Skip to main content

Control measure
Command skills

Control measure knowledge

To deliver assertive, effective and safe incident command, incident commanders should be competent and able to understand the situation as it unfolds. They should be able to:

  • Identify and prioritise problems and develop a plan to resolve the incident
  • Communicate this plan to others
  • Co-ordinate and control activity in line with their plan
  • Display the leadership needed to resolve the incident and operate effectively under the pressures of an incident

These qualities are known as command skills. These skills are outlined in detail in The Foundation for Incident Command.

An incident commander will need to practice their role. This will help them to apply their leadership skills, knowledge and understanding to be assertive, effective and safe.

Command competence is made up of a number of components. An individual's personal qualities and attributes are as important as their knowledge and understanding. Fire and rescue services should design and put in place a framework of competence for their incident commanders. This framework should equip incident commanders with:

  • Behaviours
  • Skills
  • Knowledge of policies and standard operational procedures
  • Understanding of their responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of others

It is accepted that knowledge and skills will fade when not in regular use and this may affect competence. This process is known as skills decay. Fire and rescue services should have an established maintenance of competence system that clearly identifies when and how an area of competence is to be maintained. This maintenance of competence can be achieved through the use of continuation training.

The training frequency identified by a fire and rescue service to maintain competence should take account of each individual's ability to acquire and maintain skills, and the fire and rescue authority's risk profile to ensure their risk management plans are effectively delivered. This is done to minimise skills decay and ensure personnel are competent to undertake their role safely and effectively.

Fire and rescue services should have methods of measuring and monitoring how effectively their incident commanders are performing. Incident commanders should also take personal responsibility to identify, develop and maintain their command skills.

Fire and rescue services should provide operational assurance during an incident and should consider the most suitable ways of doing so. This active monitoring should help identify when the incident commander performed well, or did not act as expected or in line with training and guidance. It can provide support for them at the incident if they need it.

As part of the incident or training debrief process, the incident commander should seek feedback on their performance in resolving the incident. This allows them to identify best practice and where they can make improvements in the future.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Select, prepare and develop incident commanders to ensure they can use command skills effectively when commanding an incident
  • Provide appropriate opportunity for practice under realistic pressures; command skills are complex in nature and can be developed with understanding and practice
  • Foster an operational learning and development ethos where personnel are trained in and regularly practice command. To do this, the service should encourage a culture of empowerment and acceptance of responsibility
  • Ensure all operational policies, procedures and training materials are consistent with the service's approach to incident command. The service should understand and clearly articulate its command ethos to help ensure incident commanders are aware of the service's expectations
  • Recognise the importance of incident commanders having effective command skills. They should ensure that these skills form the basis for all command development programmes. Without good command skills, the commander will not be able to effectively put in place the technical aspects of incident command
  • Have systems and processes to develop command skills at all levels and to actively monitor performance and behaviour of incident commanders at operational incidents
  • Consider holding a personal review at the conclusion of an incident. Taking the time to reflect can help individuals to review the way they acted and the decisions they made. This will allow them to recognise and act to address any development they would benefit from.

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Apply assertive, effective and safe command skills at all operational incidents

  • Undertake a post-incident process of self-reflection on their performance in resolving an incident as part of the operational debrief process