Emergency Planning Teams may have a bit of a reputation of being pessimistic old men in cardigans getting kicks out of planning disaster scenarios and watching them go wrong from behind their desks. However you might be pleasantly surprised to hear, that was some time ago. The modern emergency planner is a Category 1 responder, we have as much right to be out and about helping residents as the blue light services, whilst maybe rocking a cardigan still – there’s nothing wrong with a cardigan.
However this stereotype, like many others is hard to change. To paint you a picture, its 9.13pm and I get a call from the Fire Service to say that residents have been evacuated from a block of flats in Coventry. An old world emergency planning team may of dealt with this from their arm chair, our stance now is different, so off I go to the scene to make sure that the council is represented and that the vulnerable people at that time are looked after.
Yet too often, the stereotype comes into play. There have been times where we would get to the cordon of the incident, and not be allowed in. It is normally with persuasion and explanation of who we are, and what we do that we are finally granted access. The lack of the blue light means everything is slightly harder when dealing with incidents as the Local Authority. We will not get there as quickly as other services, but the need for speed is not required either.
The opinion of us with our local emergency services is changing, albeit slowly. The CSW Resilience team is one of the few teams across the country that will deploy to the scene pro-actively so understandably the Local Authority role at the scene is less understood. When we do reach the scene the question we pose is – how can the council help? as opposed to saying what we can help with, because…well that is a very long list. Everything that the council do during day light non-emergency hours, can be achieved out of hours in an emergency, granted with a slight delay.
This is starting to change the way many of the blue light services perceive us, as we are offering our services in a more forthcoming manner. It is also important not to forget that whilst blue light services will save your life, protect you immediately, it falls to the LA to help you after the major incident. We will help house you, provide you with advice & assistance and give you the contacts and confidence to bounce back after your emergency.
So whilst the cardigan and clipboard may once have been a true representation, we like to think that change is occurring. CSW Resilience team is there 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day providing support in emergencies across our patch where and when it is needed.
By Tom Knibbs & Josh Adams, CSW Resilience Officers