Roles and responsibilities of emergency responders

Find the roles and responsibilities of the partner agencies that work to deal with emergencies.

The responsibilities of the different organisations dealing with an emergency vary, some are set in statute, and others fill a need. The police will normally take the co-ordinating role at a major, large or complex incident. Once an incident moves into the recovery phase, the council will take over the lead role. Here you will find the roles and responsibilities of the partner agencies that work to deal with emergencies.

Police Scotland

The primary areas of police responsibility at a major incident are:

  •  the saving of life
  • co-ordination during the Emergency Phase
  • calling out of essential services
  • protection and preservation of the scene
  • investigation
  • identification of the dead
  • collation and dissemination of casualty information
  • co-ordination of the media response
  • application of counter measures to protect the public
  • restoration of normality

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

The primary responsibility of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in major incidents is:

  • the saving of life and rescue of people
  • protection of properties and prevention of escalation
  • the carrying out of other specialist services, including flood/water rescue services
  • to assist people where the use of fire service personnel and equipment is relevant
  • protection of the environment

HM Coastguard

HM Coastguard is the emergency response branch of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).  The MCA is an executive agency within the Department of Transport (DfT) and has the lead role for dealing with incidents at sea and some inland waters.

HM Coastguard is responsible for –

  • minimising loss of life amongst seafarers and coastal users
  • responding to maritime emergencies 24 hours a day
  • developing, promoting and enforcing high standards of maritime safety and pollution prevention for ships
  • minimising the impact of pollution on UK interests
  • responding to non maritime incidents such as floods, searches or assisting in evacuating areas.

NHS Highland

The NHS role and responsibility in an emergency situation is to:

  • provide risk assessment within their sphere of expertise;
  • continue to perform emergency or urgent healthcare functions;
  • contribute to emergency planning;
  • maintain public awareness and arrangements to warn, inform and advise the public of health issues

Argyll and Bute Council

In an emergency situation the principal concern of the council includes:

  • support for the emergency services
  • support and care for the local and wider community
  • co-ordination of the response by organisations other than the emergency services, e.g. the voluntary sector.

In the immediate aftermath of a major incident, the council will assist the emergency responders and ensure that resources are made available, including:

  • the provision of a wide range of professional staff including skilled trades staff
  • road closures and diversions
  • plant and equipment
  • emergency centres
  • maps and building plans
  • building safety inspections
  • emergency lighting
  • environmental health services
  • clearance of debris and restoration of highways
  • psychological support
  • interpretation services
  • help lines
  • information to the public
  • media liaison services

 As time goes on, and the emphasis switches to recovery, the council’s Chief Executive will accept the responsibility for the overall coordination of the incident from the Chief Constable. The council will take a lead the recovery, rehabilitating the community and restoring the environment. 

The council’s Civil Contingencies Unit is responsible for the co-ordination of the council’s response in an emergency.  This includes the alerting and call out of other council officers; and voluntary agencies such as the British Red Cross and RVS.  The Civil Contingencies Unit also liaises with the emergency services or utility providers in the co-ordination of any incident/emergency.

British Red Cross

The British Red Cross helps vulnerable people in crisis whoever and wherever they are. The Red Cross works alongside statutory agencies and voluntary sector partners to respond to emergencies and build community resilience. We provide practical help and emotional support to people and communities affected by emergencies.

Argyll Voluntary Action

Argyll Voluntary Action works alongside communities and individuals daily

  • AVA holds the contact details of almost all third sector organisations across Argyll and Bute; and therefore can circulate information, enable contacts and network to ensure any relevant details are shared as widely as possible.
  • AVA has staff and volunteers in each of the main centres of population and can offer support – the precise availability will depend on capacity in any specific location and on the nature of the emergency. 
  • AVA are also in contact with large numbers of older people through their work with “Reshaping Care for Older People” and some of these may become ‘at risk’ if, for example, power is out for lengthy periods. 


RVS has been working in local communities for over 70 years via trained Volunteers to support the community and statutory services at times of emergency as well as providing a wide range of support services to Older People through Hospital Cafes, Home from Hospital services and community support services such as Befriending, Telephone Befriending, Social Transport, Books on Wheels, Meals on Wheels and Safe and Well checks. 

RVS provide a 24/7/365 emergency response service across Scotland via teams of Community Resilience Volunteers. In Argyll and Bute support can be offered to those who may just be home from hospital, those who have no transport and others who are socially isolated in the main population areas, led by trained local team leaders to help during power outages, flood situations, train derailment or other emergency situations.

RVS provides support to help Older People prepare for emergencies, emergency refreshments at Rest Centres, welfare support to the vulnerable and assistance with registration of those affected, during an emergency, with support continuing in the recovery phase, by linking to appropriate local RVS Services and working with other local organisations to help people return to their normal way of life.

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