Skip to content

Welcome to Please review the region selection dropdown just below to get the most relevant content to your region.

By Teren Tan, Head of Emergency Services for Saudi Middle East Strengthening Saudi Emergency Response - A New Framework for Fire and Rescue Services

As The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues its remarkable growth, the evolution and scaling of emergency response strategies, particularly within the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), must become more assertive.

This is essential to effectively mitigate region-specific challenges and ensure full preparedness for any emergencies. The Kingdom's unique geographical and demographic conditions demand a collaborative approach to emergency management, with private-sector organisations like Serco playing a pivotal role.  

Shaping a safer and more resilient future for the Kingdom.

By identifying and addressing the unique challenges faced by emergency services in the region and harnessing our collective expertise and global sector knowledge, we can enhance the Kingdom’s crisis response capabilities and redefine safety standards across the region, shaping a safer and more resilient future for the kingdom. This forward-thinking approach sets the stage for addressing the specific challenges that will be discussed in the following sections.


Geographical Challenges and Collaboration

Saudi Arabia covers around 2.15 million square kilometres, making it one of the world's largest nations. This vast geography significantly impacts the speed and efficiency of emergency response. Even with the extensive expansion of transport infrastructure underway, the long distances between cities and remote areas make pre-emptive measures and strong local partnerships indispensable.

Establishing agreements, or more formal memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the Saudi Government and private-sector organisations will help to ensure that specialist resources are available for specific risks, such as protracted incidents and large-scale events. This collaboration helps streamline the deployment of the right equipment and expertise at the right time.


Crisis Preparedness for a Growing Population

With a rapidly growing population and expanding cities, crisis preparedness must address a wider range of incidents. As urban centres grow and infrastructure scales up, fire and rescue teams need comprehensive training to ensure readiness for more frequent and severe emergencies. Private-sector expertise and inter-agency collaboration will be vital to support this preparedness.





Community Response and Preparedness

In remote areas, where professional Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) teams may face delays in reaching an emergency, the role of community response is invaluable. Is it time then to consider training community members in these regions as volunteer fire and rescue personnel?

This approach has yielded significant benefits in other countries, for example in Australia where the Country Fire Authority utilises volunteers to support with bushfires and rural emergencies,  enhancing local resilience and enabling rapid initial response.

Such preparedness is crucial in ensuring that communities are not solely reliant on distant professional help but are equipped to manage initial response efforts effectively. This model could be tailored to the specific needs and challenges of Saudi Arabia, leveraging the strong community ties and regional knowledge that are characteristic of the Kingdom.


Commonality of Language

A unified language across agencies is essential for reducing confusion and delays, ensuring seamless coordination critical to effective Fire and Rescue Service operations. Although frameworks like the Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) standardise communication, they should be customised to fit KSA’s cultural and linguistic landscape.

Moreover, they need to be aligned with both government and private sector emergency services, which are crucial participants in such events.

This requirement extends beyond just emergency services workers to include personnel at any high-risk sites. Integrating these standards into both private and government business continuity and crisis planning enhances overall effectiveness. Roles, responsibilities, communications, and alert systems must be benchmarked and aligned with the operational context of the country.

What works in America, or any other country, may not be entirely suitable for KSA, underscoring the need for a tailored approach to incident management systems.

Need for KSA-Specific Certification and Training

While many existing frameworks in emergency services are based on North American standards, these often fail to align with the unique challenges faced by responders in Saudi Arabia. Adhering solely to these standards may also restrict the size of the potential international talent pool, which is crucial for supporting the Kingdom’s ambitious growth objectives.

There is a pressing need to develop Saudi-specific certifications and training programmes.

This approach will also address the gaps in current practices due to the environmental, cultural, and infrastructural factors unique to the Kingdom, but also make Saudi Arabia more attractive to the best international experts in emergency response to impart world leading knowledge and skills into the national workforce. Thus, supporting the national visions of KSA and impacting a better future for all.


Advanced Technologies

In the face of diverse and challenging landscapes, Saudi Arabia’s Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) teams increasingly rely on advanced communication technologies to manage threats such as wildland fires and flooding. Advanced early detection systems, such as satellite-based thermal imaging, enable real-time identification of fire hotspots, crucial for immediate response even in remote desert areas.

Furthermore, drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermal sensors have revolutionised the way FRS teams assess and respond to both fire and flood emergencies. These drones provide not only aerial views of inaccessible areas but can also deliver emergency supplies, significantly enhancing situational awareness and operational capabilities.




Drone flying over the sea

Drone flying over the sea

The integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) has further transformed emergency response strategies. In real-time, smart sensors and connected devices can monitor various environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and air quality. By analysing this data, IoT systems can detect anomalies that may indicate fire risks, allowing for early intervention.

Digital twinning technology also plays a critical role in predictive analytics and scenario planning. By creating virtual models of cities, sites, and high-risk assets, FRS teams can conduct detailed consequence analysis for severe weather events, fires, attacks, and other emergencies. These digital twins provide a dynamic, virtual representation of physical objects or systems, enabling emergency services to simulate various scenarios and assess potential impacts—thus refining risk mitigation strategies and prioritising response measures accordingly.




In conclusion, achieving comprehensive emergency preparedness in Saudi Arabia requires overcoming these unique challenges through collaboration, adapting standardised frameworks for the region, investing in innovation and developing region-specific FRS training.

Private-sector organisations like Serco, with global experience and the resources to share that knowledge to drive local ownership,  will play a crucial role in supporting the Kingdom's agencies to ensure the safety and resilience of the region.

Serco is the first international provider approved by GACA to offer FRS training in Saudi Arabia.