Contingency Planning Arrangements for Industrial Action in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Industrial Action Alternative Mobilising Locations
42. Wholetime firefighters and other identified personnel resources (such as military personnel) available to work during IA would have been mobilised from Alternative Mobilising Locations (AMLs) and not from SFRS wholetime fire stations.
43. Twenty-six AML sites, on the MOD Estate, were identified and checked to ensure their suitability for the location and mobilisation of fire appliances. Consideration was also given to the welfare needs of personnel operating from these locations.
44. The SFRS is utilising an IT based system called ArcGIS and is currently developing a model that will support the Fire and Rescue Service to accurately assess where potential future operational activity will occur based on a wide range of historical data layers. The AML geographical locations were selected using a range of risk information that the SFRS compiled e.g., historical operational activity, site specific risk information, likely appliance run times to incidents etc. These factors were input to the ArcGIS system and then considered by Operational Managers, before plotting the most appropriate locations for operational resources to be placed.
45. The ArcGIS system for IA used a twenty-minute appliance run time which is significantly higher than what SFRS appliances would normally achieve out with periods of IA. Military personnel crewed appliances would not have mobilised under blue light driving conditions during IA; this would have been another significant inhibitory factor in terms of emergency appliance response times. When military crewed appliances were mobilised the SFRS planning assumption was for them to be accompanied by an SFRS officer who would travel in a separate vehicle to an incident locus. We consider that where resources permitted, these arrangements should be adhered to during periods of IA, thus ensuring that expert advice and guidance via SFRS personnel is offered to military personnel during incidents they may attend.
46. If during the time of IA, available resources fall short of expectation then the ArcGIS system can quickly recalculate optimal AMLs for operational fire appliances to be located. The utilisation of AMLs was predicated in the main on the availability of military personnel. ArcGIS is not a dynamic system, but we believe expert operators should be considered for placing on standby at suitable estate locations during periods of IA to make these changes as required.
47. At the time of carrying out the fieldwork for this report, the exact nature of any IA that might have taken place was unknown. Based on experience from previous IA it was considered likely that actions could range from complete withdrawal of labour for a fixed period up to eight days in length, or a series of short duration strikes where resources would be withdrawn for between one and four hours during the working day.
48. Military resources requested under MACA would have enabled two shifts of twenty fire appliances for full day duration, should the IA have been a withdrawal of labour for a full day or longer. The same resources could have been used to provide up to forty appliances, if that was deemed appropriate from an operational planning perspective, for shorter duration strikes. The difference being that rest periods would require to be factored into the longer duration IA options, hence twenty appliances per shift.
49. As noted within this inspection report, there would have been an element of planning and execution for deployment of SFRS personnel who opted to work during IA that could only be achieved when the IA period began, and the numbers of firefighters and FDOs could be confirmed. During the inspection process, and following SFRS workforce consultation, the number of wholetime firefighters based in urban areas who had indicated a willingness to work during IA was extremely low. The SFRS shared details of their planning tool for FDO availability with the inspection team. The number of FDOs who had indicated a willingness to work during IA via their normal work patterns was reduced from normal levels. We consider that sufficient capacity for this critical group could be achieved during IA, albeit reduced when compared to BAU.
50. To deploy personnel most effectively, the SFRS had adopted a hierarchical approach in terms of AML stand up and the fire appliances and specialist capabilities that could be crewed and so utilised for emergency calls should sufficient numbers of firefighters elect to work during periods of IA.
51. As stated above, the potential to have additional fire appliances and specialist capabilities provided by SFRS personnel existed but could not be accurately factored into planning assumptions until periods of IA begin. We conclude that IA over a period of consecutive days would be extremely challenging in terms of putting in place and maintaining SFRS capabilities and FDO cover across a range of functions which are set out in current planning arrangements.
52. Loss of specialist capabilities could be mitigated using the SFRS Community Asset Register (CAR). The CAR holds details of a wide range of assets that can be called upon to assist with SFRS emergency response activity e.g. local mountain rescue teams, local and national water rescue teams, International Rescue etc. The CAR and its assets are available to be used by SFRS Operational Commanders across Scotland.
53. The SFRS contacted all of the named national agencies and volunteer organisations on the CAR and were in the process of collating their availability and capacity to assist with emergency response during any periods of IA. The SFRS anticipated receipt of all CAR organisations responses in advance of the anticipated first potential date for IA, and gave an undertaking to fully inform us of these.
54. Robust business rules for the utilisation of CAR resources e.g. contact upon receipt of an emergency call, mobilisation, command and control at incident scene etc. were being developed by the SFRS in preparation for any IA. These business rules had not yet been fully defined at the time of carrying out this inspection. The outstanding CAR issues were being investigated by SFRS. We consider that this work is important and should continue until completion as it may allow gaps in capabilities during IA to be partially addressed for water rescue, line rescue and rescue from collapsed structures etc.
55. Recommendation 3 – The SFRS should continue to develop robust Business Rules for use of Community Asset Register resources during IA. These rules should be developed by the Service and promulgated to IA OC staff as well as FDOs in advance of any IA to ensure that they are clearly understood.