Understanding deployment into MTA zones

Control Measure Knowledge

Deployment into MTA zones may be necessary to save lives and reduce harm by delivering emergency medical care, or by rescuing or removing casualties and survivors.

At incidents involving terrorist attacks, including marauding terrorist attacks (MTA), defining the zones within the area facilitates the appropriate deployment of emergency responders. The commanders for each emergency service in attendance should use the JESIP Joint Decision Model (JDM) to define the zones, through establishing shared situational awareness and a joint understanding of risk. Developing a Common Operating Picture (COP), which should consider the threats and risks to emergency responders and members of the public, will support ongoing joint decision-making. Decision-making should be informed by the nature of the attack, including:

  • The number of attackers
  • The attack methodologies
  • The number of people at risk

The use of the JDM will enable an effective and co-ordinated response by bringing together the relevant information to establish shared situational awareness and joint understanding of risk from the different agencies. This will enable zoning and limits of exploitation (LoE) to be set if required, and support decisions about the deployment of non-specialist and specialist responders.

An LoE is defined as the furthest point at which groups of emergency responders will operate. The LoE will be jointly agreed between commanders as part of an ongoing joint assessment of risk.

All relevant personnel should be briefed to ensure they understand the LoE and the zoning in use. Any changes to the LoE or zoning should be promptly provided to all relevant personnel.

Life-saving activities

Every effort should be made to carry out life-saving activities. The absence of a commander from one or more of the emergency services should not delay this process, even though this may impact on deployment decisions. The absence of key information and intelligence at a forward command point (FCP) or rendezvous point (RVP) may affect deployment decisions by the fire and rescue service or ambulance service.

If there is a lack of agreement in respect of risk that is preventing the deployment of responders to save lives and reduce harm, clarity should urgently be provided by the emergency services commander who has the best knowledge to appropriately adjust the risk perception and enable services to deploy.


Decisions on zoning should be based on the use of the JDM, to establish a shared situational awareness and joint understanding of risk, considering the known threat and risk to the public and emergency service responders.

Not all incidents will require zoning or the use of all three zones. The application of zoning, including LoE, enables commanders to proactively deploy emergency responders to a scene in order to minimise risk to the public, while providing a basic structure that supports them in maximising the safety of the emergency responders.

The decision to zone the incident is dynamic and based on the attack methodologies and the threat. The deployment of emergency responders into zones is based on the joint understanding of risk and the urgent need to save lives and reduce harm.

The zones are defined as:

  • Hot zone: An area assessed to contain an active and ongoing marauding threat
  • Warm zone: An area assessed to contain a potential marauding threat
  • Cold zone: An area assessed to have no known marauding threat, or where appropriate control measures have been implemented; some cold zones will not require any control measures

Rapid deployment

The rapid deployment of resources may include both non-specialist and specialist multi-agency responders. Commanders should decide when and how their responders are deployed, informed by the attack methodology, and cognisance of the positive duty to act. The intention to deploy should be to save lives and reduce harm by minimising the risk to the public, including casualties, while maximising the safety of responders. Rapid deployment to save lives should take place unless there is a credible basis to delay such deployment.

Review of zoning

The size, location and necessity for zoning should be continuously reviewed, and every effort should be made to reclassify zones to accurately reflect the constantly evolving threat and risk. Zones should be no larger than absolutely necessary and their size should relate directly to the attack methodologies. For example, if there is a firearms threat, the hot and warm zones may be considerably larger than those for an incident involving a hostile vehicle attack.

Application of the JDM will determine whether and what zoning is required. The aim should be to move the hot zone to warm and the warm zone to cold as soon as practicable.

As soon as it is confirmed that any threat has been contained or mitigated, this information should be shared immediately with all responding organisations, as this will inform decisions about zoning.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions