Civil emergencies


Mobilisation is the process that supports mutual aid. Mobilisation may occur in response to spontaneous or pre-planned events and it is based on a tiered response.

A force which requests mutual aid is referred to as the host force and a force which supplies mutual aid is referred to as the donor force.

See also APP on mobilisation and NPCC guidelines on charging and cost recovery.

Legal basis

The Police Act 1996 provides the legal basis for mobilisation, in particular:

  • section 24 – allows forces in England and Wales to provide aid to each other
  • section 26 – enables forces in England and Wales to provide international assistance
  • section 98 – allows forces in England and Wales to provide aid to Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • section 98(4) – provides for the Home Secretary to direct chief constables to provide resources in extremis (note: to date this intervention has never been required).

Tiered response

Mobilisation is based on a tiered response. Each tier has its own key roles, structures and processes. In the context of mobilising people and/or equipment, the tiers are:

The National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) coordinates resources at tier 3. The Regional Information and Coordination Centre (RICC) performs this function at tier 2.

Mobilisation can include non-Home Office forces in the event of tier 3 mobilisation.

Tier 1 – local

A force is responsible for responding to and managing incidents or events that are within its capacity and capability. As part of its planning, a force should assess its capacity and capability to mobilise resources – see planning. At the local level, police planning contributes to and is aligned with Local Resilience Forum (LRF) arrangements.

This information may form part of a dedicated mobilisation plan which should be shared with RICC to help assess regional capacity and capability.

If an assessment of an incident reveals the need for additional resources and/or specialist support, force procedures should be followed to ensure appropriate command structures exist to:

  • assess the event
  • determine if the initial assessment is appropriate
  • take any immediate action that is necessary to minimise the potential impact of the event
  • ensure a swift and professional response.
Mutual aid

If mutual aid may be needed, the control room or senior management team should inform the chief officer team or duty gold so they can assess resource implications.

RICC should be notified if it is decided that additional resources are required beyond the force capacity and/or capability.

RICC liaises with NPoCC to ascertain whether the source and supply of resources is achievable regionally or whether there is a need to escalate to a tier 3 requirement and source resources nationally.

Tier 2 – regional

This mobilisation response is based on the nine National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) regions.

Regional Information and Coordination Centre

Each region hosts a Regional Information and Coordination Centre (RICC) to facilitate mobilisation at tier 2 and to support tier 1 and tier 3 mobilisation.

Each RICC has a mandate to communicate and coordinate across its region to identify and deploy mutual aid resources from forces within the region.

RICCs have a strategic (ACC) lead with delegated authority to:

  • establish the regional response levels required for mobilisation
  • coordinate the regional response to mobilisation requests.

This is achieved by consulting and negotiating with the other force ACC counterparts in the region.


RICC may be activated to mobilise resources by a force or forces in its region. If RICC is activated in these circumstances and NPoCC is not activated, RICC ascertains the requirements from the host force(s) and coordinates the supply of resources from across the region.

RICC still, however, liaises with NPoCC to ensure visibility of its activities and to enable NPoCC to maintain an accurate overview of national resourcing.

Where NPoCC has been activated, RICC provides a coordinated response to the national demand for resources on behalf of the region.

RICC may also be activated to assist a neighbouring force or forces when a timely response is critical, for example, spontaneous firearms incidents. In these circumstances, RICC must inform NPoCC at the earliest opportunity.

Regional mobilisation coordinator

When activated, the RICC strategic lead acts as a regional mobilisation coordinator (RMC).

The RMC:

Tier 3 – national

NPoCC is responsible for mobilisation at a national level.

National Police Coordination Centre

NPoCC operates a 24/7 service. It:

  • assesses national capacity and contribution in relation to the Strategic Policing Requirement and National Policing Requirement
  • establishes and coordinates continuous testing and exercising regimes to ensure effective capability and mobilisation of national assets when required
  • facilitates mutual aid in a steady state and provides a fit-for-purpose coordination facility in times of crisis
  • ensures effective reporting mechanisms with the Home Office and central government crisis management structures.

NPoCC has the capacity and capability to scale up for significant operational mobilisation demand when required (while maintaining unit business continuity). Under these circumstances, NPoCC declares and activates its operational status.

NPoCC undertakes horizon scanning with forces and regions to maintain a national overview of service capacity/capability and to inform resource management based on threat and risk considerations. It also:

  • liaises with national policing areas (eg, to develop and maintain role profiles, and undertake specialist skill capacity assessments)
  • develops and disseminates shared good practice (eg, outcomes of the mobilisation review group and post-event debriefing results)
  • manages the Mercury system (web-based system for mobilising resources – trained designated users in NPoCC and all forces have access to it).
National mobilisation situational awareness

NPoCC is also responsible for ensuring national mobilisation situational awareness. Designated officers at force and regional levels (NPoCC SPOCs) provide information to NPoCC reflecting their force/region’s chief officer perspective on:

  • current and future events
  • potential resource implications
  • local resilience overview.

Only information considered relevant/significant and appropriate to tier 3 mobilisation should be reported. This process ensures that NPoCC can support forces, partner agencies and stakeholders with timely and accurate information, advice and decision making in response to steady-state and crisis situations.

Post-event debriefing

Following routine or significant mobilisations, NPoCC ensures a coordinated post-event debrief process is implemented. This is to capture learning, develop good practice and improve future mobilisation.

Debriefs also support other related NPCC activity, eg, Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) and NPCC Public Order and Public Safety (POPS).

National mobilisation coordinator

NPoCC’s strategic lead acts as the national mobilisation coordinator (NMC) when NPoCC is required to coordinate large-scale mobilisation in response to either spontaneous or planned events, for example, in response to serious public disorder or a civil emergency. The NMC:

  • coordinates the provision of all police mutual aid (with the exception of counterterrorism (CT) assets) in response to requests from chief officers
  • provides advice and guidance to achieve national consistency and an equitable spread of resource demands
  • supports the assistant commissioner specialist operations (ACSO) in matters relating to CT
  • maintains an overview of non-CT mutual aid deployments in support of a CT incident, ensuring an integrated approach to mobilisation between NPoCC and the NPCC Counter Terrorism Coordination Committee
  • provides a single point of contact for forces and coordinates with key strategic partners and stakeholders
  • appoints a deputy NMC to ensure resilience
  • acts as the single, informed point of contact for government regarding national capacity and capability and the provision of mutual aid
  • leads the NPCC mobilisation business strand
  • ensures the delivery of any fast-time regional/national capacity and capability assessments
  • provides briefings and NPoCC updates as part of any formal government reporting strategy (note: this role does not imply that the role of the relevant gold commander(s) and/or existing specialist policing functions, such as that provided by CT policing, is withdrawn or limited – the NMC will, as per current arrangements, work closely with key strategic operational leads).

NMC support

When NPoCC’s operational status has been declared and activated, the NMC is supported by a:

  • chief of staff
  • dedicated operations team which manages and leads responses to current activities (ie, within the current 12- to 24-hour period)
  • dedicated planning team which manages and leads the planning input for responses to future operational activities (ie, beyond the current 12- to 24-hour period)
  • dedicated communications team.
Liaison officers

NPoCC may request that a host force or partner agencies deploy liaison officers to NPoCC. For example:

  • staff association representatives
  • specialist skill subject-matter experts
  • intelligence officers.

Such requests depend on the nature and complexity of the event, but are more likely to be made when NPoCC’s operational status has been declared and activated.

Specific liaison roles and responsibilities are carried out in accordance with previously agreed memorandum of understanding (MOU) terms.

Mobilisation supply strategy

NPoCC develops and implements an intelligence-led supply strategy to meet a mutual aid requirement. The strategy will be transparent to forces and regions and be based on:

  • early proactive engagement with forces to understand internal capacity and capability, and the potential mutual aid resource requirement
  • threat and risk assessment, including assessment of the current and prospective national demand on resources
  • consideration of the specific challenges associated with the event
  • consideration of existing collaborative agreements.

The scale and/or nature of the mutual aid requirement may result in an intelligence-led pro rata approach being applied to meet the demand. NPoCC would seek chief officer agreement to implement the approach which supports, as far as is practicable, a fair and equitable distribution of resources.

If there is competing resource demand, the NPCC president, in liaison with the NMC, acts as a final arbiter in any situation where a decision is required on supplying finite resources (note: to date this level of arbitration has not been required).

Skills and roles

NPoCC is responsible for identifying the roles and skills required by police forces to effectively respond to identified risks and deliver the SPR.

Each role has a profile identifying the skills required.

Forces (via RICCs) provide NPoCC with details of numbers of trained staff.

Central coordination of this information allows the police service to be confident that there are sufficient numbers nationally to respond to incidents.

Specialist resources

See also NPR and civil emergencies.

Casualty bureau

The casualty bureau is the initial single point of contact for receiving and assessing information about people believed to be involved in an incident.

The casualty bureau is available to respond to major incidents when the volume of telephone calls in relation to people involved is likely to exceed the number of calls that the force is capable of handling.

The selected casualty bureau (force or regional models) provides the main casualty bureau functions and the force whose incident it is must provide a liaison officer to assist the casualty bureau manager with local issues. Call handling can be provided locally, regionally or nationally and depends on the size of the incident.

When the casualty bureau is activated for a mass fatality incident, it marks the start of a police missing persons’ investigation. See also APP on casualty bureau.

Mass fatality incidents

A mass fatality incident is any incident where the number of fatalities is greater than normal local arrangements can manage.

The strategic coordinating group (SCG) should declare the incident as a mass fatality and discuss the consequences of this declaration with all responding agencies involved.

Specialist resources are available to assist in the response to mass fatality incidents. See also APP on disaster victim identification.

Senior identification manager

The senior identification manager (SIM) is an experienced and accredited PIP Level 3 (Professionalising the Investigation Process) senior investigating officer (SIO). They will have received additional training on mass fatalities and the identification of the deceased – see disaster victim identification coordination.

Mass fatality coordination group

When a mass fatality incident is declared, a mass fatality coordination group (MFCG) is formed. This group coordinates all aspects of the DVI process on behalf of the strategic commander. The MFCG reports to the SCG. The MFCG is chaired by the coroner and attended by the SIM. The coroner and/or the SIM attend SCG meetings to provide updates on the DVI process.

The mass fatality coordination group can meet at any suitable location and has command of the tactical and operational response to the incident in relation to the deceased.

Potential group members include:

  • HM coroner (chair)
  • SIM
  • SIO – can be represented by the SIM
  • deputy SIM(s) as appointed
  • casualty bureau manager
  • scene evidence recovery manager (SERM)
  • crime scene manager/bomb scene manager
  • police mortuary operations coordinator (PMOC)
  • family liaison coordinator
  • survivor and/or family and friends centre managers (if these have been established)
  • documentation team coordinator
  • planning and logistics manager (if appointed)
  • finance manager (local authority)
  • chief executive of the local authority or their representative.

Factors to consider in the decision to declare a mass fatality incident include:

  • view of the coroner
  • view of the SIM/SIO
  • number of deceased – known or believed to be dead
  • location of the deceased
  • level of fragmentation of the deceased
  • contamination of the deceased
  • criminal investigation requirements and forensic evidence recovery
  • current mortuary capacity
  • availability of the identified emergency mortuary provision.
Mortuary provision

The coroner in whose jurisdiction the incident has occurred must be consulted in relation to the number of deaths and what will happen to the bodies. This consultation must take place before the bodies are moved unless this would be detrimental to the operation.

The local authority must be engaged in the decision making as they have primacy for providing an emergency mortuary when the normal mortuary provision is unable to cope.

Each LRF should have a mass fatality plan which may be local or regional but should plan for their reasonable worst-case scenario. This includes identifying emergency mortuary arrangements.


Lord Justice Clarke identified four principles for dealing with fatalities:

  1. Provision of honest and, as far as possible, accurate information at all times and at every stage
  2. Respect for the deceased and the bereaved
  3. A sympathetic and caring approach throughout
  4. The avoidance of mistaken identification.

These principles should be followed when identifying the deceased and, particularly, when dealing with mass fatality incidents. For more information see Public Inquiry into the Identification of Victims Following Major Transport Accidents: Report of Lord Justice Clarke (2001) (Section 34.1 pages 148/9).

Primary identifiers

Identification of the deceased in a mass fatality incident should comply with the INTERPOL standard of one primary identifier to prevent any case of mistaken identity.

The primary identifiers for human remains are:

  • odontology (dental)
  • ridgeology (fingerprints and footprints)
  • DNA.

Disaster victim identification coordination

The UK response to disaster victim identification (DVI) is coordinated by a central team attached to NPoCC.

UK DVI work with the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK police forces to provide a standardised response which facilitates mutual aid nationally. The response is tested and exercised and capable of immediate deployment. The response is under the direction of and accountable to an NPCC lead.

DVI is available to all forces and delivered by officers and staff trained in specialist roles.

Senior Identification Manager role in DVI

DVI is led by the Senior Identification Manager (SIM), whose primary function is to:

  • manage the process of recovery of the human remains in a dignified manner
  • identify the deceased to the INTERPOL standard
  • keep families informed throughout the process.

The SIM takes responsibility for:

  • liaison with the coroner
  • the casualty bureau
  • family liaison – including gathering ante-mortem (AM) data
  • documentation teams deployed to hospitals, survivor centres and family and friends centres
  • recovery of the human remains from the scene
  • the mortuary – gathering of the post-mortem examination (PM) data and forensic evidence
  • reconciliation of the AM and PM data and identification of the deceased
  • managing personal property from the scene of the incident.
DVI tactical adviser to strategic command

Nationally there are a number of SIMs trained to PIP Level 4 who are available to provide support to both the police strategic commander and the appointed SIM in these incidents. Where a force does not have this capability, the response can be activated through the UK DVI coordinators or through NPoCC.

DVI support to the FCO

The NPCC has an MOU with the FCO to provide support to an incident abroad which involves British nationals.

This response can be UK-based call handling or casualty bureau and family liaison, or include the deployment of DVI resources abroad.

The response is coordinated by the UK DVI team who provide support to the on-call region and liaise with government departments involved to provide the link to national policing.

To provide the required cover, each of the nine police regions of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are on call for five weeks at a time on a rota. On-call cover is required for the roles of:

  • gold commander
  • SIM
  • SIO
  • casualty bureau
  • family liaison.

CBRN staff

CBRN-trained staff are trained to wear specialist personal protective equipment including a respirator to perform their role and enter environments confirmed or suspected to be contaminated.

CBRN staff include:

  • firearms officers
  • public order specialists
  • police search advisers (PolSAs)
  • licensed search officers
  • crime scene investigators
  • DVI staff.

Police support units

A police support unit (PSU) is a numerically fixed body of officers equipped and trained to a command minimum standard (Public Order Mutual Aid Standard).

The standard structure for a PSU is:

  • one PSU commander (inspector)
  • three serials – each serial comprises one sergeant and seven constables.

The basic formation of a PSU allows for effective deployment of resources as a standard unit.

Basic deployment units

A basic deployment unit consists of:

  • one inspector
  • three sergeants
  • 21 constables who are not public order mutual aid trained.

Not all emergencies require public order skilled officers and so forces should also have the capacity to provide BDUs where appropriate and at the request of NPoCC.

Interoperability and organisation

A key component of interoperability is that resources from different forces can work together during a mobilisation event.

Resources deployed to an affected force may be organised into larger teams. The advantage of this is that individuals form part of a team. This makes it easier for them to identify with colleagues and be linked to a chain of command. It also allows for more efficient briefing and debriefing.

Due to the diversity of professions within the police, there is no prescriptive model for grouping resources. The ethos of organising staff into groups does, however, apply to most deployments regardless of the numbers or roles involved.

Basic mobilisation units

In relation to the movement and deployment of general police resources, it is possible to build on existing structures. This enables large-scale and effective groups to be organised.

The core unit for grouping resources is the basic mobilisation unit (BMU). The BMU incorporates the structures associated with the PSU, as follows:

  • one commander (eg, chief inspector)
  • three PSUs (comprising three inspectors, nine sergeants and 63 constables).

If required, the BMU can be grouped by multiples of three to form larger units. As they expand, these units become intermediate mobilisation units (IMUs) and advanced mobilisation units (AMUs):

  • IMU = one commander (eg, superintendent) and three BMUs
  • AMU = one commander (eg, chief superintendent) and three IMUs.

Page last accessed 23 September 2020