Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

Off to the annual study

Stephen Grogan, Head of Birmingham Resilience Team, blogs about the Core Cities Emergency Planning Group Annual Study 2010 which takes place over the 24th-25th March.

For the past three years I have been chair of the Core Cities Emergency Planning Group.  This is a national forum with representatives from the UK’s major cities and one that within the resilience profession is regarded by various government departments as a ‘must consult’ group on new and future national resilience initiatives.  Each year the group conducts  an Annual Study which is held over two days at the Cabinet Office Emergency Planning College at Easingwold.  The main purpose of the studies are to gather representatives from a wide range of agencies (and the community) from the nations major cities and discuss, debate, understand,scrutinise and inform emergency planning thinking and arrangements.

The focus for this years study is ‘understanding the needs of people’ that respond to or are victims of an emergency.  The study aim is to look at how agencies and current thinking is being developed to ensure that the psychological welfare needs of people (both responders and victims) impacted by emergencies are being catered and facilitated for.

I personally wanted the study to focus on the ‘softer’ (apologies if this is not a good term) elements of emergency response (and recovery), as over the past couple of years as an emergency planning professional I have been bombarded with information, guidance and advise informing me of the need to consider and incorporate the ‘softer’ or ‘hidden’ human welfare needs into all resilience planning arrangements.  I fully agree that there is an obvious need for us to consider, plan and have the necessary ‘softer’ welfare arrangements in place, but I do feel that a small vociferous minority are turning this area of our work into another industry which is or could result in the disproportionate attention to this element of resilience planning above all others. 

I am sure there are many who will read this article that believe we do not put enough effort or resources into understanding and catering for the ‘softer’ welfare needs of people that respond to or are victims of emergencies.  The enquiries after the London bombings stated that the emergency services and local authorities did not have the necessary immediate and long term arrangements in place to deal with the psychological needs of those impacted by this atrocity.  The reports suggested that emergency planning arrangements were process driven and inflexible and that welfare arrangements had in the main focused on the ‘hard’  elements of emergency response e.g. having evacuation and shelter facilities and arrangements in place, but then not catering for the immediate ‘softer’ welfare needs of the people who had been evacuated.

These findings were well publicised in the national media and I personally felt the coverage was in the main unbalanced and unfair.  When emergencies occur surely the primary aim of the emergency services, Local Authorities and other responding agencies is to save lives, protect properties, bring order and re-establish a safe environment.  Trying to achieve these objectives in the chaos and disruption of any emergency is it realistic for the immediate psychological needs of those impacted by the emergency to be catered for?

I strongly believe that we do need to  understand the ‘softer’ welfare needs of people that respond to or are victims of emergencies and  we do need to have the appropriate arrangements, resources and facilities  in place to cater for these needs, but it must be done in a sensible, realistic and sustainable way.

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