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Above ground structures

Man-made above ground structures can be divided into four classes: framed and unframed buildings (not included in this section of guidance), non-building structures and temporary structures.

Non-building and temporary structures

Non-building and temporary structures include scaffolding, temporary fairground rides and temporary stands. The technical operational difficulty presented by these structures will be similar to some of the structures outlined, but there may be additional problems for fire and rescue services. Depending on who has installed the structures, they may only be in the fire and rescue service area for a short time, the installation may be of dubious standard and/or fire and rescue service or other authorities may not have been given any notice. Fire and rescue services are likely to have little chance to actively pre-plan or familiarise their personnel with the structures.

A non-building structure has not been designed for continuous human occupancy. Non-building and temporary structures may be involved in any fire service activity and may present responding crews with unusual and unfamiliar hazards.

Some examples of non-building and temporary structures are set out below.

Masts, towers and transmission towers (pylons)

The terms 'mast' and 'tower' are often used interchangeably. However, in structural engineering terms, a tower is a self-supporting or cantilevered structure, while a mast is held up by stays or guys. These are typically tall structures designed to support antennae for telecommunications and broadcasting, including television. 

A transmission tower (pylon) is a tall structure, usually a steel lattice tower, used to support an overhead power line.

Wind turbines

A wind turbine is a device that converts the wind's kinetic energy into electrical power; the technical description of a wind turbine is an aerofoil-powered generator. Incidents that may require fire service attendance include rescuing workers or the generator catching fire.

Tower cranes

Tower cranes are a form of balance crane used in the construction of tall buildings. They are fixed to the ground on a concrete slab (and sometimes attached to the sides or top of structures).

Theme parks, Ferris wheels, piers, stadiums etc.

These structures are frequented by members of the public. They can include public access areas above, below and at ground level. They may also include areas with additional hazards, for example, they may be situated in or above water or have exceptionally restricted space.

Emergency intervention may also be affected by large numbers of casualties or trapped members of the public. For example, a rescue from a theme park ride could involve many people being trapped at height, being restrained by seatbelts or harnesses, possibly inverted or suspended.

Other generic structures

Other generic non-building structures that fire and rescue services may wish to plan for include statues, monuments, bridges, viaducts, aqueducts and transport infrastructure.

With incidents involving these forms of above ground structures, a range of fire and rescue responses is possible. In general, the following are most likely to be appropriate:

  • Aerial appliances
  • Rope access and rescue teams
  • Specialist urban search and rescue (USAR) teams

Because of the unique nature of above ground structures, other agencies may become involved or lead in rescue intervention, for example:

  • Helicopter search and rescue teams
  • Private rescue teams specially employed to provide emergency rescue cover for a structure, for example, the London Eye
  • Internal company volunteers who provide emergency cover, such as those at power generation companies

There may be a substantial delay in these agencies arriving and in most cases the fire and rescue service may be called on to attend in the first instance and then to assist.