Planning and Preparing for Emergencies
Emergencies can happen at any time, and often happen without notice. The type, scale and impacts of an emergency will determine the emergency response. This may be small scale and involve only a small number of emergency responders, or large scale involving multiple responders from across the local emergency response community. The council writes and exercises emergency plans periodically throughout the year to ensure that the people, places and economies of Kirklees are protected. During the planning phases, the council carefully considers how to protect the diverse needs of the community, recognising that some groups may need additional support in emergencies (for example those with limiting health conditions).
Why is this issue important?
The KJSA identifies that many residents and communities in Kirklees have existing medical conditions and specific needs. Nearly half (46%) of residents report having a long term physical and/or mental health condition and 40% of people aged 65 years or more report having 3 or more long term health conditions. 9% of all Kirklees residents, 13% of over 65s and 20% of over 75s say that they rely on help or support to continue to live independently in their own home. In peacetime (when there is no emergency), many of these individuals will receive care and services to ensure their wellbeing is protected. During or following an emergency the needs of these individuals may increase and normal care and service arrangements may become difficult to maintain. In addition to individual needs, many residents and communities that normally live independently may become vulnerable during an emergency and require support and services from the council.
The council works with partner organisations to write, maintain, exercise and respond to emergencies in both Kirklees and West Yorkshire. Planning is undertaken to protect the people, economy and reputation of the local area against the major risks identified in the West Yorkshire Community Risk Register.
Community Assets and Action (people helping people)
What does an asset-based approach to Emergency Planning look like?
An asset-based approach to emergency planning means starting with a consideration of existing assets (strengths) at the level of individuals, communities and organisations. A useful overview of the many different types of assets in Kirklees can be found here. Active community groups and networks as well as physical assets such as community centres and religious halls are vital in helping to prevent, be prepared for and respond effectively to emergencies. The strong connections that exist between the council, emergency services, health service providers, businesses and the voluntary and community sector are an important local asset. These connections enable a coherent and joined up approach to emergency planning which helps to keep people safe and protected from harm.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of being prepared for and responding to emergencies. An asset-based approach facilitates more effective communication between organisations, services and communities because it taps into the most appropriate existing networks and channels to reach a larger number of people.
To reduce the likelihood and impacts of emergencies, the council undertakes work to warn and inform communities. This will ensure that they are both aware of the risks that they face and the action that they can take to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Ultimately, prepared communities are more able to respond effectively to emergencies and are more resilient. Warning and informing is undertaken through a variety of channels including online; structured emergency preparedness sessions; and face-to-face engagement at community events and shows. Key messages are pushed out directly to communities on a variety of themes such as ‘good neighbour’, counter-terrorism and winter-specific messages (such as how to keep warm).
Key messages are also passed to council officers and healthcare staff to cascade to a wider audience. An example of where key messages are passed on in this way includes the delivery of Project Griffin training to frontline Officers. This training (amongst other outcomes) ensures that frontline officers can inform their local community what action to take should residents find themselves caught up in a terrorist attack.
What are the community assets and action around this issue?
Emergency Planning benefits greatly from the goodwill and co-operation of a large number of community groups and community assets. A number of community groups, particularly religious groups and voluntary organisations work closely with the council and partner emergency responders and undertake a variety of roles in an emergency. These roles vary from generic roles such as manual handling and assisting in an evacuation centre, to more specific roles such as the provision of emotional support, search and rescue and first aid.
The council and other partner emergency responders also benefit from the use of community buildings. These include (but are not limited to) religious halls, community centres and entertainment venues and are used both in peacetime (to deliver training etc.) and during and following emergencies (as evacuation centres, casualty clearing stations, humanitarian assistance centres, etc.).
Private and non-statutory organisations also provide a crucial service in an emergency. Organisations including pharmacies, GP surgeries, Walk in Centres, etc. play a major role in an emergency in protecting and preserving the health and wellbeing of individuals.
To support individual and community resilience, the Council’s Emergency Planning team provide a number of tools and resources to help individuals prepare for emergencies, such as developing a household emergency plan.
What significant factors are affecting this issue?
There are a number of significant factors that affect emergency planning and emergency preparedness:
Community Needs and Community Resilience
Emergencies impact on individuals and communities differently and those that normally live independently may find themselves requiring both short term and longer term support and assistance following an emergency. Emergencies such as heavy snow may disrupt care arrangements for a vulnerable person or may disrupt service provision and access to community healthcare and food. Property flooding may cause significant emotional and financial strain on individuals as they attempt to recover their properties to a habitable condition. Emergencies involving utility failures may impact on an individual’s ability to live independently and may lead to cold properties that are uninhabitable, an inability to cook, or a failure of electricity dependent medical equipment (i.e. ventilators, air mattresses, etc.).
It is important to inform communities about the risks that they may face and the action to take should they be involved in an emergency. Prepared communities reduce both the direct and indirect financial and resourcing pressures and improve not only the emergency response, but also the recovery. Direct financial costs may include the cost of additional response staff, the hire of equipment or the procurement of emergency supplies. Indirect costs may include A&E costs, longer term care costs and longer term accommodation costs. As the council and partner emergency responders continue to meet budget challenges, it is more important than ever before to ensure communities are prepared.
The risk profile of Kirklees follows a similar profile to the national risk assessment. The highest risks in Kirklees are (but are not limited to) flooding, adverse weather and outbreaks of disease. In the financial year 2017/18, the Emergency Planning Team responded to 67 Emergencies. These emergencies included (but were not limited to):
- 6 significant severe weather and flooding incidents (leading to evacuations, highway closures and issues delivering care in the community)
- 29 utility issues (leading to evacuations, premises closure (and subsequent Business Continuity issues) and issues with keeping vulnerable residents safe)
- 19 ‘police incidents’ (including shootings, premises lockdowns and significant demonstrations and events).
What does local data tell us?
· 9% of Kirklees residents (and 13% of people over 65 years and 20% of people aged over 75 years) need help or support to continue living independently (CLIK, 2016).
· 58% of Kirklees residents have regular prescribed medication (CLIK, 2016).
· 64% of Kirklees residents said that they tend to bounce back quickly after hard times (CLIK 2016).
· Approximately 15% of properties (15 000 – 20 000 properties) in Kirklees are at risk of flooding from either rivers or surface water (Environment Agency Flood Risk Areas, 2018).
· Adverse weather including snow, ice and prolonged cold temperatures occur on an almost annual basis (Met Office, 2018).
· The UK threat level for international terrorism remains at Severe with disrupted and completed attacks occurring regularly across Europe (Europol, 2017).
Which groups are most affected by this issue?
As mentioned previously, emergencies can impact on any individual and community in Kirklees and anyone can find themselves vulnerable as a result of an emergency. However, evidence shows that individuals that are identified as vulnerable/less resilient before an emergency, would be most at risk during and/or following an emergency (Cabinet Office 2016).
These groups include the very young, the elderly, those with disabilities and those with care needs. These groups are less resilient for a number of reasons which may include a reliance of healthcare and medication, a lack of mobility, a lack of knowledge and experience and a reduced ability to procure resources (i.e – warm clothing, flood defences etc.) to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Where is this causing greatest concern?
Any area of Kirklees can experience an emergency such as a utility failure, a significant fire or an outbreak of disease. However, we know from mapping, local knowledge, historic incidents etc. that certain areas of the district are more at risk of certain types of emergencies than others (for example, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe are more at risk of river flooding and the valleys in the South of the district are more at risk of adverse weather such as snow and cold temperatures).
Views of local people
The council seeks to obtain feedback on emergency planning from both internal officers, external emergency response partners and the community. Feedback is obtained through post-event evaluations, word of mouth and via email. In general, comments are very positive and regularly highlight the quality of the session delivery and the quality of materials (particularly community resilience literature).
Feedback over the last year has identified some areas for improvement. Examples include (but are not limited to) a need to release additional dates for training and awareness sessions (as sessions sell out quickly, meaning many individuals miss out), a need to adapt the content of certain sessions to make them available to a wider audience and a need to develop new community resilience literature to warn the public of the risks they face and the action they should take in an emergency. The team will amend its operation to address the feedback.
What could commissioners and service planners consider?
· Enable communities to become more resilient to both respond to and recover from the risks that they face. It is important to ensure that individuals and communities continue to be prepared and resilience messages are communicated throughout the year through existing and new communications channels.
· Support the council to develop and communicate ‘warning and informing’ messages more effectively to the diverse communities of Kirklees.
· The Council will build on existing arrangements to promote community resilience by developing additional community resilience literature, developing additional themed training sessions and undertaking social marketing to ensure that warning and informing is as effective as possible.
· Encourage local businesses to hold and maintain robust emergency and business continuity plans and arrangements. Businesses that are better prepared for emergencies and business disruptions are able to respond faster, more effectively and reduce potential adverse consequences.
· An emergency may add pressure to some areas of the local health economy (such as A&E Departments and District Nursing Teams), but may reduce pressure on other areas. It is important to ensure that the wider local health economy can work together effectively to manage surge and escalation and deliver an efficient service. The Council encourages multi-agency and partnership working and periodically holds emergency planning exercises to test and validate multi-agency arrangements.
· It is important to ensure that as the Public Sector continues to change to meet budget challenges, emergency response organisations remain prepared for and capable to respond to emergencies. It is important also to ensure that all emergency response organisations maintain robust business continuity plans and arrangements to ensure that they can continue to operate their most critical functions in an emergency.
References and additional resources/links
Currently Living in Kirklees (CLiK) Survey (2016) https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/involve/entry.aspx?id=816
West Yorkshire Community Risk Register (2015) https://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/advice/emergency-plans/reports-community-risk-register/reports-community-risk-register
Environment Agency Flood Risk Areas (2018) https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk/map
Met Office (2018) https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2018/february
Date this section was last reviewed