Memorandum submitted by CACFOA (December
The Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers
Association (CACFOA) is the professional association for all Chief,
Deputy and Assistant Chief Fire Officers in the UK Fire Service.
Those Officers, of whom there are approximately 200, act as the
Principal Officers to UK Fire Brigades and the advisors to all
UK Fire Authorities. The association and its members also provide
advice to both central government, through the Department of Transport,
Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), and the Local Government
The 1947 Fire Services Act gives statutory duties
relating to incidents involving fire and suspected fires. The
primary role of the Fire Service in the context of a terrorist
attack is to extinguish fires, carry out rescues and control the
inner cordon within which the emergency services are operating.
Consequence management, risk reduction and minimising the impact
of incidents are tasks that are consistent with the normal role
of the service.
Furthermore the Act allows Fire Service personnel
and equipment to be used for purposes "other than firefighting".
It is the development over many years of these non-statutory roles
in areas such as incidents involving hazardous materials and search
and rescue, which has drawn attention to the Fire Service capability
and expertise in responding to acts of terrorism and potential
Subsequent to the terrorist events of 11 September
2001 the Fire Service has been reviewing its strategic and tactical
responses to catastrophic acts of terrorism and is reassessing
its previously held planning assumptions. This will be supported
through a structured national risk assessment process.
It is important in terms of planning for the
future that we have the capacity and capability to respond to
incidents on a scale not envisaged prior to 11 September. The
new dimension in terrorism presents us with demands that are currently
beyond our conventional capacity. The result of our risk assessment
is that additional investment is required in the level and range
of resources available for deployment to enhance the Fire Service
The post 11 September emphasis on activities
which are not currently part of its statutory duties now features
prominently in the Fire Service response to CBRN terrorism. One
of the most significant changes is the signing of a Memorandum
of Understanding between the DTLR and the Department of Health
transferring, in certain circumstances, the responsibility for
mass decontamination to the Fire Service. This builds upon the
Service's present capability in relation to dealing with hazardous
materials and the decontamination of its own staff in such circumstances.
In summary, it could be said that the UK Fire
Service has an infrastructure to meet adequately the demands placed
upon it by disaster. Its strength lies in the quality and competence
of its workforce, who function as uniformed disciplined teams
within a common structure. It is a service which trains to national
standards, is equipped to national standards and which operates
through mutual co-operation and mutual aid. However, the sheer
scale of disaster post 11 September 2001 is beyond the capacity
of the UK Fire Service currently, but could be within its capacity
if additional resources were provided to build upon its infrastructure.
In May 2001 CACFOA Operations Committee commissioned
the drafting of an advisory policy document entitled "Conventional
and Non-conventional (CBRN) Terrorism. Fire Brigade Procedure:
Pre-Planning and Operations at Terrorist Incidents". This
document, adopted by CACFOA in October 2001, addressed a range
of issues including intelligence sharing, pre-planning, multi-agency
training and mutual aid. The document also reviewed strategic
Command issues following the attacks on the US.
The scale of the attacks on 11 September 2001
drew attention to the issues of resource management and resilience
over a prolonged period. Although individual Brigade's could mount
an initial response, under current arrangements this could not
be sustained over a prolonged period. This has indicated the need
for strengthening not only individual Brigade resources, but also
mutual aid and re-enforcement schemes between Fire Authorities
on both an inter and intra regional basis. CACFOA is currently
discussing this matter.
Furthermore, management of CBRN incidents demands
a cohesive multi-agency response. No agency can resolve such an
incident in isolation. CACFOA policy strongly recommends the development
of closer inter-agency liaison and working with the express intention
of reducing risk to the public, first responders and the environment.
The scale of the attacks in the United States
and the consequent impact on strategic planning has required a
co-ordinated UK Fire Service response. This has been particularly
important in servicing the requirements of the Civil Contingencies
Secretariat (CCS), Civil Contingencies Committee (CCC) and its
To assist Brigades in addressing these issues
Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI) has established
the New Dimension Group to examine the Fire Service's ability
to respond efficiently and effectively to incidents of the magnitude
of the 11 September. This group comprises representatives from
CACFOA, Local Government Association (LGA), Fire Brigade Union
(FBU), HMFSI and the Fire Policy Division of the DTLR. Project
teams (detailed below) have been set up to review specific areas
that have been brought to the fore by 11 September and the bio-terrorist
attacks in the US and elsewhere.
Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) whose
task is to develop a system to ensure the ability of USAR in incidents
beyond the normal response of a brigade.
Mutual Aid Team whose task is to develop
and enhance existing mutual aid arrangements to ensure that the
UK fire service is sufficiently equipped to provide a consistent
national response to large scale incidents.
Decontamination and Hazardous Substances
Team whose task is to develop the facilities and procedures
to enable an effective provision for the mass decontamination
of people affected by CBRN contamination.
Appliances, Personal Protective Equipment
and Vehicle Specifications whose task is to review existing
capabilities and identify weaknesses in terms of equipment and
geographical distribution of available resources.
Training and Personnel whose task is
to consider the support necessary to maintain the confidence,
health and safety of fire service personnel in New Dimension scenarios.
CACFOA has considered these issues in conjunction
with our emergency service partners, local authorities and the
Military. It is recognised that the MACP scheme does not constitute
a guarantee and that the level of assistance will be dependent
on current military commitments in the UK and abroad. However,
the benefits to responding agencies, including the military of
planning, training and exercising together are well recognised
and include allowing all parties to identify gaps in liaison,
operational procedure and policy.
Whilst we are aware of a response capability
within the United Kingdom, CACFOA is aware of the constraints
placed upon such military support due to response times and other
military deployment responsibilities. It is for this reason that
reliance on military assets is not factored into Fire Service
pre-planning assumptions. We believe that local disasters require
an approach that can be achieved by strengthening the local, regional
and national civil contingency emergency planning framework.
With regard to the broader aspects of national
contingency planning, CACFOA did have early reservations regarding
lack of representation for the Fire Service on the various planning
groups including the Civil Contingencies Committee. However, we
are pleased that the situation has now improved with the Fire
Service being represented and actively engaged in the various
committees, sub-committees and working groups co-ordinated through
However, the roles of individual Government
departments and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat need to be
clearly understood by all agencies likely to be involved in the
Intelligence or information sharing between
agencies is vital to pre-planning assumptions. In understanding
the responses of all organisations strategic commanders are able
to reduce risk to first responders by balancing risk, response
and resources. To facilitate Fire Service involvement in national
and local contingency planning and information exchange, Chief
Fire Officers and other nominated Principal Fire Officers have
been security cleared to the appropriate level.
Consideration of incidents on the scale of New
York and Washington also highlights the extensive involvement
of organisations such as utility companies and transport providers
in both the immediate response and longer-term recovery stages.
Liaison between the emergency services and these agencies needs
to be developed to facilitate informed decision makingfor
example in prioritising the restoration of essential services.
CACFOA recognises that the Fire Service has
an important role to play in the protection of the public from
the consequences of a terrorist attack. A great deal of work has
already been done to put in place appropriate plans, which only
utilise existing resources. However, as highlighted earlier in
this document, prolonged attendance at incidents on this scale
would be severely limited.
Emergency Services and local authorities are
clear about their own and each other's roles in the response to
a major incident. Inter-agency Major Incident committees provide
a forum for local information sharing and the development of procedures
for the response to major incidents in many areas.
However, CACFOA welcomes the Cabinet Office's
recognition in its Emergency Planning Review discussion document
that national, regional and local emergency planning arrangements
must be strengthened. New statutory duties must recognise the
wide variety of organisations that would be included in the response
to an incident of this scalesuch as utility companies and
transport providers in addition to emergency services and local
CACFOA believes, that it would be appropriate
for the government to reflect on the issues raised by the 11 September
and invite comments on the Cabinet Office discussion paper specifically
in the light of the vastly different scale of these attacks and
the rise of asymmetric terrorism. This would allow the lessons
learned from the attacks to be incorporated in future legislation.
The Review Discussion Paper suggested a community
leadership role for local authorities. Communities benefit most
from an integrated approach to emergency planning where stakeholders
fulfil their roles and responsibilities through collaboration
and partnership. The expertise and experience of Fire Services
in planning for and responding to emergencies must not be overlooked
in this review and any new emergency planning duty should fall
equally upon all key stakeholders, including the Fire Service.
The need for standards to ensure consistency of emergency planning
across regions/nationally and a means to ensure the responsibility
is fulfilled is key to the future of emergency planning. However,
it must be recognised that any additional responsibilities placed
on the Fire Service must be properly funded and recognised in
CACFOA is highly aware of the requirement for
joint media strategy in these events and the importance of dissemination
to the Public. For this reason it encourages its members to address
and resolve these issues.
The provision of timely and accurate information
to the public in the event of an incident is essential to an effective
response and the maintenance of public confidence. Generally liaison
with the media is co-ordinated by police services however, fire
services are involved in a co-ordinated response and provide information
about key competencies such as hazardous materials and search
and rescue and issues of health and safety on the incident ground.
Under the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness
and Public Information) Regulations 2001, England and Wales' Fire
and Civil Defence Authorities, county council fire authorities
and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority have the
duty to make arrangements for the dissemination of information
to the public about a nuclear or radiological incident and the
protective and precautionary measures to be taken in such an eventuality.
Currently, Fire Service attendance to incidents
other than fire, does not form part of its statutory duty. Consideration
should therefore be given to either amend legislation to make
such attendance part of Fire Service statutory duty, or issue
guidance in order to provide clarity regarding the exercise of
powers to deploy Fire Service resources to incidents other than
CACFOA is concerned at the delay in progress
with the bids for additional fire service funding submitted by
the HMFSI subsequent to the attacks on the US, CACFOA does not
believe that the service is currently in a position to respond
effectively to events such as those experienced in the US, or
in a way that secures the safety of the public and of firefighters.
It is recognised and accepted that the fire
service would be a first responder to a UK event similar to those
in the US. However, the ability of the service to respond effectively
should be seen in the light of increasing pressure on fire service
resources over recent years. In order to secure an efficient and
safe fire service response, additional funding is required to
support appropriate planning and training and to fund the purchase
of the necessary equipment.
A specific area of difficulty is that of mass
decontamination of the public. Following the signing of the Memorandum
of Understanding between the DTLR and the Department of Health,
the fire service has taken on an additional responsibility for
which it receives no funding. Until funds are released for the
purchase of the equipment necessary to support fire service involvement
in mass decontamination, the country does not have an effective
mass decontamination capability.
On behalf of CACFOA and its members, I would
like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to contribute
to the Defence and Security in the UK inquiry. CACFOA would also
welcome the opportunity to attend the inquiry and provide oral
evidence to expand on the issues raised by this submission.