Emergency Planning: Build back, better

Phil Emonson, Flood Resilience Lead, reflects on his attendance at the Emergency Planning Society (EPS) Conference earlier in the week. Sharing his thoughts on the hot topics discussed at the conference.

The theme of how the EPS and the profession as a whole can ‘Build Back, Better’ spanned the talks at the conference, and is pertinent when considering the flood risk management context too.


So, it all started on my train journey to London for the Emergency Planning Society (EPS) conference on September 10 – “in case of emergency…” read the poster in the carriage. In fact, it started before that when I tested the smoke alarm at the weekend, September is preparedness month after all.

The 30 Days 30 Ways initiative reminds us that we all must play a part in our preparedness at home and in our communities, by having well-rehearsed plans for preparing and responding to, and recovering from, emergencies.

Emergency planning – why we do what we do

It therefore follows that people are at the core of what is affected by emergencies – alongside communities and infrastructure. In flood emergency planning I’ve seen how, as well as at the loss of personal possessions, flooding can bring distress, heartache and a long process of mental recovery.

Beyond flood emergencies, it is predominantly young children who were so tragically caught up in events such as the Manchester bombing, and it was people that had their lives devastated by the Grenfell fire.

So, well done to the EPS for starting day two of the conference with a commemoration of those tragedies, and poignantly 17 years to the day from the events of September 11. We all know where we were when we heard about the attack that day, and in the words of Reverend Mike Long who led the morning’s tribute, “it left an indelible mark”. Amazing Grace by a lone piper and a moment of reflection helped remind all delegates of the livelihoods ruined, and why as emergency planners we do what we do.

Build back, better

In the winter storms of 2015-16, over 16,000 properties were flooded in the UK; that’s 16,000 livelihoods ruined, 16,000 households that have had to rebuild their family lives and all of the challenges that come with that, such as mental wellbeing, insurance challenges etc.

Flood Resilience Grants gave property owners the opportunity to Build Back, Better, introducing Property Flood Resilience measures for next time. So, this is where robust standards and clear procurement routes are vital to support affected residents when they’re at their most vulnerable.

Professional, accredited flood resilience experts, can bring the requisite blend of experience and empathy, to advise that resilience is about preparedness. Being prepared demands flood emergency plans, both at individual and community scale.

We wouldn’t let someone look at our boiler who wasn’t Gas Safety registered, so why don’t we have the same standards and accountability across the resilience profession?

Community support

In realising that it’s people who are at the heart of emergency planning and incident management, we must recognise that the communities which people make up are complex, dynamic entities. I was so pleased when someone raised this in one of the EPS conference Q&A sessions. Our plans, and therefore all involved in resilience, need to:

  • Be flexible to adapt to the needs of each community
  • Recognise the diversities of communities who could be affected
  • Be empathetic to the unique requirements of each community.

One size will never fit all. That’s why we’ve seen very different responses from flood-affected communities in the London suburbs, to those in rural Dorset.

So, to conclude, emergency planning is all around us and we all have a part of play in our homes, our workplaces, our schools and communities. As a profession we need to be providing all these communities, with all of their very diverse needs, with robust yet flexible emergency plans.

At JBA, the flood resilience team and I support Category 1 and 2 responders, homeowners from all across the country, and businesses (from schools to the London ExCel arena) with bespoke and expert-led flood emergency plans.

Well done and thank you to Jacqui Semple and all at the EPS for delivery an excellent conference.

Resilience = bounce-back-ability = Build Back, Better

Want to know more?

Email Phil Emonson for more information. You can also find out more on our Emergency Planning web pages.



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