NSW Alarm Response Protocols (ARP’s) explained

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What is an ARP?

Introduced in 2003, Alarm Response Protocols (ARP’s) are a standardised response level for incidents within specific areas of NSW. They govern a standard weight of attack based on risk and incident type.

They allow communications centres and incident controllers to dispatch a number of resources based on a specific operational requirement. There are 4 types of Alarm Response Protocols and each of them has its own specific set of appliances and requirements.

  • Structure Fire
  • Bush or Grass Fire
  • Rescue Incident
  • HAZMAT Incident

These ARP’s also include the NSW Rural Fire Service when combatting large bush or grass fires. When a fire is within Fire & Rescue District, RFS resources are included in the ARP level.
For example, 2x RFS Tankers and 2x FRNSW Tankers is the equivalent of a 2nd alarm.

When a bushfire is in Rural Fire District, the ARP level only applies to assigned Fire & Rescue resources.

Does the location matter?

Yes, Alarm Response Protocols (ARP’s) aren’t the same across the whole state – in fact, they only apply to areas where there is a network of supporting fire stations. There’s not much good calling for a 5th alarm structure fire if there are only 2 fire stations for the next 200km.

NSW is broken up into different fire districts and zones and because of this, there are variations to ARP’s based on where in the state it is applied. This is all managed by the dispatch software used by Fire & Rescue.

Who makes the call?

Before appliances arrive on the scene, it is the decision of the Communications Centre supervisor as to what appliances are sent to the incident. If the communications centre is receiving multiple 000 calls, or if they have information indicating a large or escalating incident, they can upgrade the response above the initially dispatched appliances.

Once appliances have arrived at the incident, it is the Incident Controller who will determine what alarm level is required. After their initial size-up, alarm levels can be subsequently upgraded or downgraded based on conditions and needs.

“A residential house fire may require a 2nd Alarm, commercial business, a 3rd alarm, warehouse 4th or greater. There are many factors which can alter this. A double-storey house fire on a 40° day with other buildings under threat may require a 3rd alarm for extra personnel to manage heat stress on firefighters and to deal with the other buildings being impacted. So the environment, weather, fire load and critical threats play a part in what the Incident Commander needs are at that incident”.

Parramatta Fire Station (027)

In this article, we’ll have a look at the ARP’s specifically for structure fires in the Sydney Metro areas.

Check out what a 10th Alarm Structure Fire looks like!

Key Components of ARP’s

Alarm Response Protocols (ARP’s) are made up of 3 key components. Operations, Special Appliances and Incident Management.

These are the appliances that will be involved in operational taskings, like firefighting, rescue or HAZMAT. These are referred to as pumpers.

Special Appliances.
These vehicles provide specialist equipment or crew that the standard pumper does not carry, or they are assigned a role outside of the main operation – i.e the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) (May also be known as “on deck” crews) who are positioned in an area where they can quickly locate firefighters should they get injured, trapped, or become uncontactable.

Incident Management.
Specialist roles, instructors, subject matter experts and senior officers.

ARP Levels

1st Alarm

2x Pumpers

2nd Alarm

4x Pumpers

1x Pumper for RIT (Rapid Intervention Team. May now also be known as “on deck”)
1x Aerial Appliance
Optional MCC (Mobile Command Centre / Incident Control Vehicle)

1x Duty Commander

3rd Alarm

6x Pumpers

1x Pumper for RIT
1x Rescue
1x Aerial
1x Hazmat
1x LSV (Logistics Support Vehicle)
1x Optional MCC (Mobile Command Centre / Incident Control Vehicle)

2x Duty Commander

4th Alarm

8x Pumpers

1x Pumper for RIT
1x Rescue
2x Aerials
1x MCC (Mobile Command Centre / Incident Control Vehicle)
1x LSV

3x Duty Commanders
2x Superintendents

5th Alarm

10x Pumpers

1x Pumper for RIT
2x Rescues
3x Aerials
2x Hazmats
1x MCC (Mobile Command Centre / Incident Control Vehicle)
1x LSV

3x Duty Commanders
2x Superintendents
1x Chief Superintendent
1x HAZMAT Commander

6th Alarm or higher

As the alarm level increases past 5th, each additional alarm level will bring 2 pumpers, plus special calls made by the incident controller.

2x Additional Pumpers per Alarm Level
Additional specialist appliances as required

Assistant Commissioner
Additional IMT members as required

There are 3 other ARP’s in place for specific incident types, such as Bush and Grass fires, Rescue and HAZMAT incidents. These ARP’s as based on the same model, but differ slightly due to the specific requirements of the incident.

To demonstrate how many appliances that is, here’s the ticket for a 10th alarm fire in Sydney. To find out more, check out the link above.

Rescue Pumper 8
Aerial Pumper 47
CAFS Pumper 31
Pumper 49
Pumper 7
(Horningsea Park)
CAFS Pumper 41
Pumper 84
(Macquarie Fields)
HazMat Pumper 85
(Chester Hill Rescue
Pumper 62
Aerial Pumper 92
(St Andrews)
Pumper 73
Pumper 48
Pumper 55
CAFS Pumper 30
Pumper 34
HazMat Pumper 87
Rescue Pumper 20
Pumper 88
Rescue Pumper 57
Pumper 22
Pumper 52
Pumper 29
Pumper 72
Pumper 27
HazMat Pumper 51
Tanker 84
CAFS Tanker 92
(St Andrews)
Bulk CAFS Tanker 50
Technical Rescue 8
Heavy HazMat 85
(Chester Hill)
Ladder Platform 21
Ladder Platform 27
Logistic Support Veh
(City of Sydney)
Rehab Alpha
Mobile Command Centre
Alpha (Alexandria)
Duty Commander
South West
(St Andrews)
Duty Commander
Georges River
Duty Commander West
Zone Commander
South West
(St Andrews)
Area Commander
Metropolitan South
Assistant Commissioner of
Metropolitan Operations
RPAS (Drone) Unit

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I founded Flashover to promote Australian Firefighting. I've been a volunteer and a paid firefighter but now I spend my time chasing up leads, promoting good mental health and making the occasional Grumpy Firecom comic!

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