Community Emergency Planning for Local Councils

Summary

Covid-19 has caused unprecented and unexpected demands on all aspects of community life.  Many local councils have responded positively by being involved in initiatives to support those most adversely affected.

Some local councils already had emergency plans in place but most had not been tested in the field.  

This paper proposes a countrywide project to record information about the community response to the Covad-19 crisis and to create a template to assist future local council emergency planning.

Background

Existing local emergency planning has focussed on planning for physical incidents such as rail or air accidents, or a major fire releasing toxic materials, or the sustained loss of a utility such as electricity or water.  This is a strategy inherited from Local Resilience Forums and the UK Government's Community Emergency Plan Toolkit.

Previous plans underestimated the level of community self-help which would be forthcoming,  and therefore assumed most support would be led by local authorities.  Emphasis had been placed on the loss of utilities and of communication (internet and mobile phones).  Planning was concentrated more on the need to identify buildings to be used as rest or respite centres and local providers of equipment, facilities and skills.  There was also an assumption that 'grab bags' containing equipment and supplies would be useful.   Most of these considerations have not been relevant to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Present situation

In the present emergency, several important and significant factors have emerged:

  • Telecommunications have proved to be highly resilient, enabling home working on a large scale, continuity of education through online coursework, disemination of information and facilitating online ordering of food and other essentials.
  • There have been many more local initiatives than anticipated.  To some extent this is due to the wide use of social media which has enabled individuals to work together.
  • Panic buying of 'essentials' such as liquid soap, toilet paper and, later, bread and flour, was not anticipated.
  • Pubs, hotels and restaurants have supply lines not affected by panic buying.  Delivery providers such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo have been able to work with these businesses to provide delivery services.
  • The different tiers of local government have worked together successfully along with NALC, SLCC, and the regional associations,
  • Many businesses and local organisations, though not all, have demonstrated an ability to think strategically to survive and to continue to serve their customers and communities.

What needs to be done now

  • Local councils to keep a record of the individuals, organisations and businesses that have led the community response.
  • Local councils to keep in touch with individuals who have shown support and leadership.
  • NALC to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience.

How to do it

  • Through the local associations. encourage clerks to keep a record of community response in their parish (subject to GDPR).
  • After the present emergency, a national Local Council Community Emergency Group to be set up under the aegis of NALC to create a template for local councils and to liase with Local Resilience Forums.