Emergency service interoperability in jeopardy

Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday 6 July 2010

For attn: News Desks / Security / Home Affairs correspondents

 Media contact: Daniel Sherman /+44(0)20 7747 2617 /+44(0)7917 373 069 / daniels@rusi.org

Emergency service interoperability in jeopardy due to lack of standardised operational procedures

Coordinated emergency responses within and between the fire, ambulance and police service is hampered by the lack of standardised operational procedures, rather than technology according to a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

 'Interoperability in a Crisis: Human Factors and Organisational Processes'  seeks to address why many of the barriers to joint working identified during the response to the 7/7 bombings still exist five years later and concludes that the absence of national management and coordination frameworks makes true interoperability between the three 'blue light' services 'extremely difficult', impeding their ability to respond efficiently to threats and hazards.

Report author Jennifer Cole, Head of Emergency Management at RUSI, recommends the new government considers a holistic review of the emergency response and civil contingencies landscape as well as the introduction of a single body responsible for the entire community. She also warns that more research is needed to determine exactly what this single body should be.

While acknowledging that interoperability has improved in recent years, especially at the local level, Cole writes, 'there is a lack of standardisation across geographic and force boundaries, and between different organisations, that affects everything from technology acquisition and operational procedures to budgets, training and exercising, and sharing lessons. The situation makes true interoperability extremely difficult, both to understand and to practice. If the situation is to be improved, a stronger framework for national resilience is needed ... without a single responsible owner for the entire community, any reviews [into emergency services reform] will be difficult to conduct and recommendations difficult, if not impossible, to implement.

'The current economic climate may be a driver for joint working as 'organisations are forced to consider whether capabilities can be shared with others, or held nationally rather than locally, as there may be insufficient budget for each organisation, or regional force, to hold every resource it may need. This should be encouraged and supported by central government, as it offers an opportunity to push forward joint working across the board. Responder agencies can no longer afford not to work with one another'.

To read the report, and its recommendations in full, please visit here.


  1. Jennifer Cole is Head of Emergency Management at RUSI. With a background in journalism and anthropology, Jennifer's research interests have focussed on the UK's emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Jennifer also has operational experience, responding to the 7 July 2005 bombings on the London transport system.
  2. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.


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