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The development of an evidence-based approach to inform learning and practices within the UK fire and rescue service

Rowena Hill (School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Tabitha Oakes (School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Lee Wilkes (National Fire Chiefs Council, London, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 15 August 2023

Issue publication date: 23 November 2023




The fire sector within the United Kingdom has identified a need to further develop their systematic use of academic literature and develop mechanisms to include academic knowledge to inform evidence-based policy and practice. By increasing knowledge exchange between the fire sector and academia, the ability to horizon scan and identify future relevant phenomena of interest to the fire sector will be achieved. Consequently, the evidence base and horizon scanning will increase the specificity of techniques, approaches and practices needed to continually improve the safety of the activities completed within the firefighting occupation, and it will also provide priority areas for investment and increase firefighter safety.


This technical paper primarily features an initial scoping review of academic and grey literature and an operational incident data review. This was completed to provide an initial and updated review of disciplines and areas of academia that are actively engaged in research relevant to the fire and rescue service. Consequently, this method sought to identify and examine the various disciplines of academia involved in fire research. This paper then uses that outcome to suggest a model of multidisciplinarity to inform the fire sector.


As a result of the scoping review, each academic discipline was identified and an initial review developed a predetermined set of key search terms. This was established through identifying the most frequently used fire-related terms within each discipline. This allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the breadth of activity and depth of complexity of fire related research within each discipline and an indicative set of key search terms to be developed. Recommendations are formulated to suggest next steps to routinely incorporate the academic knowledge base in the learning process of the fire and rescue services in the United Kingdom.

Research limitations/implications

This paper provides an initial scoping map of academic literature and disciplines relevant to activities completed in the UK fire sector, which can be used to further develop the evidence base to inform the fire and rescue service of the United Kingdom. It also outlines possible mechanisms and a model to systematically facilitate knowledge exchange between academia and the fire sector by which knowledge exchange could further support the development of evidence-based policy and practice. The broad range of benefits of collaboration between the fire and rescue service and academia are explored.

Practical implications

This paper provides clear evidence as to why fire related research should have an increased priority status to inform the national fire and rescue services learning process and evidence for national policy and guidance development within the UK fire and rescue service. Additionally, recommendations are made to support the consideration of academic evidence in the systematic sector wide learning process.


Previously, the UK fire and rescue service had limited coordinated strategic engagement with academic disciplines to further develop their learning processes in order to produce an evidence base, which is cognisant of academic research to inform practice and guidance. This paper begins the narrowing of that gap by categorising academic literature relevant to fire research into clear disciplines, mapping these to an updated breadth of current activities undertaken by the fire and rescue service across the United Kingdom. The process also details a pilot of the proposed model to support knowledge exchange by producing an academically evidence-based submission to the National Fire Chiefs Council organisational learning process.



Hill, R., Oakes, T. and Wilkes, L. (2023), "The development of an evidence-based approach to inform learning and practices within the UK fire and rescue service", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 257-270.



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