Major incident management: creating an integrated approach
How response works today
Response to major incidents today is, as we know, predominantly by Blue Light services, police, fire and ambulance as primary response agencies. This is supported by an increasingly engrained Multi-Agency Approach through the JESIP framework in which strategic management elevates with seriousness or escalation potential. In various review papers it has been described as ‘a fundamentally ingrained culture of interoperable working’. CRO’s involvement is largely operational and post-incident, although they often also provide specialist early response capability. CRO’s are also becoming increasingly first responders to some incidents, particularly in connection with chemical transportation where manufacturers have responsibilities for safe carriage of dangerous goods and where incidents are on private premises. It would probably be accurate to say that the public expects to see ‘Blue Lights’, industry increasingly retains Orange Lights.
At national level, the Civil Contingencies Act and accompanying measures provides a single framework for civil protection. It defines organisations at the core of response, Category 1 organisations and those that are ‘co-operating bodies’, Category 2 organisations. Interestingly and worthy of note is that the Act is silent on the role of CRO’s.
Building an integrated approach
To ensure that we continue to evolve and develop our preparedness and response systems and resources to address a future that is most likely not dissimilar to the one described above, we need to create a fundamentally, more comprehensive ingrained culture of interoperable working - by a wider and more formal involvement of CRO’s in the whole cycle from threat identification, through response to recovery. There are some barriers to overcome. There is limited understanding of CRO capability and capacity within many sectors of the Blue Light services, central and local government. As indicated it is unclear how and where CRO’s fit into MIER and wider Resilience framework and formal guidance and financial protocols are imprecise on CRO role. At National level, response protocols do not adequately cater for CRO involvement.
Integration is not straightforward, but borrowing a model from I don’t remember where, I see four key steps – educate, integrate, fix and enroll.
Fill the knowledge gap (educate): CRO’s need to continue to provide examples of the knowledge, experience, work and capability at all levels and to the Blue light services. CRO’s also need to understand how the formal response processes work and ensure that they can work within the established frameworks.
Take an integrated approach (integrate): there is an opportunity to formalise the role of CRO’s within existing frameworks – Civil Contingencies Act standard and guidance. CRO’s should be involved in conversations (risk assessment, planning and preparedness) and not just response – there is so much knowledge and experience in these organisations.
Remove barriers (fix): as mentioned above, building the role of CRO’s into standards, guidance and protocols will help to formalise the role. There is an opportunity for wider and more frequent joint training and exercises. This will build trust and joint understanding. There is a funding issue – CRO’s are ‘commercial’ so someone has to pay. A grown-up conversation is required in the context how we fund major incident response in the future.
Mobilise for action (enroll): create an environment in which all appropriate parties’ plans, trains and works together.
If we accept the concept that everything we know about the future is wrong, we just don’t know by how much. It perhaps follows that ‘the only way to predict the future is to create it’. What I am creating here is a vision of the future for major incident management that (through necessity) has greater support from and reliance on CRO’s. CRO’s have a current role, they are already working alongside other response agencies and advising and guiding many organisations. The opportunity exists to formalise and strengthen this role to enhance capability, capacity and therefore our resilience.
Martin Iversen is the country manager for Ireland and executive consultant for Braemar Response Limited. He is responsible for all Braemar Response business activities in Ireland and acts in a wider consulting role, at C Suite and senior leadership levels. With over 30 years’ experience in the arena of resilience, security and crisis and emergency management, in both public and private sectors, Martin has served in the UK emergency services, for the some of the world leading energy companies and now with a Commercial Response Organization.
Coupled with extensive international experience and roles at corporate and operational levels, he conveys a global, strategic and culturally diverse perspective together with solid, hands-in experience.