Emergency Planning for Climate Change

 

 

 

Civil Contingencies: Towards Better Leadership and Resilience in Local Emergency Planning Structures

Tuesday 11th November 2008

Institute of Mechanical Engineering, One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London

REPORT

This Civil Contingencies (CC) Conference was organised by the Public Policy Exchange, in association with the Centre for Parliamentary Studies to facilitate policy discussion, debate and networking. It was attended by 25 delegates from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Army, Navy, local Emergency Planning Officers (EPOs), Fire Services,the Scottish Executive, Academics a journalist and NIS (also representing NAG, Plymouth Peace Group and SCANS).

Extracts from the Pitt Review of the July 2007 floods were provided as background information.

 

"...we firmly believe that the public interest is best served by closer cooperation and a presumption that information will be shared, We must be open, honest and direct about risk, including with the public. We must move from a culture of 'need to know' to one of 'need to share'. Pitt Review 06/08 ES7

 

Phil Evans, Meteorology Office Chief Advisor to HMG

Met.Office information is currently not good enough, but will improve significantly next year with new modelling programmes installed in the Met. supercomputer which will give two days' notice for what currently gets only one to twelve hours warning for currently unpredicted events. Climate Change is the challenge faced - and we don't know what we will be facing in future. By 2040 the earth is expected to be significantly hotter and in 2060, very hot and much wetter.

Four to one day warnings were given for the July 2007 Flood. Professional responders have the skill and understanding to respond to forecasts, whereas information for the public is very very general. The Met. Website now has information for Emergency Responders. Asked if there were any security issues for the Met. Office, he thought not in the UK, but it does provide unpublished forecasts to the MoD for Iraq.

 

Jennifer Cole, Royal United Services Institute, Homeland Security

At RUSI she researches Security, Risk, Environmental issues and Emergency Management, including community contribution /media /cooperation between agencies /interoperability, both technical and cultural.

She identified the following issues:

Lack of shared information on lessons learned

Too many Exercises take place in silos rather than outside

Exercises are mainly to test equipment not a situation

Assumptions are made on what the other players can deliver

RUSI has experience and a panel of 18 resource experts

EPOs are under pressure at operating levels - they need to delegate to those with the right skills

 

Decontamination

  1. There is a need to prevent people from becoming contaminated by improving work on crowd behaviour. This might involve preventing people mixing on trains or tubes

  2. the Army needs to be in the operation at Gold Command and provide maps [!]

  3. Annual Emergency Planning Workshop Reports, Whitehall Reports and RUSI Reports are on the RUSI website

  4. RUSI is researching Chemical Biological Radiation Nuclear (CBRN) Exercises in 2009

  5. Contact her at jennyc@rusi.org or ring 020 7747 4958

 

Chair: Ian Holt, Hampshire County Council EPO

Work is now based on the Civil Contingencies Act 2007.

Points:

Should the Met. Office and Military be category I responders?

There is not enough funding for the Environment Agency and Coastguard to act

The Local Resilience Forum (LRF) work is bottled into a day-job in all L.A.s and Agencies

Although the Coast Guard are funded, LRF are funded from LA EPO CC and Police budgets.

CC funding fails in England and Wales whereas CC work is funded properly in Scotland.

We are now aware that everywhere in the UK is vulnerable to serious flooding; nowhere can consider itself safe from sudden unmanageable flood.

There is no body to look at an emergency plans and pick holes in it.

The LRF website is at: http://www.ukresilience.gov.uk/ccs.aspx

 

General Discussion:

Reliance on the army is misplaced as it is under-manned. over-worked and not trained to deal with civil emergencies.

Putting soldiers on the streets in every emergency sends the wrong message to the public.

It is inappropriate to link anti-terrorist military/police response systems with CC planning.

The coastguard reported a lack of manpower and status, yet being required to extend its service inland when its skills were needed in flood emergencies. He asked "where does the coast end?"

EPO professionals may or may not be co-ordinated regionally, but not across regional borders.

LRF do not have any legal status in England and Wales, whereas they do in Scotland. They have no bank account, no liability insurance cover and low resources.

Leeds University and Kingston University have developed courses for EPOs.

In Japan, an emergency siren triggers community volunteers going straight to a local school for instructions and deployment in their own or other towns, or to be sent home if not needed. We need a cultural shift to accept and recruit volunteers and train them seriously.

 

"I urge the Government to show leadership and urgently set out the process and timescale for improving resilience in the UK. The recommendations in my report are realistic and affordable and should be made a priority. Waiting for another serious event is a dangerous ‘strategy of luck'; we need to act now to protect our future."

 

"Government must act to ensure critical infrastructure is as resilient as possible, whilst essential services providers should become considerably more active in local and national emergency preparedness and response."

  • Sir Michael Pitt Report ‘Learning Lessons from the 2007 Floods', 25 June 2008

 

Conclusion

This was an informal meeting of some very worried professionals. Extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change are expected to become more frequent and devastating. The lack of cross regional links and a properly funded reliable network was of great concern to the L.A. participants. The emergency response system does not look fit for purpose, and relies on people doing their best at the time, but often without training and resources. The meeting was so depressed and focused on current failures that it was not appropriate to raise policy issues relating to nuclear risk, apart from gleaning that the Met. Office is not secretive. However this background information underlines concerns that emergency planning is in its infancy in England and Wales and would not be able to protect the public in the event of a nuclear emergency. Copies of the Nukewatch film 'Deadly Cargo' were given to appropriate delegates.

 

NIS is grateful to the support of the following groups and to the Public Policy Exchange for accepting reduced fees to enable a NIS delegate to attend this conference:

NAG

Plymouth Peace Group

SCANS

Di McDonald