Skip to main content

Developed and maintained
by the NFCC


Above ground structures

Hazard Knowledge

Above ground structures in the built environment can be divided into the following classes:

Non-building and temporary structures may be involved in any fire and rescue service activity and may present personnel with unusual and unfamiliar hazards. Hazards and operational considerations for temporary structures are similar to other non-building structures, but there may be additional hazards for personnel.

Depending on the purpose of temporary structures, they may only be in the fire and rescue service area for a short time, may be installed or erected without notice, may not meet required standards, or the fire and rescue service or other authorities may not have been given any prior notice of its installation. This makes it less likely that fire and rescue services are able to plan or familiarise their personnel with these structures.

A non-building structure is not normally designed for continuous human occupancy. Some examples 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 antennas for telecommunications and media broadcasting.

A transmission tower (pylon) is a tall structure, usually a steel lattice tower, used to support overhead power lines. For further information refer to Utilities and fuel supplementary information: Transmission towers (pylons) and wooden poles.

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 and rescue service onshore attendance include rescuing workers or the generator catching fire.

For further information refer to Utilities and fuel supplementary information: Wind turbines.

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.

For further information refer to Industry supplementary information: Cranes.

Theme parks, Ferris wheels, piers and stadiums

These and other similar 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.

For further information refer to Industry supplementary information: Fairgrounds, amusement parks and circuses.

Emergency intervention may also be affected by large numbers of casualties or trapped people. 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. Refer to:

  • Search, rescue and casualty care: Control measures to be determined (awaiting publication)

Other generic non-building structures

Other generic non-building structures that fire and rescue services may need to consider include:

  • Industrial chimneys
  • Statues
  • Monuments
  • Bridges
  • Viaducts
  • Aqueducts
  • Transport infrastructure – for further information refer to Transport incidents


Access to areas of non-building and temporary structures may be difficult, as they are not designed for human occupancy. This presents hazards when gaining access to the scene of operations and makes maintaining safe egress routes difficult.

In some cases, the actual space in or on these structures is very limited, with the minimum room allowed for installation and maintenance. Casualties may be on-site staff who, depending on their condition, may have the best information on specific mechanical and electrical issues.

Large numbers of casualties may be present, particularly in structures designed for public use, such as roller coaster and fairground rides.


Communication with personnel working at above ground structures may be ineffective because of distance, interference and barriers.

Communication may also be impacted by noise from people, music, on-site machinery and other surrounding activities.