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Chief Fire Officers Association establishes new Coordination Centre to support UK Fire and Rescue Services

Published on 12 January 2016
The new arrangements will also greatly assist the MCA by streamlining the request for Fire and Rescue Service assistance at sea or to a vessel approaching port

ESFRS have agreed to support the call handling arrangements relating to requests for CFOA FRMR assistance via Sussex Control Centre

January 2016 will see the start of a new Coordination Centre to support all UK Fire and Rescue Services attending incidents within the maritime domain and specifically those that respond to incidents ‘at sea’. The new Centre has been established by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) Fire and Rescue Marine Response (FRMR) work stream. The Centre was identified as a gap in current procedures following the cessation of the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) in 2012 and the subsequent loss of the Fire Liaison Manager role within the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The new arrangements will also greatly assist the MCA by streamlining the request for Fire and Rescue Service assistance at sea or to a vessel approaching port.

FRMR’s has enhanced operational capability

In addition, the growing suite of capability options now being developed by FRMR requires a more in depth knowledge of what is available and matching the appropriate resource to the incident type. FRMR has enhanced its operational capability following the introduction of smaller assessment teams that are capable of encompassing a range of specialist advisors. The teams can then be transported to vessels at sea enabling the transfer of vital risk information. This will support the transition of the vessel back alongside, as identified following the response to the MV Commodore Clipper in 2011: -

‘’Deploying professional firefighters to Commodore Clipper offered two potential benefits; the most significant being that FRS could have gained first-hand knowledge of the nature and extent of the fire. This would have been relayed back to senior fire officers ashore using the terminology and format that they were familiar with. The second potential benefit was that firefighters could have started to understand the constraints on fire-fighting imposed by the vessel’s design, and assess the best way to fight the fire.’’

The new smaller teams are being introduced to provide a flexible and rapid emergency response. They will encompass a range of specialisms, whilst also having the ability to scale up to resource a response to a confirmed fire if necessary.

The new procedures include the establishment of a FRMR Coordination Centre and an on call FRMR Coordinator. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service have agreed to support the call handling arrangements relating to requests for FRMR assistance via the Sussex Control Centre (SCC). The SCC will receive a request for assistance from the MCA and alert the FRMR Coordinator who will liaise with the requesting authority and progress any necessary actions.

Specifically it will: -

  • Provide a single point of contact for the MCA for all potential FRMR incidents
  • Receive and process tasking requests from the MCA
  • Support a register of FRMR Tactical Advisors to provide advice and support throughout an incident
  • Provide support, on request, to individual FRS’s responding to incidents alongside.

In addition the SCC will be able to resource a central coordination cell to support a protracted or complex FRMR response to incidents within the maritime domain and the subsequent transition on the incident back alongside.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and Kent Fire and Rescue Service have also agreed to jointly resource a FRMR Coordinator. This role will provide advice and guidance on the operational response to maritime incidents both alongside and at sea. The post will be available 24/7 through the SCC with resilience provided through a cadre of Tactical Advisors. This will be an advisory role within the Incident Command System and will specifically support the following actions:

  • Initial information gathering through to teleconference with the Ships Master
  • Liaison with the Lead Assisting Fire and Rescue Service Principal Officer
  • Confirm the ships security alert status (SSAS)
  • Liaison with supporting Fire and Rescue Services who might be alerted or stood up to provide resilience to the initial response
  • Liaison with the MCA to resource helicopter transportation/safety vessels for the responding teams
  • Supporting the cadre of Tactical Advisors
  • Providing specialist advice/guidance
  • Supporting the National Strategic Advisory Team
  • Liaison with shoreside ‘receiving’ Fire and Rescue Services.

The new arrangements will be further developed in 2016 to provide the following:

  • Introduction of an audit/quality assurance programme to support the consistent application of FRMR Policy/Procedures
  • Introduction of a monthly validation process for confirming FRMR asset availability.

ACO Sean Bone-Knell (CFOA Strategic Lead for FRMR and Director of Operations in Kent Fire and Rescue Service) said, “Marine firefighting has some very unique and significant risks which we all have a duty to manage so I am absolutely delighted that we are now able to provide a central coordination facility for all UK Fire and Rescue Services operating in the maritime domain. Whether they are responding to incidents ‘at sea’ or resolving incidents alongside as part of their statutory duty we hope this resource will prove a useful addition to the Fire and Rescue Service community and partner agencies.2

He added, “The development of smaller more specialised capabilities is also a significant advance in what we are able to offer to the maritime sector and adds value to our existing arrangements. I would also like to specifically thank East Sussex Fire Authority and Chief Fire Officer Gary Walsh for providing the infrastructure to support the new FRMR Coordination Centre”

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