4. Emergency response process
During working hours if an Emergency Centre is needed it will be set up in the main council offices at the Knowle. Staff requested to work at the centre will be told of its location when contacted through the cascade system or as directed by email or message. For incidents out of hours, if requested to attend, staff should make their way to the Council Offices at the Knowle. The Committee Room will be the first choice for an emergency centre, and any IT equipment will be installed when necessary.
If the incident is not declared as a major emergency then the full emergency management plan and procedures will not be implemented.
In this situation the duty officer (civil contingencies manager) receiving the call will:
- Monitor the situation alerting the appropriate East Devon District Council services to be on standby
- Have the delegated authority to take decisions on behalf of the chief executive (including decisions regarding financial expenditure)
- Have the delegated authority to require East Devon District Council services to respond to the emergency situation as appropriate.
Major incident emergencies
In this situation the duty officer will in addition to the above, have
- The authority to initiate the internal emergency procedures for a major incident.
The civil contingencies manager (duty officer) is designated the emergency co-ordinator and will act as the chief executive’s representative. This officer will provide an immediate senior management reference point for ensuring the management and direction of the district council's emergency response until either the emergency management team has been established or the district council’s emergency centre is fully implemented and operational.
Stages of alert
This situation will occur when the duty officer believes that an emergency situation exists and needs to forewarn council services and members that there may be a need to respond to a minor/major emergency situation either:
- as it develops, or
- when the nature and scale of the emergency is known, or
- when the degree of local authority involvement required is determined.
This may be achieved by seeking more information from partner agencies or by the on-call Duty Officer seeking further information from Devon County Council duty civil contingencies officer.
Once a major incident situation has been recognised or declared, the emergency procedures will be activated at once.
The duty officer will determine which council service(s) should be initially involved and initiate call-out using the Call Out List in Section 4 and the Emergency Telephone Directory via the County Council duty civil contingencies officer.
Each service may be required to establish its own incident team(s) and to notify the emergency co-ordinator when this has been done. The emergency management team will meet, in the chief executive’s office initially. If a decision has been made to open the emergency centre, an emergency centre manager will be appointed to set up the centre and support the emergency management team.
At the conclusion of the incident, the emergency co-ordinator will be responsible for deciding to scale down the response, closing the emergency centre and declaring a stand-down.
After the stand-down has been declared it may be necessary for some East Devon District Council directorates/services to progress the return to normality, maintaining a monitoring role until the situation is fully rectified.
A post incident de-briefing will usually be called to review all actions taken.
Emergency management team
In a major incident situation an emergency management team, led initially by the emergency co-ordinator will manage the district council’s response. The make up of this team will depend upon the nature of the incident, the response that is required, and the particular phase of that response. Requirements might change during an incident and some team members will be able to stand down, or additional members might need to be introduced. Some members of the team might also come from other agencies and the county council.
The need for an emergency structure to support the co-ordination and management of the local council response may not be evident at the outset of a major incident or emergency and there may be a number of stages to reach before deciding to implement a full emergency centre structure.
Sources of information
Experience has shown that the most effective way to deal with emergencies is to maintain a two-way communication flow with all district council services. This way useful information that may be held in different parts of the district council can be brought together.
Sources of information about an incident or its impact on the community are likely to come from:
- the county council duty civil contingencies officer
- any routine directorate/service response to an emergency situation
- emergency services and other Category 1*
- the former Utility companies and other Category 2**
- information from Central and Regional Government Offices
- the media
- members of the public directly affected by the emergency situation
- elected members representing affected communities
The graduated response
Responding from normal service office facilities
In many cases the district council services can and will respond to an incident from their normal offices. They will be comfortable in (and familiar with) their normal working environment and will have ready access to their staff and the resources of the service. If only one service is involved in the response this may be an ideal solution but, once additional services and external agencies become involved, it may provide a fragmented solution. Overall co-ordination becomes difficult, liaison can be inhibited (particularly with external agencies represented in the local council offices), and the response to matters requiring action from more than one service can be delayed or obstructed.
Co-ordinating the response from a designated office
Where more than one service is involved, the emergency management team may be established in the chief executive’s or other senior managers office, the team can then be supported by services working directly from their office bases.
Whilst service systems work well for dealing with the routine and ordinary, they are unlikely to be set up for keeping pace with the speed of decision making required for a developing major emergency.
There will be a need to ‘fast track’ all emergency information to the appropriate emergency management team set up for the purpose, otherwise the chief executive and the emergency management team will have great difficulty in both obtaining and providing a clear picture of what is happening. The same constraints will apply to others who need an overview, such as the financial service manager, other services and those dealing with the media, and the provision of public information and similar functions.
In these circumstances, the service should consider how they can implement an internal, but parallel communications and administrative system at short notice, specifically to support the emergency set up.
* Responder organisation on or seeking local authority support for an emergency situation - Police Forces, British Transport Police, Fire and Rescue Services, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Local Authorities, Port Health Authorities, Acute Trusts, Foundation trusts, Health Protection Agency, Environment Agency.
** Responder organisations - Electricity distributors, Gas distributors, Water and Sewage undertakers, Telephone service providers, Network Rail, Train operating companies, Airport operators, Harbour authorities, Highways Agency (also London Underground and Transport for London), Strategic health authorities, Health and Safety Executive.
Establishing the emergency centre
In some instances, due to the magnitude or complexity of the emergency the need to establish an emergency centre structure is evident at the outset. In other cases it may be that there has been a gradual build up of the emergency and to start with the emergency may be handled from a single service area. If the emergency then escalates, becomes more complex or is handed over from police co-ordination for the recovery phase, a full emergency centre may be required. Much will depend on the scale of the emergency, time-scales and how the emergency response needs to be co-ordinated within and across individual local council departments.
Setting up the emergency centre
Emergency control centre - use of the Committee room at the Knowle
In the event of an emergency requiring the establishment of an Emergency Control Centre, the preferred option is to use the Committee Room. These rooms are part of a complex of meeting rooms that will be used in an emergency. In the initial stages of an emergency it will be possible to operate just using the Committee Room, but as the situation develops and more staff are available or if the chief executive requires more internal support other rooms such as the Chamber and the Members Area can be used from the outset.
For the initial response the staff requirement will be for a minimum of six staff, a manager, supported by an assistant and four information loggers/telephone operators. The initial equipment suite should include at least two laptops/ computer terminals. The room has several telephone connection points and it would be essential to have six connections in Council Chamber. As more staff become available, it may be an option for Liaison officers to be nominated from the services to act as a direct link to the services. This enables the incident manager to concentrate on the broader aspects of the situation, rather than being tied down trying to get information to and from services. Once the situation stabilises it is probable that these liaison officers need only attend at briefings to collate the actions required by their respective services.
The information logger should open up a Log facility, using a spreadsheet, on an allocated computer. It is important to establish an accurate log early, even if this is using handwritten log sheets.
The emergency control centre is to be a conduit for information coming into and going out from the council offices on behalf on the chief executive. There will be calls on staff to carry out work in support of the response to the emergency and this is best achieved from their usual place of work. The emergency control centre will be the link from the requester to the responder, using when necessary the liaison officers from the directorates.
The communications manager should keep a rolling brief prepared so that relevant and up to date information is readily available. The Committee Room should be used for briefings and as the meeting room for the emergency management team; the manager and one of the loggers, to record accurate minutes, should attend these meetings.
Equipment required in emergency control centre (this equipment will be made available as quickly as possible)
- Three laptop computers at least connected to the district council's network
- One projector
- Television connected to Satellite (Sky) or a dedicated computer with TV card fitted
- Five telephone connections, three for receiving incoming calls, two for making outgoing calls. Three telephones to be fitted/connected with headsets (noise reduction).
- Charging facility for mobile telephones
- Ordnance Survey Maps covering the district and adjacent areas
- Portable white board
- Flip charts (Two)
- Supporting stationery including ring binders, stationary punches, staplers, marker pens
- Three telephone connections
- One laptop computer connection
- Portable white board
- Supporting stationery
- Flip chart
The following is a listing of service groupings and suggested emergency management team representatives. The incident will determine which services will be needed to support the emergency management team.
Command and control - EMT
- Emergency co-ordinator
- Chief executive
- Deputy chief executive
- Service managers as required
- Legal services
- Communications team
- Civil contingencies manager
Information and support
- Customer services
- Human resources
- Communications team (additional resource)
- Streetscene services
- Environmental health and health and safety
- Waste and recycling
- Engineering and property services
- Economic development
- Building control
- Revenues and benefits
Recovery working group
Membership of this group will be determined by the circumstances of emergency. The recovery working group will begin their work during the emergency.
Critical to all emergency situations is the communications and information flow between partner responder organisations. In addition to liaison staff despatched from all partner organisations to police Gold, Silver, and possibly Bronze forward control posts to co-ordinate the strategic, tactical and operational response to the emergency, there may be a need to have representative liaison officers situated in each of the partner responder organisations.
Inter-Agency Liaison to East Devon District Council
In major incident situations, liaison officers from partner responder agencies may be despatched to attend the East Devon District Council emergency centre to provide an essential communication link/information flow between partner agencies.
Inter agency liaison from East Devon District Council
In a similar manner the district council needs to dispatch (where possible pre-nominated staff) liaison officers to other partner agencies to provide the same information flow and communications link. District council staff will have specialist areas of local authority knowledge that will need to be taken into account in other agency response planning and preparations.
Pre-designated liaison officers (level of representation) will be provided as follows:
Gold/ Strategic - deputy chief executive/head of service
Silver/Tactical - head of service/appropriate service manager
Bronze/Operational - specialist officers (for example housing officer, environmental health or building control officer, whichever is most suited to the type of emergency)
County emergency centre: service manager