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Civil Contingencies

The events of 11 September 2001 prompted the Government to review and improve the UK's capacity to respond to the increased threats arising from a 'new dimension' of emergency.

Civil contingencies is about dealing with threats such as major incidents involving chemical, biological or radioactive materials. These incidents could require a mass decontamination of large numbers of people, or a rescue from a collapsed structure. We also need to be able to respond to increased risks from terrorism and non-terrorist emergencies such as major flooding.

Mass decontamination


As part of a national programme we have three Incident Response Units (IRU's). These are strategically positioned around the counties, to deal with mass decontamination or industrial accidents.

We also have two further modules, one for disrobe and one for re-robe. These vehicles support the IRU's by carrying additional disrobe packs, re-robe packs and a firefighter decontamination structure.

Urban Search and Rescue


We have an Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR). One of 21 teams strategically located around England and Wales. They are equipped with five modules carrying varying equipment to deal with a wide range of incidents including structural collapse, large transport incidents, open area searches, heavy lifting operations, shoring and much more.

Water capability


We have two High Volume Pump Units (HVP's), which are provided under the water capability section. These can either remove large volumes of excess water from an area or deliver water rapidly to an area for fire fighting.

The other elements to the water project are:

  • Water rescue - responding to flooding emergencies, which require the rescue of people from water.
  • Water safety - providing a safe system of work for HVP and water rescue.

We have mobilising procedures and policies in place to be able to respond to any such incident anywhere in the country. There are different levels of response depending on the severity and location of the incident. These have been set nationally by the Government. The fire and rescue service will be working closely with other emergency services and other organisations.

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