It may sound like something out of Dad’s Army but these community emergency action plans are proving vital in keeping the public safe.
These documents can help communities and individuals to prepare, respond and recover from disruptive challenges and emergencies such as bombs threats, gas explosions, flooding, severe weather, health pandemics and power cuts, helping to compliment the activity of emergency responders.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service plays a leading role, alongside partners from other agencies, to work with the community, blending local knowledge and professional expertise which has helped to create almost 50 community emergency action plans in the county.
Station Manager Dean Hodges said:
“What we are trying to do is empower communities to make them more aware of the risks that may impact on them individually and as a community so they are better placed to collectively prepare, respond and recover from incidents should they occur.
“People have commented that empowering the community sounds a bit like Dad’s Army but the truth is these plans, and those who create them, are key in keeping people safe.
“The public are not being asked to do the work of responders but they can add value to our knowledge and understanding of a situation, helping us to make more informed decisions on how best to deploy our resources.
“In the event of an emergency these plans can help the majority of people in a community and quickly identify and focus on those who are most at risk or vulnerable.
“Having this plan in place would help us get information and locally builds a strong sense of community."
Station Manager Hodges, who works on community resilience with Watch Manager Stuart Mangan, added these plans have already been used to good effect in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in number of cases including gas leaks, flooding and power outages.
Through partnership working the team are able to engage with communities across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to explain to the public the benefits of putting together these plans and the process for this to happen.
There are currently 48 community emergency action plans in place across the county of Hampshire with a further 12 on the Isle of Wight.
The plans include information such as; local risk assessments, meeting points in case of disasters and reference to vulnerable members of the community who may require assistance alongside communication methods such as ways to spread information in the event of a power and telecommunications blackout.
Some communities have harnessed local resources and have drawn up lists of residents with access to four-by-fours, tractors and other agricultural equipment or people with specialist skills that can be called upon.
Other groups have bought hi-vis jackets and arranged regular drills.
It is also important to decide who is leader of the group and what will trigger the plan being activated and how this is communicated to multi agency partners and the community.
The plans in place include community groups, parishes, small villages and tiny hamlets.
Guidance is also given to people on the subject of household emergency action plans which includes practical advice on how to stay in touch via social media and radio, a place to record contact details of family members, utilities, vulnerable persons to having an emergency grab bag containing vital supplies such as medication and a wind-up torch.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service works with a multitude of partners to include local authorities, utility providers, the Met Office, the Environment Agency at these events where community groups are given advice on developing a plan along with crisis scenarios to help exercise and test plans to show their benefit.