Specialist resources: Unstable ground or surfaces

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with Specialist resources


Unstable ground or surfaces can present challenges to personnel and may require specialist resources or equipment to effectively resolve the incident.

Incidents involving unstable ground or surfaces may require actions that are beyond the capabilities of the initial response. Personnel should be aware of the restrictions that available equipment and training place on their ability to take action. If it is not possible to put sufficient control measures in place to safely and effectively deal with the incident, specialist resources, such as technical rescue teams, should be requested.

Technical rescue teams may be able to provide:

  • Support in creating safe working platforms
  • Assistance with shoring
  • Specialist equipment
  • Alternative means of access

If the ground or surface instability could be due to geological movement, specialist resources may be able to provide monitoring equipment and advice. For more information refer to Height, structures and confined spaces – Use of structural monitoring equipment.

Specialist equipment, such as rescue sleds, boats and rescue platforms, may be appropriate to provide a safe means of access. This specialist equipment will need to be operated by personnel with the appropriate training and skills, or by specialist resources.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and voluntary organisations can provide details of specialist mud rescue services in coastal areas. MCA rescue teams and some local voluntary rescue associations, including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), may have considerable knowledge of the area and the capability to operate on local mud flats.

Aerial appliances may be able to provide a safe working platform to access unstable ground or surfaces, although their use may present additional hazards due to their weight, movement or vibration.

If there are locations in the fire and rescue service area that are subject to having unstable ground or surfaces, it may be beneficial to participate in on-site joint training and exercises. This will help to improve interoperability by gaining an understanding of the capabilities of external agencies when dealing with incidents at such locations.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions