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Control measure
Situational awareness: Fires in tall buildings

Control measure knowledge

Identifying the fire floor

The correct location of the fire and the floor or level involved should be accurately identified in order to establish sectorisation, the bridgehead, and the staging area. See Foundation for incident command - Organisation of an incident. Fixed installations, such as fire alarm panels and closed-circuit television (CCTV) may assist in the identification of a fire floor.

External observation

External safety officers positioned on affected faces of the buildings will provide information on the development of the incident, including hazards such as external firespread, that can be used to update incident commanders and personnel within the hazard area. See control measure Incident ground safety management for more information.

Fixed installations

Automatic ventilation systems and other fire engineered solutions may be operating upon arrival or could activate as the incident develops. The triggers that will activate systems, and the potential impact of those systems, should be considered when developing a tactical plan. See Fires in buildings with complex fire engineering for more information.


The effects of uncontrolled ventilation, fire engineered solutions and operational activities should be identified and considered when developing and updating tactical plans and used to inform any change of evacuation plan. For more information see control measures:

Information gathering

Sources of information when developing and updating tactical plans, search plans and evacuation plans include:

  • Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI)
  • Building plans
  • Floor layouts
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV)
  • Fire control rooms:
    • Fire survival guidance being given to callers
    • Information received from callers
  • Credible witnesses

For more information see control measures:


Arrangements that allow communications between personnel working internally and externally, to allow effective sharing of risk information, should be established. This information should be used to update tactical plans and to provide information on hazards to personnel within the hazard area in a timely fashion.

Fixed site and portable repeaters may assist when working in buildings with communication dead zones.

As the incident develops, personnel at the incident and in the fire control room should develop a joint understanding of risk. To achieve this effectively, robust communications should be established and maintained throughout the incident.

For further information see Incident command – Have a communications strategy

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Gather and make available SSRI on tall buildings

  • Make building plans and information on fire engineered solutions in tall buildings available to personnel

  • Ensure information regarding tall buildings where communications may be impaired is included in SSRI, and establish alternative arrangements

  • Provide personnel with a means of accessing survival guidance on the incident ground

  • Ensure a mechanism is in place to inform and update incident commanders of survival guidance that is or will be issued to callers

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider positioning safety officers externally to observe fire development, smoke and falling debris
  • Gather information from all available sources at fires in tall buildings including fixed installations and CCTV

  • Establish communication arrangements to allow information to be passed between external and internal sectors at tall buildings

  • Establish communication arrangements to allow information to be gathered from and passed to fire control rooms

  • Consider positioning safety officers externally to observe fire development, smoke and falling debris
  • Consider the effects of uncontrolled ventilation on fires at height when developing tactical plans

  • Consider fire survival guidance offered to callers by fire control room, when developing tactical plans at fires involving tall buildings

  • Consider establishing a functional role to co-ordinate credible sources of information on the location of casualties, to be used when developing tactical plans at fires involving tall buildings