Council Resilience & Emergency Planning (R&EP) Measures
To receive a presentation from the Council’s Enforcement and Regulatory Services & Community Safety Unit Manager.
The Chairman advised Members that he had intended to consider the Council’s emergency planning measures and general preparedness in times of crisis, prior to the onset of the continuing Coronavirus pandemic. His subsequent draw-down of the topic was forward looking in aim, and not designed to repeat the Scrutiny Committee’s recent examination of the Council’s response to COVID-19 [Scrutiny Min. No 32 refers].
He confirmed that following publication of the agenda, Members had received individual copies of the DBC Resilience and Emergencies PowerPoint presentation, prepared by the Enforcement & Regulatory Services (EARS) Manager, as the responsible officer for formulating the Council’s Strategic and Emergency Planning measures.
The EARS Manager reprised his presentation for the Committee, before responding to Members questions. The presentation covered the following principal areas:
Aims and Objectives
· DBC’s statutory responsibilities for Emergency Planning and Business Continuity;
· Strategic level emergency management roles and responsibilities;
· Breadth and scope of R&EP duties;
· Understanding role of DBC staff and manager roles within multi-agency Emergency Planning & Response;
· The role of the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF)
The definition of an ‘Emergency’ under Part 1 of the Civil Contingency Act (CCA) 2004, formulated in response to the Foot & Mouth Outbreak was:
‘An event or situation which threatened serious damage to human welfare in a place in the UK, the environment of a place in the UK, or war or terrorism which threatened serious damage to the security of the UK.’
The Council’s responsibilities under the 2004 Act were:
· Risk Assessment
· Emergency Planning
· Business Continuity Management (BCM)
· Warning – Informing & Alerting the Public
· Information Sharing
· Co-operation [across multi agencies]
The Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) was one of 42 local resilience forums (LRFs) set up in response to the 2004 Act, which had established a new legislative framework for civil protection in the event of emergencies in the UK. LRFs were aligned with police force areas, with member agencies working together to provide a combined response and minimise impact, when emergencies occurred.
LRFs were not legal entities in their own right, but formed a partnership of member agencies, including those defined under the 2004 Act by responder ‘categories’:
Category 1 responders were organisations directly involved in the response to an emergency and were subject to a number of civil protection obligations. They included: Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue Service, SE Coast & Ambulance Service, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, local authorities, primary care aspects of the NHS and others;
Category 2 responders were organisations that had a less direct role to play in response to emergencies e.g. utility companies, infrastructure (Network Rail) and others. The Act did not place stringent duties on such organisations, but they were required to share appropriate information and cooperate fully with the Local Resilience Forum (LRF), to manage emergencies.
The Kent LRF also included members not categorised under the Act, but who had a significant role to play in the event of emergencies e.g. the military and the voluntary sector.
DBC Emergency Roles
· Liaison with emergency services, government, other local authorities, voluntary sector, utility companies and others as required;
· Welfare and trauma support within Survivor Reception and Rest Centres and across the wider community, including the provision of transport to evacuees as necessary;
· Facilitate repairs, demolition, clearance, public transport, and waste disposal as required, via the Council’s Housing and Waste & Parks Departments, in consultation with KCC as appropriate;
· Media management (with emergency services) and provision of public information, led by the Council’s Communications Manager with the support of the Leader and all Ward Members as appropriate
The Council’s Integrated Emergency Management process in the event of emergencies continued to be based on the traditional layered approach of Gold (Directors), Silver (Senior Managers)and Bronze (Staff), as used for Brexit planning, and more recently, to combat COVID-19.
Business Continuity Management (BCM)
In contrast to Emergency Planning (which was ‘outward looking’), BCM was ‘inward looking’ and was best described as what to do for yourself to protect your business functions. Effective BCM provided a planning framework to address disruptions to service delivery across 3 (three) main areas:
· Staff (e.g. bad weather, illness)
· Facilities (e.g. IT, power loss)
· Buildings (e.g. Fire, flooding)
BCM also helped to identify the most important functions of a business (e.g. Maximum Tolerable Periods of Disruption) and helped to deal with those disrupted functions in the context of the continued running of the organisation as a whole by:
· Providing a plan to follow when an organisation is under maximum pressure to cope;
· Ensuring an organisation is able to respond effectively and quickly under maximum pressure;
· Protecting employees, service users and the organisation as a whole into the future.
In response to variety of subsequent questions from the Chairman and other Members, the EARS Manager confirmed the following points:
· The Council’s Emergency Planning procedures had been revised in light of COVID-19 and those documents, together with the Major Emergency Plan were available to the public via the Council website. He judged that the Council had been well prepared in IT terms to cope with the disruptive effects of the pandemic, and had performed well in continuing to deliver services to the public, with the exception of direct public facing roles e.g. parking enforcement, although this had now been reinstated. The Scrutiny Committee had endorsed the Council’s planning measures at its last meeting [14 July 2020 Min. No. 32 refers], and in the context of the pan-Kent effort to combat COVID-19 Dartford ‘stood tall’;
· The measures implemented by the Council’s Transformation Manager and his IT team had enabled the vast majority of staff to work effectively from home, following the closure of the Civic Centre to the public and the implementation of government distancing measures within the office environment;
· The lack of a specific ‘blue-print’ to combat COVID-19 [identified by the Scrutiny Committee] did not impact on the Council’s Emergency Planning and Business Continuity measures, which were based on generic principles of co-operation with the KRF and LRFs across England: no Council acted alone in times of emergency;
· COVID-19 had highlighted a need to update specific emergency procedures in relation to combating infectious diseases, and lessons learnt had been incorporated into the wider KRF emergency procedures and those for England as a whole, including in the next KRF exercise in October to address Brexit issues, which the EARS Manager would attend on behalf of the Council;
· The KRF was a real and effective body of senior representatives from member organizations e.g. Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable, with some members bodies contributing to the staffing of a KRF Secretariat, called the Kent Resilience Team (KRT) has a 24/7 on-call capability, and also facilitates a ‘hot-desking’ principle for all member organisations. The various KRF group meetings took place throughout the year and considered current issues, including liaison with Essex and London LRF bodies;
· In terms of the Council’s chain of command, in response to any given emergency, the EARS Manager was the initial ‘out-of-hours’ point of contact. He would then liaise directly on a 1 to 1 basis with the Strategic Director (External Services) or relevant senior Council service manager e.g. Head of Housing Services. In the event of a multi-response requirement, he would liaise with the Council’s dedicated WhatsApp Emergency Group. Effective action in an emergency was enshrined in the ‘1st Golden Hour’ principle, with the traditional ‘blue light’ services of Police, Ambulance and the KF&RS heavily involved as required. The recovery phase of any emergency involved more direct use of Council services e.g. the re-housing of residents as appropriate, and liaison with utility companies to restore services. The Council’s Communications Manager and his team performed a key role during emergencies, informing the public of events, and managing public expectation of the Council’s ability to respond via the Leader and Ward Members as appropriate.
The Chairman thanked the EARS Manager for a very comprehensive presentation and for his detailed responses to Members questions.
He asked that the meeting minutes record that he had no concerns over the Council’s Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Measures. The purpose of his draw-down had been to establish greater knowledge of those procedures; including the Council’s chain of command in the event of emergencies; and whether any lessons learnt from the Council’s effective response to COVID-19, had been incorporated into revised Emergency Planning procedures. He declared himself satisfied on all counts.