Fire and Rescue Service: Ethics and Law in the UK


The Fire Authority wants to join UK’s International search and rescue team. The International search and rescue team has been involved in many rescue missions both at home and abroad. The team responds to emergencies such as earthquakes, flooding, bomb or missile attacks and volcanic eruptions (British Civil Defence, 2003). Since its inception the team has saved thousands of lives However, it is important to look how the teams operations will affect the Fire authority legally, ethically and globally. This report will assess the law in England and Wales and how it operates internationally and applying to the Fire and Rescue Service. It will also analyse the role of globalisation in affecting the legislative and substantive work of those in the fire and rescue service. Moreover, identify how ethical considerations are dealt with in the fire and rescue services. Finally, summarise the role of the practitioner in a changing world environment.

The law in England and Wales

England and Wales are two of the four entities that make up the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state UK. The UK has a parliamentary democracy called the Westminster system. This is because the parliament is located in Westminster. The parliament has two houses- the House of Lords that comprises of appointed members and the House of Commons comprising of elected members. For any legislation to pass both houses must give it consent and then the assent of the Head of state. The parliament has gone through some devolution however; the Westminster parliament remains the supreme legislative authority in the UK” (British Red Cross, 2007, p.19). This means that it can repeal devolution instruments. There are two types of devolution- legislative and executive. The legislative devolution transfers the “competence to determine policy and enact legislation while the executive devolution transfers of subordinate policy making and administration. The head of government is the prime minister and he is the leader of the major party in parliament. He is appoints members of the cabinet and together with the cabinet they exercise executive power. It is the responsibility of the cabinet to “decide the government’s policy and direction in regard to legislation” (British Red Cross, 2007, p.17).

Having looked at the executive structure of the United Kingdom, we shall look at the laws of England. England does not have a devolved system of government. The government departments deal with the matters affecting England such as health, health, environment and so forth. On the contrary, Wales has a devolved government that is executive under the (Wales Act). The government does not have the authority to make primary legislation.

The Fire Authority funds the fire service in both England and Wales. According to the Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004, the fire service has the responsibility of fighting fires, fire-safety, road traffic accidents and emergencies as the core functions. The act allows the fire service to get involved in case of emergencies. This is possible because the secretary of state can confer through the issuance of an order to the fire and rescue services functions of emergences other than those of fires and road accidents as provided for under section 7 or 8. This kind of an order allows the fire services to operate outside their authority areas. This means that the fire authority will be acting in accordance to the law by joining the International search and rescue teams. Furthermore, the order given by the state of secretary makes provisions of what the fire and rescue authority may or must do in case of an emergence within or outside the borders.

The authority given gives the fire and rescue authority the power to secure provision of equipment, personnel and services. For example during the Haitian earthquake disaster, the international search and rescue teams together with other fire fighter from the United Kingdom started their rescue efforts in order to save lives as they had personnel and equipment. In about 48 hours after the earthquake had hit Haiti, the UK sent its first rescue team comprising of 64 who went to Port-au-Prince to look for survivors in the collapsed buildings. Other rescuers arrived shortly and operated in teams of six from all over the United Kingdom’s fire rescue service (Public Service, 2010). They also needed to provide services such as water, medicine, shelter and sanitation to the homeless and devastated Haitians. Rescuing them would not be enough because if they lacked these basic services they would surely die. Therefore, the law in the act authorises the International search and rescue team to mobilise people to donate help to people in such emergencies.

The fire and rescue authority is given the authority to train personnel to respond in emergencies as well as make arrangements on how to deal with the calls for help and summon personnel to help in the emergency. For example, during the Haitian disaster in January this year, Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, worked to get search teams on the ground in Haiti. He also had to ensure that they worked with others in a proper coordination so that each rescue team would bring in different equipment to aid in the rescue efforts. In this case, the UK worked in conjunction with the UN, the US and EU to avail necessary relief to the Haitians. Without such coordination, everyone may turn up with similar equipment and hence hinder the rescue efforts and in an emergency speed of essence as the more, the time passes the chances of finding survivors decreases.

The order gives the fire and rescue services authority the power to make arrangements on how to obtain information regarding the emergences to be in a position to discharge its function in the disaster area. Being able to obtain information is paramount because it enables the rescue teams to make the necessary arrangements and carry the equipment that would be most useful in the rescue efforts. This information also helps the rescue team to call in the right personnel to help at the scene of the disaster. Moreover, the order gives the rescue team the authority to make arrangements that would prevent or decrease damage to property because of discharging their functions in the disaster area. This kind of information is also helpful as t helps the rescue workers to be prepared psychologically for the task ahead.

Role of globalisation in affecting the legislative and substantive work of those in the fire and rescue service

Globalisation is the integration of human activities across the globe (Mussa, 2003). Many activities lead to globalisation such as religion, trade, wars, diseases and their prevention, migration and colonisation. Technological advancement has increased the pace of globalisation this is through things such as computers and the internet, movies, television, cell phones, electronic banking, modern transport and communication. These things have increased the speed of information transmission from one corner of the globe to the other through things such as live broadcasts. Information through the internet spreads very fast and thus within a short time people are able to know what is happening in other parts of the world. These means of communication have led to issues taking on a global dimension because people become involved and voice their opinions. For instance, the Haiti emergency news spread around the world very quickly, rescue teams from across the globe started to prepare for the rescue effort, and within a short time, some had hit the ground running (Public Service, 2010).

It is also important to note that globalisation takes many forms. They include, cultural, political, military, technological, economic and humanitarian. The International search and rescue team thus plays a role in globalisation through its humanitarian efforts. Globalisation requires that in case of an emergency people provide help to those in need. It is in this spirit that the fire and rescue services join search and rescue teams to serve humanity regardless of colour, race, religion or political affiliations (Robinson, 2002). This is because human life is very important and must be preserved at all costs.

The Fire Authority will be in a position to play its role in the world by joining the International search and rescue team UK. The team will be able to help people in need just like the International search and rescue team did as shown in the following diagram in which the two year old girl called Mia was rescued by the team.

Photo courtesy of PA
Photo courtesy of PA

The fire rescue services contribute to globalisation with their humanitarian work, which goes across the border. They use technological advancement in their efforts such as modern communication to ensure that they get and pass relevant information to the right people. This helps them in coordination that eventually makes the mission a success. For example, they communicate with the families of the rescue crew and tell them about their conditions. This helps to ease the tension that often arises in such missions. The fire rescue services contribute to globalisation by bringing together people from different countries to work on a common cause for the good of man.

Through joining the International search and rescue team, the Fire Authority will be helping to uphold the humanitarian law that seeks the protection of the wounded in conflicts. This is because the team gives aid to victims of war in case of a bomb or missile attack. Thus joining such an operation would be acceptable in both the international law and the fire and acts 2004 of Wales and England.

Ethical considerations in the fire and rescue service

Ethics are very important in every service as they guide the workers in their day today activities. The fire and rescue service needs to reinforce adherence to ethics for all its personnel. This is important because an ethical fire and rescue service inspires safety and trust in the mind of the public they service. For the Fire Authority to join the International search and rescue team, it must ensure that ethical considerations are put in place. This will ensure that at all times the workers are ready to deal with a fire outbreak or any other emergency and they should follow the ethics code of the Fire Authority. This includes training the personnel properly in the handling of the fire equipment and maintaining safety while at a function. The Fire Authority will then be in a position of readiness in case of an emergency (Howe, 1998). This is because the employees will be content (Guy, 1990).

To enhance this readiness the authority needs to put in place training programs for its personnel to improve their technical competence. For example, operating complex fire equipment and extinguishing various types of fires and so forth. This training will not only improve the workers competence, but the reputation of the Fire Authority. This is important because the International search and rescue team requires working with strong fire and rescue services in accomplishing difficult missions at times. For instance, the UK International search and rescue team in Haiti had to work under very harsh climatic conditions. The temperatures were very high and reached about 100F in addition to the stench of the decomposing bodies (Jamieson, 2010). However, the nine brigades that made up the UK International search and rescue team managed to saved fives lives albeit the extremely difficult situation they encountered amidst security concerns.

Helping people in need after an emergency reinforces the international law that many countries around the world have agreed to uphold that is improving and defending human rights. This means that the Fire Authority will be helping to improve the lives of people by joining the International search and rescue team. Through this platform it will be able to offer services to people struck by an emergency and who in most times do not have the necessary equipment and know how of handling the situation. The Fire Acts 2004 recognizes this and gives fire rescue services the authority to get involved in emergency missions even across the border. Here is the picture of a rescue worker in Haiti

Picture of a rescue worker in Haiti


The role of the practitioner in a changing world environment

The world environment is changing now more than ever. Interconnectivity between countries of the world has increased due to lower transport cost, trade and computing. No country can afford to stand isolated at this time, as globalisation seems as the way forward although some are concerned about its negative impact especially to the disadvantaged countries economically (Fischer, n.d).

The fire rescue services needs to change with the world-changing environment to remain competent in its service provision. The service should adapt to current methods of doing business just like in an organisation that is profit making. This means improving the management of the fire and rescue services. The improvements that may include training the employees about ethics or equipment. This will help the fire and rescue services function properly once the employees understand the values of the fire service and follow them at all times. For example, ensuring that safety practices are upheld at all times and that professionalism is practiced because the fire and rescue services ought to carry out its operations as a profession. In addition, those joining the fire and rescue services should be trained properly and at the initial stage introduced to the values of the fire services so that they can follow them during their stay at the organisation.

The practitioners ought to adapt to the changes in the environment by educating people on the dangers that the current human activities may cause. For example, they can teach people about the effects of global warming because it leads to things such as drought that in turn would make fire cases severe. They should also teach the people on how to avoid fires and what to do in case of a fire. Conversely, due to technological advancement, organisations are retraining their employees to improve their competence. Similarly, the fire and rescue services should retrain its employees regardless of their experience to equip them with new knowledge that will help them tackle the new challenges in the world of today (Lane, 2010).

The fire and rescue services should work hand in hand with policy developers so that it can get funds to be able to deal with a catastrophic disasters like the one that was hit Haiti at the beginning of the year. This will help the fire and rescue services to manage its current operations as well as those in the future (Lane, 2010).

The Fire Authority has a role to play in the changing world environment. Joining the UK International search and rescue team will help the authority to serve a wider community and help to save lives and alleviate suffering of people caught up in disasters such as earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. Thus by joining the International search and rescue team, the Fire Authority will be acting ethically and legally in the global arena by offering humanitarian help to the people in need; just as their counterparts did in Haiti.

List of references

British Civil Defence, 2003. International Search and Rescue Team. Web.

British Red Cross, 2007. Analysis of law in the United Kingdom pertaining to cross border disaster relief. Web.

Fischer, S., n.d. Globalisation and its challenges. Web.

Guy, M., 1990. Ethical decision making in everyday work situations. Westport CT: Green Press, Inc.

Howe, C., 1998. Strengthening employee conduct: the value of ethics Training and a written code of ethics for the fire service. Public Administration Review, 57, pp. 224-229.

Jamiesom, A., 2010. British Rescue Teams recall Haiti earthquake Horror.

Lane, D., 2010. The NRAT – Supporting the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services. Web.

Mussa, M., 2003. Meeting the challenges of globalisation. Journal of African Economies, 12 (1), pp. 14-34.

Public Service, 2010. Every Hour Matters, for Earthquake Survivors. Web.

Robinson, M., 2002. Ethics Human Rights and Globalisation. Web.

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