What is Operational Competence?
FRS operational employees work in ever changing critical environments. Individuals can be called upon at anytime to respond to a wide range of emergency situations. Fire and Rescues Services have a duty:
- To ensure that Operational Staff have the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding in order to fulfil the vast array of operational demands placed upon them
- To develop a safe, and competent operational workforce
The main aspects of operational competence are:
Technical skills the firefighter or commander having the required skills, knowledge and understanding to perform their routine duties
- Management and leadership skills in the sense of setting direction, managing their allotted activities, prioritising and balancing the demands of the role; and developing their confidence and resilience
- Working with others problem solving and dealing with change in an organised, and safe and systematic way
- Multi-agency collaboration working as part of a team and in partnership with other agencies to reduce risk and safeguard communities
Why is it important?
Dealing with emergencies is core to the role of the FRS; this is where risk is at its highest. Operational competence must have real meaning in this context. A person is operationally competent only when they can apply their skills, knowledge and understanding at operational incidents or in realistic simulation.
Designing and implementing an operational competence framework is about ensuring that operational firefighters and commanders have the right skills to deliver public safety by applying recognised operational procedures and complying with appropriate health and safety legislation.
Defining Core Operational Skills The core skill and knowledge of the Firefighter or Operational Commander sits within the fire appliance grid boxes, as shown on the left. These represent:
- Command and Control
- Breathing Apparatus
- Hazardous Materials
- Working at Height
- Water/Water Safety
- Casualty Care
These specialist NOS are designed to be easily read and to provide the technical detail required by operational personnel. They will describe how the core operational functions should be performed.
It is envisaged that specialist NOS will be used to develop learning programmes, inform workplace training and support workplace assessment. They could act as an assessment aid-memoire. They will not replace NOS FF1 – FF9 which will continue to be the benchmark against which competence will be assessed. They will, however, provide assessors with evidence that they can use to judge competence against the FF NOS. For example a Fire-fighter who has fulfilled all the requirements of the BA NOS would also have fulfilled some of the requirements FF3 and FF4. This approach could be used during Fire-fighter development or during the maintenance phase.
The diagram above illustrates how the relationship between core skills knowledge and application changes for as a firefighter progresses through the command structure to strategic commander.
A firefighter requires the full range of core skills and knowledge as well as knowing how the incident command structure applies to this.
The Strategic Commander needs to understand the capabilities and limitations of operational skills and knowledge but must be able to apply incident command skills in a complex, multi-agency environment and consider their potential political impact.
The guidance provides UK Fire and Rescue Services (UK FRS) with an operational competence framework for operational firefighters and commanders to ensure that they can safely and effectively apply the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding in an operational environment. It is a guidance document for FRS and is not intended to dictate or prescribe how competence should be achieved or how training and development programmes must be delivered; that is a matter for each individual FRS