Fire service historian and author

Roger Mardon


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The Government’s New Dimension initiative is a response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on 9 September 2001 with the intention of ensuring that Britain’s fire and rescue services are able to cope with major chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) and conventional terrorist incidents on a national scale. This means that the fire service is better equipped to deal with any other CBRN incident as well as industrial and domestic accidents, chemical spills and collapsed buildings, and natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

The fire service in England and Wales comes within the responsibilities of the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG), which succeeded the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on 5 May 2006. Within that department responsibility is devolved to the Fire & Resilience Directorate, which was created in January 2006 by the merger of the Civil Resilience Directorate and the Fire & Rescue Service Directorate. The former Civil Resilience Directorate was established under the ODPM to co-ordinate and direct preparedness to deal with major emergencies, including not only terrorist attack but also serious flooding, building collapse and natural disasters affecting the country on a regional or national scale. The New Dimension element of the programme is designed to ensure that the fire and rescue service is properly equipped and trained to respond to any such incident.


Equipping the service to undertake mass decontamination and search & rescue is the first part of the programme, to be followed by changes in the system of radio communications and the provision of regional fire control rooms. Known as Firelink, a new national wide-area radio system will replace the schemes which are currently the responsibility of individual fire brigades. This will ensure that brigades can communicate with each other and with the other emergency services more readily than now and over a more widespread area. Completion of the Firelink project is scheduled for 2009.


There are 46 fire control rooms in England. It was claimed that their replacement by nine new regional control centres would enhance the ability of the fire and rescue service to respond to incidents on a local, regional or national level. It was also said a more efficient and effective service would be provided. The controversial Government plan for the new centres was abandoned in December 2010.


Phase 1 of the New Dimension programme comprised the development and supply of a fleet of 80 mass decontamination vehicles, now know as incident response units (IRUs), at a cost of £54m.


Phase 2 involved the provision of 238 prime movers to carry a range of demountable units. Of these 162 have been allocated to fire & rescue services, 7 have been sold to Scotland, 11 to Northern Ireland and one to Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service. The remaining 57 appear to be surplus to requirements and plans are in hand to distribute them to brigades in England.


Phases 2A and 2B comprised the provision of the demountable units, including high volume pumping units, urban search and rescue units, and mass decontamination units. Further units had been expected, including water rescue, welfare, stores and power but provision of these is no longer the case. Command & control units, originally conceived as demountables, will now be smaller purpose-built vehicles.


New Dimension vehicles are currently the property of the DCLG and are seen as a national resource that can be deployed anywhere in country as required. However the Government intends to transfer ownership of New Dimension assets to individual fire & rescue authorities and is now aiming for this to take place on 1 October 2009. Maintenance of vehicles and equipment will be managed on behalf of all authorities by a centrally appointed contractor to ensure that they remain fit to respond to regional and national emergencies. It was announced on 9 July 2008 that a 16-year contract has been awarded to Vosper Thornycroft Critical Services (VTCS). VTCS has been maintaining the 3,600 vehicles of the Metropolitan Police since 2006.


Details made available from various sources are brought together in the following pages which will be updated as more information is released. Nothing has been provided which is not in the public domain and the assistance of the DCLG Fire & Resilience Directorate, Marshall SV of Cambridge and Kuiken Hytrans b.v of The Netherlands in providing information is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to those others who have allowed their photographs to be used; their images are individually credited.

New Dimension

Incident response units

Prime movers

High volume pumping units

Urban search & rescue units

Disrobe and re-robe modules

DIM units

Enhanced command support vehicles



Incident Response Units.
Red Goddess.