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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsThe Emergency Manager may ask themselves the question, “Why am I doing this?”. Well the answer to that question is because the Emergency Manager has to make a decision about the benefits and costs of what it is they are trying to achieve, and the benefits could be lives saved, fires extinguished, disasters averted but the costs could be lives lost, injuries, potential financial loss, environmental loss and reputational loss and it is this loss that we are going to

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 secondsfocus on now. An incident occurred in 1969 at an oil storage depot in East London

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsat Dudgeon’s Wharf. The incident involved an oil storage tank which had been involved in a fire but the fire had been extinguished

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsby the plant operators. The Fire Service attended and whilst 5 fire fighters were on the top of the tank, a decision was made

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsto open a portal lower down using hot cutting gear. The operators at the time didn’t

Skip to 1 minute and 3 secondsrealise the nature of the gases within the storage tank and tank exploded, killing the 5 fire fighters and 1 of the store operators. A public enquiry was held which focused upon the causes of the

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsdisaster but it didn’t really look at the decision-making processes of the emergency responders on the scene. Moving on to 2007 and a fire that occurred at Atherstone Upon Stour in the UK. Here, a fire in

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsa large food processing plant resulted in the deaths of 4 fire fighters.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 secondsThe subsequent enquiry led to the prosecution of the Fire Authority

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsunder safety regulations and also 3 of the decision-makers at the scene.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsNow this had a profound effect upon the way that decision-makers looked at the cost element of the benefit cost equation and not

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsonly there was reputational risk now added to the cost assessment,

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsbut also the fact that you could personally find yourself in a Court of Law justifying your actions. So we move on to our final case study which is the Kerslake

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsReport into the Manchester Arena bombing of 2017. This report

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 secondsfocused upon the actions of the emergency responders at the time

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 secondsand the Fire and Rescue Service in particular came in for criticism. At that time the Fire and Rescue Service believed that they were dealing with the type of incident

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 secondsthat required them to hold back until the area was declared safe

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 secondswhen actually what was required was for an emergency response immediately alongside their Police

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 secondsand Ambulance colleagues. The report was heavily critical of

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 secondsthe Fire Service, it said that they were “risk-adverse”. So we’ve seen over time the

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsissues that arise, whereas in 1969, very little examination of the

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 secondsdecision-making process is by emergency responders, going right through reputational risk, litigation risk and now we see public criticism. It all shows the difficulties within which the Emergency Manager now

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 secondshas to make those crucial decisions based upon their analysis of the

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsbenefit versus the cost.

Why am I doing this?

You have now begun to see how the emergency risk environment is evaluated.

Watch the video where Paul Amos discusses the reasons why this process is so important to the emergency manager and how external expectations have developed over time

Paul compares three case studies:

  • Dudgeons Wharf fire 1969

  • Atherstone-upon-Stour fire 2007

  • Manchester Arena bombing 2017

Your task

The very public level of scrutiny seen today has profound implications for the way risk is perceived by the public in the form of official scrutiny, political process and the media. This is the environment within which emergency responders now operate, that they should avoid being risk averse, whilst at the same time be aware of the possibility of legal sanction should anything go wrong.

In your view how can emergency managers resolve this dichotomy when deciding on a context for evaluating and dealing with risk?


Davis A.,W.,M. (1970) Public Inquiry into a Fire at Dudgeons Wharf on 17th July 1969 London: Stationary Office

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service (2007) Report on the Fire at Atherstone-on-Stour [online] Leamington Spa: Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service. available from [11 May 2018]

Lord Kerslake (2017) The Kerslake Report [online] available from

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Risk in an Emergency Context

Coventry University

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