You may be the owner, the manager or the health & safety advisor of a company and the moment you have dreaded has unfortunately happened. That’s right. There is an emergency incident and you need help. It may be a fire, it may be a dangerous situation, it may even be an entrapment of a person. So, you dial 999 and request the fire service. Phew. That’s it. Job done! Sit back and let them get on with their job…… wrong.
Let’s stop for a moment and rewind. Planning your response to any emergency incident is a legal requirement and you should have considered this at some point already, implementing procedures and training of staff in order to satisfy your requirement. You have no doubt done this already and will have plenty of fire marshals and plenty of first aiders and a security team (second to none!) all following your procedures and the training that they have been given.
In this article, I aim to try and give you a ‘Fire Service Perspective’ of how they deal with incidents and maybe change your thinking a little regarding the sort of information they will require.
The OIC (Officer in Charge) of the first attending appliance, will only have limited information about the incident that they are responding to. Usually the initial message the OIC receives will consist of a few words such as ‘RTC persons trapped’, ‘Fire at ………’. Enroute there maybe snippets of information coming through via radio or MDT (Mobile Data Terminal), but in general information available to the OIC about the incident will be limited and quite generic.
On arriving at an incident, in this case let’s assume it’s a small fire in a factory, the OIC will be looking for a point of contact from the premise that they are attending. At this point the OIC will start to formulate a plan of how to safely and effectively deal with the incident.
- The first piece of information he/she will require is Incident Information. Incident information can be relatively simple. It could be for example “we have a small fire in the generator room. It is to the rear of the factory”. From this small piece of information, the OIC is already developing a dynamic risk assessment in his head drawing upon experience from similar previous incidents and extensive training exercises. A good point to note here is that the fire crew may not know the site or area. Don’t be afraid to put your ‘liaison officer’ on the appliance to guide them to the job.
- The next piece of information the OIC will need, is any relevant hazards or safety information about the incident. In this case, it could be that the ‘The generator is run on petrol’. ‘There is a petrol store next to the generator’, ‘The generator is in a fire proof room’. Again, this may not be a massive document with technical drawings and reams of text that you are handing over, but it is exactly the precise, specific and relevant information that the OIC needs to know.
- The final piece of information that the OIC needs is what resources will he/she require to deal with the incident. Is there enough man power? Are there enough appliances? These are resources that are usually requested via radio however, once again, you will have information that is useful. You may be able to provide staff to cordon off the area and stop pedestrians walking through the fire ground. Let the OIC know where the nearest hydrant is or where there is a source of open water that they can draw from.
So, 3 pieces of information. Incident Information, Hazards & Safety Information and Information on resources. From the information, objectives can be prioritised, for example ‘is everyone out of the building?’. If there is a missing person priorities change hugely from a building fire to a life risk incident. After prioritising objectives then a ‘plan of attack’ can be formulated, communicated to everyone then implemented.
The decision-making model that is used is a circular and dynamic process with the outcome constantly being re-evaluated. Has the incident changed? Have the hazards changed? Do I have enough resources?
That is just a small look at an operational incident and how it may be dealt with. So now the question is, are you prepared? Consider putting together an emergency pack with maps, information, hydrant locations etc. etc. etc. A good emergency pack handed over to the fire service OIC could be the difference between losing your business and not.
If you would like to discuss this or have a chat about any aspect of your company’s emergency response, whether that be from a strategic, tactical or operational aspect, please email me at email@example.com or the team at firstname.lastname@example.org