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Fire and rescue services are more complicated than you think

Read Time - 5 mins
Leigh Cockman Operations and Contract Manager
The acceleration of construction and technology in the Middle East often means that certain industries are playing a continual game of ‘catch up’ in order to meet the requirements of rapidly constructed mega-cities. It’s a good problem to have; the challenge brought about by this monumental rate of development often consequently drives innovation in technology and processes throughout all sectors of business. 

One such industry that remains in the midst of this phase is fire and rescue services; a critical element of ensuring the safety of the population.

Applicable mainly to large scale infrastructure and government operations, a comprehensive fire and rescue service is built upon a range of individual components that integrate together.

Governed by a complex and robust range of international and local regulations and requirements, it takes more than a simple procurement exercise to deploy a compliant fire and rescue solution.

More so than most other industries there are strict requirements on the manpower recruited; their age and physical fitness is often a critical aspect of the recruitment process. Not only that, they must be trained and accredited to both the regional standard for the country that they will provide the service in, as well as to the industrial standards of the facility that they are stationed. They then need to be outfitted with the latest in fire vehicles and equipment, deployed in accordance to international best practice and operate a system that promotes fire prevention, response and protection. All of this must also be done in a manner that meets an incredibly stringent KPI regime; understandable given the potential of lives being at stake.

Why training should be looked at more closely

The Middle East’s need to quickly adapt to changes and rising demands means that there are few suppliers in-region that can provide comprehensive fire and rescue services. Most organisations can supply one or two of the individual components but must have a strong network in the local market in order to create a total fire and rescue service solution for their clients. A key area that this shows is in the training sector.

Firefighters at a training centre putting out a fire

Due to the criticality of the service, fire and rescue training centres in the Middle East must be recognised by their respective governments and by accreditation bodies, ensuring compliance to the required standards (e.g. National Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)).

There are only a small handful of established and recognised training centres throughout the Middle East that can provide this level of compliance and as such, the rapid growth in the requirement of the fire and rescue industry is often bottlenecked by the capacity of the training providers. Similarly, the procurement of vehicles and equipment can often inhibit the ability for a fire and rescue provider to design and deploy a solution within tight timelines, purely due to the limits of the manufacturing process.

The growth of this industry means that there are hundreds of potential career opportunities for those with the aptitude to succeed. Fire and rescue service providers are continually searching the market for new candidates and will often support their training through an accredited training provider.

Group wearing hardhats watching an old aircraft on fire being extinguished in a training exercise

The service also stands as an excellent opportunity for nationalisation, with a clear career path through the firefighting ranks, developing in-country knowledge and experience that will be invaluable for the future of fire and rescue services in the Middle East.

Outsourcing: the most effective solution to fire and rescue services

At present, in order to ensure that you procure a comprehensive, compliant, efficient and safe fire and rescue service, outsourcing is the most effective solution. Choose a company with the credentials and experience to deliver the service and - whilst they may only be able to self-deliver one component of the service - they will utilise their network of partners to construct a solution that meets all applicable local and international requirements. A big advantage of this is the areas of fire and rescue that aren’t as obvious, such as fire station facilities and asset management, can be more easily delivered by a company with the scale and breadth of experience to do so by leveraging their broader capabilities.

Serco is a prime example of such a company. Our International Fire Training Centre in the UK provides training to firefighting personnel from across the globe in the latest best practices for fire prevention and control. Supported by state-of-the-art firegrounds for real-life scenario training.

Firefighters extinguishing fire on aircraft at training ground

This backs our capability to support clients in the UAE and KSA with the latest in fire and rescue knowledge and expertise, enhanced by in-house subject matter experts who understand the criticality of the service. Fire and rescue services is but one component of Serco’s capability though, meaning that we can support our clients in other areas such as asset management, workforce management and data management, providing a complete package that optimises all areas of service delivery.

The requirement for the fire and rescue services industry to mature in alignment to other sectors in the region means that the next few years will be critical. Additional training facilities with live firegrounds for scenario training need to be made available locally and in conjunction to that, a career in fire and rescue services needs to become more readily available, particularly to nationals. 

Fire Engine extinguishing fire on aircraft at training ground

In order to kick-start this growth, those that require a fire and rescue service need to recognise the complexity of the service; Fire and rescue is one of the most complicated services to try to in-source and doing so would be fraught with risk.

Already underway, this will unlock further opportunities for fire and rescue service providers to support governmental and private entities ensure the safety of their customers and the general public with a responsive, efficient, compliant and effective fire and rescue service. 

Serco has already made considerable entry into the market in the fire and rescue services sector in the Middle East, driven by in-house expertise and capability and built upon a network of trusted suppliers and delivery partners.

We rapidly mobilised a comprehensive fire and rescue services solution for a military forward operating base in the UAE inclusive of manpower, training, vehicles and equipment and are supporting our client to ensure the safety of those stationed at the base.


In addition, we provide critical fire and rescue services to an international airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, comprising over 100 operational fire fighting personnel and support staff, management of four operational fire stations and 20 specialised fire vehicles. Our team has a proven track record of responding to thousands of incidents across a range of categories each year.

Operations and Contract Manager Leigh Cockman

Leigh started his career path in fire sciences in the 1990’s, building an extensive knowledge-base in fire and rescue services (FRS) at operational and managerial levels. Leigh uses his out-of-the-box approach towards problem-solving, combined with his extensive fire and rescue experience, to design and implement comprehensive FRS solutions. He is passionate about expanding the FRS capabilities within the Middle East, driving growth in the areas of training and development, service delivery and technical solutioning.

Find out more about our FRS capabilities or to request a copy of our brochure please Click Here

Leigh Cockman