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Failure to identify foreseeable risk

Hazard Knowledge

Fire and rescue authorities have a responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This runs parallel to their responsibility to reduce the risk from fire (and other emergencies) to the community they serve, and the environment in which they operate.

As part of these responsibilities, the fire and rescue authority must have appropriate policies and procedures in place to address any issues in achieving these objectives and provide the appropriate knowledge, skills and understanding through training and development, to enable its employees to operate safely.

Current UK legislation states that a fire and rescue authority must make provisions for:

  • Extinguishing fires in its area
  • Protecting life and property at fires in its area
  • Rescuing and protecting people at a road traffic collision
  • Rescuing and protecting people in emergencies

This legislation places a responsibility on the fire and rescue authority to make arrangements for obtaining the information needed for that purpose.

In support of these legislative responsibilities, the various fire and rescue national frameworks require fire and rescue authorities to have effective arrangements for gathering risk information and making it readily available to operational crews. These arrangements should include an effective audit and review system to ensure that the information is current. Identifying and managing risk whether through pre-planning and managing emergencies, fire safety, crime and disorder initiatives, training or undertaking other day-to-day activities is part of the integrated risk management planning process.

Fire and rescue services already capture data and information to support the core functions of their organisations, such as:

  • Operations
  • Fire safety
  • Emergency planning
  • Fire investigations
  • Health and safety
  • Post-incident learning

The extent of the data collected and held and the policies and processes related to the use, storage and sharing of this data and information vary across fire and rescue services. However, data and information may be stored in isolation and the consequential data integration issues may affect efficient operational pre-planning and incident management.

Most operational risks are foreseeable. However, the risks posed by events such as adverse weather conditions or civil contingencies are not easily quantifiable. A combination of operational risk information with available generic risk assessments, local knowledge and professional judgement will help ensure appropriate risk management processes can be put in place.

An operational risk information management system should:

  • Bring together outputs from existing and established systems
  • Develop and support a common approach to the strategic and dynamic analysis of risk
  • Determine the appropriate application of resources and processes to address the risks that affect the firefighter, other emergency responders, members of the public, the environment and so on

The Fire and Rescue Service Operational Guidance - (Operational Risk Information March 2012; Section 3) report into providing mobile data examined the information requirements for the roles that support incident ground operations. This study identified that providing accurate, relevant and timely operational information was critical to all personnel. These three elements are reflected in the data information triangle shown in Figure 1. The study also highlighted that providing too much information could put the recipient into 'information overload' and this situation may be as serious as not providing enough information. See National Operational Guidance: Incident command - Personal resilience


Figure 1: Information triangle