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Ineffective multi-agency working

Hazard Knowledge

Previous major incidents have identified the ineffectiveness of single agency working which has led to a number of public inquires and national learning. As a result, the Joint Doctrine: The Interoperability Framework (Edition 2) has been produced to provide a framework for multi-agency working.

Whenever they work together – and especially at major incidents – joint agencies need to ensure that they have the most coherent and effective joint response possible.

Declaring that a major incident is in progress as soon as possible means that pre-determined arrangements can be established early, as it can take time for effective operational structures, resources and protocols to be put in place. Declaration of a major incident triggers a strategic and tactical response from each affected emergency service and other responder agencies.

Information on the police response for major incidents can be found in the Authorised Professional Practice for Civil emergencies. The National Ambulance Resilience Unit’s (NARU) Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response Group (EPRRG) are the ambulance’s emergency preparedness lead for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

In the early stages of a major incident, one service may be in attendance first and responders may carry out tasks that are not normally their agency’s responsibility. It is essential that appropriate command and control arrangements between agencies, in line with joint situational awareness, are established as soon as practicable.

UK Operations: Defence contribution to Resilience and Security (third edition) incorporates UK government policy on military aid to the civil authorities (MACA). There are two notable points contained within it that modify how Defence contributes military support for resilience and security:

  • Defence is not seen as the ‘last resort’ option; rather, it must be ready and configured to play an early role in providing civil resilience
  • In an effort to simplify the process and expedite requests for support, terminology for how and where Defence can support the civil authorities is rationalised under a single term: military aid to the civil authorities (MACA)

Defence has a key role to play supporting lead government departments, devolved administrations and civil authorities as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptive challenges and major national events. This joint doctrine publication provides both a military and non-military audience with the necessary guidance and practical understanding on how Defence can contribute military support in dealing with natural hazards, major incidents or malicious attacks against the UK and Crown Dependencies. Note: Whilst the UK armed forces use the terms tactical and operational to describe command levels, their hierarchy is the reverse with a military operational commander being senior to a tactical commander. For further information on command hierarchy see The Foundation for Incident Command – Levels of command.