Community emergency planning
Building community resilience is something that many people and communities already do. It is not about creating or identifying a whole new community network or a one-off response to or recovery from an incident, but rather an ongoing process of using and enhancing existing relationships to better improve the emergency preparedness of an area.
Some existing local community groups will have information on how to get involved or how they can fit resilience into their agenda. These could include town or community councils, faith organisations, Neighbourhood Watch groups, Scout Groups, residents associations and youth groups.
Communities should know what local emergency responders are able to do for them in an emergency and vice versa – this means talking to them before an emergency happens.
Five steps to getting started
The steps outlined below are only a suggestion for getting started in building resilience in your community. There are many other ways to build resilience and you may wish to tailor it to the specific needs of your community.
Geographical communities (those people living close to you) are the obvious choice for, and main beneficiary of, community resilience.
However, many people do not recognise their community as the people they live near. As such, other communities (such as those who share an interest in a particular topic or sport) should be considered as valid groups within which to prepare for emergencies.
Community resilience is not about creating or identifying a new community or network; it is about considering what already exists around you, what you already do, who you already talk to or work with; and thinking about how you could work together before, during and after an incident or emergency.
Many community groups already work to support and enhance life in our communities; e.g. flood wardens, Scout groups, town or community councils, residents associations and Neighbourhood Watch groups. Think about how you could use their skills, resources and expertise to make a more resilient community.
Case study – Lechlade Emergency Response and Flood Action Committee, Gloucestershire
“The Town Council set up an Emergency Planning Committee and developed an Emergency Plan in consultation with the local community. Having assessed the risks, it was clear that the priority in all of the most likely emergencies would be the evacuation of people from their homes to a place of safety. The strength of the community came to the fore with the Memorial Hall and Recreation Ground Trustees offering the use of the community hall as a place of safety, the Women’s Institute taking on responsibility for operating it, and the Lechlade and District Lions offering practical support such as help with evacuating affected residents.”
These people represent their local community by providing the link between the community and the statutory bodies that provide emergency response services to them. Think about who would take on this role in your community. You could consider asking local elected members to represent the community and co-ordinate this work.
There are Community Emergency Groups already established in both rural and urban areas where people have recognised the need to consider what their community might need in an emergency, and have set about helping themselves to be prepared. You do not have to establish a new group. You may instead wish to build on and use existing community groups and consider how they might include building community resilience into their activities.
Case study – Chelmsford Borough Council, Essex
“We approached the local parish councils and encouraged them to appoint a liaison officer for emergency planning and set up a Community Emergency Group of local volunteers. Volunteers have helped to compile a parish emergency plan, and assisted with information gathering (e.g. the number of single storey properties within a flood zone), helping us achieve better quality information via local knowledge. Volunteers also assist with the initial emergency response pending arrival of Council resources.”
Consider how your community could use the Community Emergency Plan template. The template includes items such as a local risk assessment form, documentation to record key resources and local available skills as well as suggested contact lists for key people and a callout tree.
More from Emergencies and community safety