Skip to main content

Control measure
Use effective navigation

Control measure knowledge

Benefits of using maps

A map can enable accurate planning of a journey, giving a good idea of landmarks and features passed along the route, as well as the distance to be travelled. Maps can also be extremely useful tools that can be used at a range of fire and rescue incidents. For example, maps can provide important information to aid navigation, planning, decision-making and risk management on the incident ground.

Navigation aids

Navigation aids may include:

  • Satellite navigation systems
  • GPS devices
  • Other online mapping systems, such as Google Maps

Interoperability and major or civil emergencies

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, working in partnership with Ministry of Defence and Ordnance Survey, has created a set of common map symbols to promote interoperability between emergency responders.

Mapping for Emergencies is a free service provided to the emergency services whenever there is a threat to or loss of life. Paper mapping or geographic information can be supplied to assist in responding to a major or civil emergency.

Ordnance Survey information

The Ordnance Survey website provides information, in written and video formats, on how to read maps and use a compass.

Their guide, Map reading from the beginner to the advanced map reader, contains topics including:

  • Map symbols and scales
  • Grid references and National Grid lines
  • Reading contours and relief
  • Using a compass
  • Navigating at night or in bad weather

Grid references

The Ordnance Survey provides information about using four-figure references (a single kilometre square on an Ordnance Survey map) and six-figure references (a 100 metre square in a single kilometre square on an Ordnance Survey map).

However, fire and rescue services may also use:

  • 10-figure references: A one-metre square, commonly used in GPS devices
  • 12-figure references: A one-metre square, commonly used in mobile data terminals (MDTs). The two letter prefix for the 100 kilometre square, as shown on the National Grid, is converted into numeric format.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure that if they use multiple grid reference formats, their personnel know how to convert between the different types of grid reference
  • Ensure that personnel do not totally rely on satellite navigation systems; knowledge of the topography of the area cannot be underestimated as an important tool in achieving a speedy and timely arrival at an incident
  • Record and be able to provide up-to-date information to operational personnel about local features that may cause delays when navigating to an incident. For example:

    • Level crossings
    • Toll or swing bridges
    • Tunnels
    • Ferries and their sailing times
  • Maintain contact details for railway officials, bridge authorities, ferry companies, etc.

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Use local knowledge, topography and map reading skills to aid navigation to an incident

  • Use all available navigation aids when locating and responding to rural or remote incidents

  • Contact rail, bridge, ferry or other operators if their services and activities will affect response times