The dedicated on-call team made up of both operational and non-operational staff, are mobilised to incidents in command vehicles used on the fireground to assist with communications, logistics, accountability and incident management.
Command vehicles were previously crewed by operational firefighters but following the successful introduction 23 years ago of an emergency welfare team who were called to protracted incidents to supply refreshments to crews, then Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alan House had a vision to introduce a specialist crew with a diverse range of skills and abilities that could support fire and rescue operations.
Twenty years on, Alan’s son Darren House is a Team Leader on the Incident Command Unit (ICU):
“It is fair to say this team must have nearly seen and experienced it all, planes, trains, automobiles, ships, fires, flooding, explosions, hazardous materials and wildfire. The team has responded in and out of the county with deployment durations lasting days.”
Across the two decades since its formation, the ICU has never been ‘off-the-run’, with a dedicated crew always on hand to respond if required. The team has now been called to more than 2,000 incidents.
Unlike on-call firefighters who have a 4-5 minute window from being alerted, to leaving the station on the fire engine, the Incident Command Team have a 20-minute turnout time. This extended window allows a wider range of skilled and experienced people the opportunity to crew the unit, ready to arrive on the fireground and play a crucial role in resolving the incident.
Today the main vehicle, known as Command One, is called out to support firefighters on the scene of various types of incident where there are five or more fire engines. It is kitted out with advanced equipment ensuring it stays in communication with the HIWFRS Control Room in Eastleigh, even in the most remote areas of the county.
The operators are armed with mapping, weather and site-specific information to assist with situational awareness which can aid fire officers in decision-making when leading briefings with their crews and when working alongside partners to resolve incidents.
Darren, who is one of two current members of the ICU team who were part of the unit at its formation in 2001, continued:
“The diversity of skills, knowledge and experiences of team members has remained the heart and soul of the team throughout the 20 years and is as strong as ever today.
“I have witnessed astonishing dedication during the past 20 years with people giving everything when in reality there wasn’t much left to give! Unless you have lived it, you can’t really describe or explain being on-call to those who haven’t. Often described by one of our retired team members as not just commitment, but a sense of duty.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the past and present members of this team.”