:

    • Ventilation systems
    • Pressurised escape areas or intervention/access shafts
    • Current status of high voltage electricity
  • Ensure appropriate measures are employed to reduce hazards within the underground environment - the role of the responsible person and their sector competent knowledge will be critical in ensuring operations are managed safely
  • Consider whether products of the incident are being dispersed into the community