Duties of Operational Support members

Traffic Control and Points Duties

Fire and other emergencies almost always require some form of traffic management. Fire appliances are not small vehicles and simply having one parked outside a building may create a traffic hazard. Operational Support units are often called upon to manage a traffic situation – measures including Stop/Go, Contraflow, full road closures (diversions) and Points Duty are used to keep traffic flowing as well as possible, and reduce impact on the public at large whilst ensuring the safety of emergency responders.

Crowd Control & Scene Safety

Fire and Emergency obviously has safety as a very high priority. Safety of the Fire crews, other emergency services personnel, and the public is usually an area of responsibility for Operational Support - cordons, scene protection and of course traffic related issues being the major areas involved.

Recommissioning & Crew Recovery

Operational Support play a key role in ensuring that crews are able to rest, recuperate and then re-deploy when required. This can involve catering (whether simple refreshments or full meal service) and can also involve providing facilities for hygiene and comfort purposes. Precisely how this works varies depending on local capabilities but the main focus is the welfare of firefighters and other personnel that may require our support at the scene of an incident.


Salvage is the term given to the art of saving property from fire, smoke and water damage that tends to go hand-in-hand with firefighting. Being a non-firefighting task, Operational Support may be trained to assist in the removal or relocation of personal property, as well as covering items of furniture, appliances etc with salvage sheets if they cannot easily be removed. A common salvage task may be the use of ‘AquaVacs’, to remove water from property, in order to minimise damage caused by flooding, sprinklers or firefighting activities.

Scene Lighting

There is often a need to set up portable lighting equipment at an emergency scene, usually independent of lower power supplies which may have been isolated as part of firefighting activity Operational Support can be utilised to ensure adequate lighting for safety and to allow work to continue despite a lack of electricity, enabling Firefighting personnel to concentrate on their other duties for which they are trained. Some Operational Support Units carry extensive lighting and power generation capability.

First Aid

All Fire and Emergency personnel are trained in emergency First Aid to a level referred to as the co-response standard; this provides for emergency life-saving treatment to be rendered until the arrival of (or in support of) local Ambulance personnel. In some areas, the local Fire Brigade provide a pool of personnel trained and equipped to provide a higher level of care, recognising that due to geography or sheer distance, an ambulance may take a long time to arrive. These firefighters are referred to as first responders, and training is provided by the Ambulance services under a Memorandum of Understanding between Fire and Emergency and the Ambulance services. Operational Support are frequently engaged as specialist medics within first response brigades and provide for the emergency care of people in their community until an Ambulance can arrive.

Waterways Assistance

Whilst Operational Support don't handle the nozzle/branch/delivery end of the hose all that often, managing maze of hoses that leads from hydrant to pump, and pump to firefighter, can be quite labour intensive. Operational Support staff are trained to assist firefighters in this area.

Transport and Logistics

One area that Operational Support are often valuable in, is in transport and logistics. With appropriate training, support staff can move fire appliances and support vehicles around, either in emergency response conditions or as part of a brigade's business-as-usual requirements.

Command, Control and Communications Support

Maintaining a clear command-and-control picture is very important; the senior Fire Officers charged with responsibility for an emergency situation need clear, accurate and timely information, and to be able to get instructions out to their subordinates as quickly as possible. Operational Support staff may fill roles such as runner, radio operator or IT specialist, anywhere from the Fireground to the Regional Emergency Operations Centres found around the country.

Volunteer Firefighters (including Operational Support) as a rule, bring useful and relevant skills derived from their hobbies and careers, with them to any incident that they attend. With the role of Operational Support opening up volunteer fire brigade membership to a wider audience, both Fire and Emergency and our communities are able to directly benefit from the wider set of skills and experience found amongst volunteers.

Content written by Mark Foster