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Over the last three years, JESIP - the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles - have become firmly established in the UK, as a leading enhancement to enable greater cohesion and capabilities, to support the civil protection agenda. Can the business continuity world learn from JESIP? Paul Kudray explores the subject…

Originally established as a programme but now with a longer term transition to principles, JESIP was set up following a review of over 30 UK based major incidents; this included the opportunity to identify correctable lessons from previous experiences between the ‘blue light’ agencies

Driven by a highly motivated core team and with government and ministerial backing, JESIP was destined for success. As a result, it’s been reviewed by other countries and the principles are no longer just for blue light services, they are adopted by varying multi-agency partners with a common aim of ‘working together, saving lives, reducing harm’.

Shared situational awareness (SSA)

One of the original aims of JESIP was to focus on enhancing (or maybe that should read ‘improving’) the shared situational awareness between the blue light responders. A large reason for this was the three blue light agencies (police, fire and rescue and the ambulance service) all had different methods for ‘declaring a major incident’. It was realised that there had been high profile events when a ‘major incident’ had not been declared by one or more of the services; a lesson was identified to improve this capability

In my previous career as Director of Resilience for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS), I had some direct involvement in the early stages of the JESIP development and one of my senior management team was appointed into a national role. From this, I was aware that a common major incident alerting message was required to improve shared situational awareness between the responders. This is where METHANE came knocking on the door of opportunity.

What one thing means to one agency might mean something different to the next: if you say fire to the fire and rescue service, it means a fire with flames and smoke. If you say fire to the police firearms unit or the military, it may mean discharge your ammunition at a target. It’s important to set vocabulary and recognise shared terms.

For clarity, METHANE is an acronym:

M – Major incident declared?
E – Exact location
T – Type of incident
H – Hazards present or suspected
A – Access – routes that are safe to use
N – Number, type, severity of casualties
E – Emergency Services present and those required.

METHANE came from the Advanced Life Support Group (ALSG) and their Major Incident Medical Management and Support (MIMMS) course, which had been in operation for some 20 years previous to JESIP’s existence and has now been widely adopted as a tool for SSA across the UK’s civil protection agencies.

So here is a question to ponder.

Can METHANE be used for incident management within businesses?

I would suggest there’s no reason why not, although in certain countries - such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - acronyms like METHANE do not always work, so there needs to be some variation.

But in principle, why can’t the business continuity world identify isomorphic style learning from the emergency management world? There are a lot of benefits in developing and adopting a commonly used tool for incident management systems (IMS).

I suspect there will be - like there were in the early exchanges between the JESIP partners - some disagreements, preferences and reluctance to choose one tool. But in the JESIP case, even though there were many differently led organizations and chief executives (I believe 105 was the figure at the time), they put differences aside for a common aim and purpose and ‘made it happen’.

So what would a business resilience METHANE message look like?

It’s possible we could stay with the concept and principles of making the aim to ‘alert of an incident or event’ and inform the response and its requirements. This could be to the organization’s IMS and control centre if applicable.

To this effect, a business resilience METHANE message might look something like this:

Major business continuity event declared?
Recognition of a business continuity challenge and disruption for the organization.

Exact location of the disruption
This can be within a plant site, premises, process or geographical area for larger organizations.

Type of disruption
What is the cause? Such as loss or denial of premises and staff, power failure or loss of resources, supply chain failure.

Hazards present or suspected
Any hazards or threats to staff, processes, stakeholders and reputation of this particular new challenging event.

Access to use
To either the point of failure or to the appropriate continuity plans including stand down procedures.

Number, type and severity of impacts
There may be multiple impacts as a result of the business continuity challenge and disruption – think outside of the box.

External stakeholders’ notification completed or required
Early engagement with key stakeholders will be critical in maintaining relationships with clients and customers in addition to reputational management.

Benefits versus doubters

You might ask: “What’s the point? We don’t need to change anything, because nothing’s broken.”

When we are looking for ways to improve the future, the METHANE message has clearly enabled and improved communications between the JESIP partners in the event of a major incident: and it works.

If METHANE works in its aim and objectives to improve early shared situational awareness, it makes sense (to me at least) that it could be used in a similar context for continuity related incidents.

As ever, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

Make a comment

Reader comment

I agree with Paul. When you consider that a major contribution to how well an organization responds to a disruption is not just the quality of the BC plan, but the leadership involved in its execution. Good leadership during the response phase can also improve the prospects of long term recovery.

I have included the JESIP model when training my BC courses as it fits well under section 8 of ISO22301. I would also recommend giving the national decision making model a look – it is a sound process and can provide a defensible position if followed carefully.

John Ball, AFBCI

The author

Paul KudrayAn international leader in business resilience consultancy, training and coaching; Paul Kudray, MSc FICPEM CBCI AMBCI Fellow of the EPC, is an ex-emergency services commander who finished an exemplary 32 year career in the UK healthcare sector, working for the NHS - culminating in 7½ years as the Director of Resilience for one of the world’s largest ambulance services, NWAS NHS Trust. He now works with private and public sector clients around the world, training, advising, coaching and mentoring them at the highest levels about emergency and business continuity management. Paul's company is KCLContact Paul at or via LinkedIn 

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