Levels of command
Fire and rescue services should ensure that commanders at all levels achieve and maintain appropriate command competence. The CFOA Command Training, Assessment and Qualifications Fire and Rescue Service Guidance provides further information about the four nationally agreed levels of command qualification for fire and rescue service operations:
- Level 1: Initial. Command and control operations at a task-focused supervisory level, or a more senior level, at a serious escalating incident.
- Level 2: Intermediate. Command and control operations at a tactical middle manager level, or a more senior level, for large or significant incidents.
- Level 3: Advanced. Tactical command at the largest and most serious incidents, either at the scene or at a remote location.
- Level 4: Strategic. Strategic command associated with commanding in a Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG), or its equivalent in devolved administrations.
Agencies may use one of three levels of command and control at a multi-agency incident:
- Operational (Bronze)
- Tactical (Silver)
- Strategic (Gold)
These levels are role related and the titles may not reflect seniority of rank. Instead, they show the function carried out by that particular person or group.
Interoperability and intraoperability
Multi-agency interoperability is essential for incidents of all sizes. The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles Joint Doctrine aims to promote greater consistency across blue light services. This includes the use of key terms and common terminology. There is no legislation that states the primacy of one agency over another. The Joint Doctrine gives further guidance on co-ordination between emergency services.
The key principles of effective joint working are:
- Joint understanding of risks
- Shared situational awareness
A number of commercial or industrial sites will have their own fire and rescue services, for example, airports or oil refineries. Fire and rescue services should develop local arrangements that define the roles and responsibilities of each agency attending an emergency, for example, transfer of command.
For the incident command system to work, the incident commander and other roles should be clearly identifiable. A system for identifying command roles visually is outlined in in The Foundation for Incident Command.
The incident command system provides a structure that ensures a competent person is responsible for command and control at operational, tactical and strategic levels. Crews, sectors and functions should be appropriately supervised to achieve the incident plan. The system should be flexible enough to meet the demands of each type of incident.
The transfer of command should be a formal handover process that is acknowledged and communicated. This is equally important when an incident escalates or scales down.
Everyone in the command structure should be informed of changes of incident commander. This includes the fire control room, who can advise others. This should be appropriately recorded at the incident, as well as by the fire control room. There should be no doubt as to who is in command.
It is important that fire and rescue services can provide an effective response to local, cross-border and national incidents. The national frameworks support the principles of national resilience. Fire and rescue services need an understanding of resources and capabilities available to them.