Why do we need to prepare for emergencies?

What is an emergency?

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 provides a definition for an “emergency” as an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare or the environment; or war or terrorism which threatens serious damage to the security of the UK. Weather related hazards can threaten both human welfare and the environment. There have been both flooding incidents and a developing drought across parts of the UK as well as forest and moorland fires this year requiring emergency planning and response.

Why plan for emergencies?

In Britain Category 1 responders must plan for emergencies by law. These are ‘core responders’ for most emergencies, and include the emergency services, local authorities, the NHS Trusts and other NHS bodies, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Rivers Agency, Department for Infrastructure (Dfi) in Northern Ireland. Category 2 responders are also required to cooperate and share information with Category 1 responders. These include many private and third sector organisations covering utilities (e.g. electric, gas, water and telecoms providers), transport (e.g.  Network Rail, Highways England and Transport for London) and the voluntary sectors (e.g. RNLI, Mountain Rescue).
However, planning for emergencies is good practice for all, and emergency plans can and should be developed at every level, from central government to individual households.

What is an emergency plan?

An emergency plan should be in place to mitigate the impacts and to support the return to a state of normality following an incident which exposes communities, organisations or the environment to a hazard that is beyond their day to day experiences and methods of coping.

The ultimate objectives of emergency plans are to:
• Prevent loss of life and injuries;
• Reduce damage to property;
• Protect the environment and communities; and
• Return life to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible

Through developing and implementing emergency plans, the ability of a community or individual to respond and recover increases. This in turn, increases the resilience of communities and individuals.

Emergency planning and continuous improvement

Emergency plans should be tested and exercised to ensure they are effective and relevant. Emergency planning is a continuous process, preparing communities and organisations for the response and recovery measures required in the event of an emergency. Emergency plans must continue to evolve just as the risks, communities/organisations circumstances and vulnerabilities continue to change. They should aim to anticipate hazards, whilst identifying lessons learned and opportunities for improvement following an exercise or an emergency.

The cycle stages include to:
• PLAN – Plans are created following a risk assessment
• TRAIN – Staff and personnel train using the plan for their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency
• EXERCISE – Plans are tested in exercises or in real-world emergencies
• EVALUATE – Plans are evaluated to see where they can be improved, with changes made where appropriate.

The end result is an improved plan after each cycle, which allows Category 1 and 2responders, as well as communities and individuals, to be better prepared and able to respond to emergencies in order to prevent loss of life, limit damage to people, property and the environment, and to support recovery

Want to know more?

For further information on the emergency planning services we deliver, please email Phil Emonson, our Lead for Flood Resilience, or call 01392 904040. You can also speak to the team at the Emergency Planning Society Study Day and Networking on 10 – 11 September at The Crypt on the Green, Clerkenwell, London, ED1R 0EA.

Visit our Flood Emergency Planning web page to find out more and to watch a short video on JEMS, our emergency planning training and exercising platform.

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