Attendance at roadways incidents

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with Make a safe and controlled approach to the incident



Any attendance to an incident on a roadway should consider legislation and regulations relating to transport and roads; this includes compliance with the Highway Code.

There should be liaison with organisations that may also attend incidents on roadways, and road infrastructure stakeholders, to:

  • Ensure their controls and actions reflect and complement each other
  • Share and gain awareness of relevant documentation
  • Consider development of joint working practices
  • Develop memoranda of understanding (MoUs) where beneficial
  • Establish interoperable communications
  • It may be beneficial to carry out joint training and exercises to ensure any joint working principles fulfil the requirements for all organisations. For further information refer to Corporate guidance for operational activity – Emergency response plans.

Responsible person for roadways

A responsible person may be nominated by the relevant organisation and should have the required competence and knowledge to provide timely and accurate information to emergency responders about the hazards and risks of road incidents.

Identifying the responsible person may provide the incident commander with access to a range of advice and assistance to support the development of the incident plan. The responsible person will vary depending on the type and context of the incident.

For road incidents the responsible person could be from:

  • The local authority
  • A highways agency:
    • National Highways
    • Traffic Wales
    • Traffic Scotland
    • DfI Northern Ireland

It can be beneficial for fire and rescue services to maintain the details of tactical advisers or specialists for road incidents, and know how to request their attendance if required

CLEAR principles

The Strategic Road responders Agreement has been made by key organisations involved in traffic incident management on the strategic road network. The agreement identifies the CLEAR principles as the fundamental tool for successfully managing incidents on the strategic road network.

The aide memoire for the CLEAR principles outlines the roles and responsibilities of the key organisations involved in traffic incident management on the strategic road network, setting out a joint outcome. The principles aim to improve the understanding of the priorities of each organisation and the collective joint working principles. This should lead to improved communications and collaboration, more effective incident management and a reduction in incident duration.

Managed motorways or roadways with traffic management methods.

Fire and rescues services should establish joint working principles with organisations that may also attend incidents on managed motorways, or roadways with traffic management methods, in their area.

The aim of establishing joint working principles is to:

  • Improve the tactical management of traffic to enable faster access
  • Encourage a greater degree of co-operation between organisations
  • Establish a greater degree of information sharing between organisations

If a fire and rescue service may need to attend an incident on a Smart motorway, this guidance should be read in conjunction with the Smart Motorways National Operating Agreement. Some of the information also applies to traditional motorways or trunk roads.

Incident access

Access to an incident will preferably be with the normal flow of traffic on the affected carriageway. Fire and rescue service drivers should always consider if their response is suitable to the type of road and environment, taking into consideration if roads are live or closed.

If traffic is stationary, emergency responders should:

  • Use the hard shoulder where available
  • Use gaps created by motorists moving their vehicles
  • Ease through the gaps in traffic queues; if there is no hard shoulder, consider using the offside lanes, which are less likely to contain large goods vehicles

A cautious approach should be considered when approaching the incident scene, especially via a hard shoulder, as drivers could encounter:

  • People exiting from vehicles
  • Pedestrians between carriageway lanes
  • Road users changing lanes or pulling over
  • Motorcyclists riding between traffic queues
  • Debris and potential evidence on the road surface

Location references

Driver location signs are found at regular intervals along many motorways and some other roads so that the exact location can be identified. They show the motorway or road number, the carriageway identifier and a distance reference.

These can also be used to support communication of the most appropriate access route for the incident. Further information can be found on the Automobile Association (AA): Driver location signs webpage.

Service access road

Some motorways have service access roads which personnel may be familiar with, however, any use of these need have permission granted by the responsible person.

Joint working arrangements

On arrival at a roadways incident, the commanders for each emergency service or other organisation in attendance should:

  • Confirm the roles and responsibilities for the emergency responders
  • Establish agreed and resilient interoperable communication methods

Reverse access

Reverse access can be used if it is not possible to approach the scene of the incident with the normal flow. Responders should approach from the next available point after the incident, such as the next junction, accessing the front of the incident in an agreed and structured manner. The carriageway is changed to a two-way road for emergency use, allowing responders to get to and from the scene of operations.

There are two types of reverse access:

  • Standard reverse access – it should never be assumed that standard reverse access is in place; this is required before proceeding. Fire control should be notified that ‘reverse access is being made’ so that other organisations can be advised.
  • Dynamic reverse access – a dynamic risk assessment must be carried out before initiating this action, which should only be used in extreme circumstances

Standard reverse access

The following criteria should be considered before standard reverse access is implemented:

  • Criteria 1 – Police, fire and rescue service or highways agency to establish a forward command point (FCP) with a dedicated commander at the incident scene, who verifies that no vehicles can pass the scene. This may include vehicles that have stopped in the immediate vicinity, and that any vehicles stopped after the scene remain stationary and will not move until instructed to do so.
  • Criteria 2 – This applies if it has been confirmed that there are no moving vehicles between the incident scene and the chosen access point. Before emergency response vehicles can enter the carriageway from the access point, it is necessary to check there are no vehicles between the incident scene and the access point. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including using CCTV, line of sight, vehicle or a drone. If there are vehicles in an emergency refuge area, the highways agency control centre should try to contact them to advise them not to leave.

In extreme circumstances such as a known life risk, or to prevent a catastrophic escalation of events, police and fire and rescue services, supported by a highways agency, can consider attending via the opposite, unaffected carriageway to establish an FCP.

The approach for taking this action needs to be jointly agreed with other responders. It will be necessary to establish the appropriate protocols for stopping in a live carriageway and crossing the central reservation.

Each responder will advise the highways agency control if their resources will be deployed to the unaffected carriageway. The highways agency control will use available variable message signs and signals to support access to the incident from the unaffected carriageway, as directed by each emergency service.

Ambulance services should not, under any circumstances, stop their vehicles on the opposite carriageway, unless the lane or carriageway is confirmed closed by a highways authority or the police, and scene safety has been established.

Dynamic reverse access

Dynamic reverse access can be used if the standard reverse access criteria cannot be met. It should only be considered in extreme circumstances, for example, if there is a known life risk or to prevent catastrophic escalation.

Based on jointly agreed protocols and their own dynamic risk assessment, emergency services can enter the carriageway to access the scene between the chosen access point and the incident. A message to their respective control rooms needs to be relayed about their actions.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions