Command support function

Control Measure Knowledge

It is important that everyone understands the different roles and responsibilities in the command support function. This helps maintain common expectations which feed into shared situational awareness.

During complex or protracted incidents it may be necessary to expand the command support function. In particular, some incident safety responsibilities can be undertaken through command support including:

  • Providing a first contact point for all attending appliances and officers
  • Maintaining a physical record of resources in attendance
  • Briefing arriving resources on any safety related matters, including the tactical mode
  • Maintaining a record of:
    • The findings of risk assessments, and decisions or actions taken
    • Safety related decisions made, and the reasons behind them
  • Keeping decision logs
  • Recording information about the tactical mode, and relaying that information within the incident ground and to the fire control room
  • Liaising with other agencies, and assisting in joint understanding of risk
  • Supervising responders from other agencies and conducting safety briefings for them before they enter the incident ground
  • Briefing designated people about their tasks and safety critical information
  • Instigating the service system for logging personnel on the incident ground
  • Establishing, and relocating if necessary, the muster points for an emergency evacuation of responders
  • Overseeing the roll call of personnel with the incident commander after an emergency evacuation of responders

The command support function will operate from the command point, which should be clearly identified; this may use:

  • Blue lights
  • A red flashing light
  • A red and white chequered flag

The command point may be referred to as a forward control point (FCP), or as the forward command point (FCP) in multi-agency incidents.

The incident commander and sector commanders will need to establish a command point where they can track progress. The command point should be suitably located and may require relocating as the incident develops. This could be for example, to an appliance not involved in pumping or an officer’s car. This will prevent oncoming crews or other agencies from having to enter an area of higher risk. It will also allow briefings and other activities to be carried out away from a noisy environment and make communications more effective.

At large incidents there may be a delay in supporting personnel arriving. In such cases some aspects of command support could be:

  • Undertaken by other personnel, for example a firefighter appointed as marshalling officer
  • Undertaken within existing command structure, for example, sector commanders responsible for their own water supplies until a dedicated water officer arrives
  • Not undertaken or postponed, for example no media interviews or statements until the media officer arrives

All support sectors should report to the incident commander via the command support function. This is important to maintain spans of control. At more serious incidents, it is likely that the command support function will be led by a senior and experienced officer.

Remote command support may be of assistance for managing complex or protracted incidents for example, a major incident room. There are many different ways to provide this. Each fire and rescue service should decide what roles and functions are required. This will also depend on the type of incident and may include:

  • Operations cell
  • Planning cell
  • Logistics cell
  • Finance and administration cell
  • Communication and media cell

For national level incidents, fire and rescue services should consider requesting enhanced logistics support from National Resilience. Refer to the control measure: Identifying the need for enhanced logistics support.

Command support systems and equipment

All incidents have unique features. The reason for providing good, up-to-date information is to help the commander to make the best decision at the time. Services should have appropriate means of recording information at command points and in sectors. This information will include the tactical mode, the number of personnel working in the area together with key risks and hazards. Information may be recorded at multiple locations, therefore care should to be taken to ensure that all critical information is recorded and retained.

Command support packs should be provided on appliances for use by those first in attendance and all personnel should be familiar with their use. Packs may include items such as:

  • Relevant tabards
  • Resources for checking nominated roles for appliances and officers
  • Dry wipe board or similar for recording significant incident details
  • Command structures in place and site plans
  • Message pads
  • Risk assessment forms

For large incidents, a dedicated command support vehicle can provide relevant equipment and trained personnel. Each fire and rescue service needs to identify the equipment they can provide, which should include communications equipment, IT systems and relevant software. There should also be contingency plans for providing support if the command vehicle is unavailable. They may use a different vehicle, or equipment supplied through mutual aid.

For further information refer to Identifying the need for enhanced logistics support and Provide enhanced logistics support.

When multi-agency command vehicles are likely to be present, the command point site needs to be carefully selected, with enough space to avoid any radio or satellite interference between agencies. Pre-planning and regular exercises with other agencies can help services understand their own requirements.

Decision logs

The command support function is usually responsible for recording significant decisions. It is important to record enough information about the reasoning behind each significant decision. This will help those who examine the decision-making process in the future.

Further information may be found in Incident command: Knowledge, skills and competence: Organisation at an incident.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions