In 2004, parliament passed civil protection legislation in the form of the civil contingencies act and associated statutory guidance. In addition to reinforcing existing good practice, this legislation “raised the bar” and placed several new duties on the emergency services, local authorities and other key responder agencies, with the aim of extending our abilities to meet a range of new challenges, as well as dealing with well-known and recurrent threats.
To reinforce this the government also set out an ambitious “capability programme” designed to ensure that, no matter what the cause may be, the UK is better equipped to manage the consequences of a major disruption and recover quickly. Some of these capabilities have grim titles – “mass fatalities”, “mass evacuation” and “infectious diseases” - but civil contingencies is, after all, a serious business.
This district emergency plan has evolved over time and been fundamentally reviewed to make sure that it is still fit for purpose and in line with the expectations of the civil contingencies act 2004 . The responsibilities placed on us by the legislation extend right across all services, not just those perceived to have an emergency role. We must all have a culture of risk awareness and readiness – a “what if” approach to our daily business - as well as being alert to what might arise from situations beyond our immediate control.
This means that mutual aid is a reality and not just a casual reference in various plans. We may suddenly be asked to go to the aid of a neighbouring authority under real pressure, and not just rely on them to come to our aid if we need it. We must work closely with the police, our county and district colleagues and other local agencies to help our communities during times of emergency.
Another critical expectation is for key responder agencies to be able to maintain their core services whilst at the same time manage the consequences of an emergency in their community. Business continuity planning is afforded high importance in the civil contingencies act, and as well as ensuring that our own plans are up to scratch we – local authorities – are required to encourage and assist the private sector to develop a similar degree of resilience.
We have responded effectively to a range of emergencies in the past and this plan provides a framework for how we will respond to emergency situations in the future.