Memorandum by Ian Jordan on Emergency
Planning in Scotland (March 2002)
The events of 11 September 2001 have had a significant
impact on the profile of emergency planning and emergency planners.
Whilst this is not unwelcome it diminishes the work the progress
made over recent years and suggests that government views of emergency
planning remain rooted in the cold war.
Dumfries and Galloway has had to deal with the
devastating effects of an act of terrorism designed to take lives.
The lessons learned in responding to the Lockerbie Air Disaster
have influenced preparation for emergencies in Dumfries and Galloway.
The arrangements made, and the management philosophy adopted,
have been proved effective in a number of significant incidents
since 1988. This paper will provide a brief outline of preparation
and response to emergencies by local authorities and examine how
that is done through Dumfries and Galloway's Major Emergency Scheme.
Major emergencies are low probability events
that may have wide ranging consequences. A large number of organisations
may be involved. Each has specific roles and responsibilities
and each performs different tasks, none can cope alone.
How then is the response to a major emergency
to be managed? The emergency services have a lead role at the
site of emergencies but which organisation has responsibility
for co-ordinating the activity of the non-emergency services (local
authorities health services, public agencies and utilities and
The local authority takes the lead role in the
non-emergency services in preparation and response to emergencies.
Councils have an important part to
play in the life of their communities. They provide a range of
services directly or through third parties. They build a sense
of direction for the community and Councillors are the `voice'
of the locality. In an emergency all of these activities become
Local authorities have a number of
statutory duties and powers related to emergency planning and
response. Whilst no general statutory duty exists for the local
authority to plan for all emergencies it is believed that
a Council owes a `general duty of care' for those it represents.
The absence of a general statutory
duty does not absolve a Council from responsibility for using
its powers to deal with emergencies in an adequate or effective
Government guidance on a wide range
of topics, expects local authorities to prepare emergency arrangements.
They act as a focal point in the development,
administration, testing and review of emergency management arrangements.
They assist Council Departments and other organisations
in preparing their own operational arrangements and integrating
them within overall co-ordinating arrangements. Arrangements are
also made to respond to identified hazards for which it is either
prudent, or for which there is a statutory duty, to plan.
They develop and maintain emergency facilities,
systems and equipment.
Finally, they seek to promote effective emergency
In order to fulfil their role emergency planners
need a broad knowledge of the activities and responsibilities
of all organisations in their area, the services they provide,
their organisation, management systems and procedures.
Emergency Planning is a standard local authority
function. In a wide range of matters local authorities bring together
disparate groups and agree arrangements for joint action. This
is carried out when building roads and bridges, arranging for
care in the community or economic development. Emergency Planning
is no different. It is many years since emergency planners sat
in bunkers writing war plans!
At times of crisis emergency planners play a
significant role in supporting those involved in managing a response,
and assist the Chief Executive in discharging the authority's
The structures of life in Britain are complex.
Communities have relationship with central government, devolved
government, Europe, unitary Councils and Community Councils (in
The Council deals with central Government Departments,
their Scottish counterparts, executive agencies and arm's lengths
bodies established by Government. It deals with gas companies
that provide electricity, electricity companies that provide gas
and may have dealings with railway companies that provide mobile
The Council has contractual agreements with
commercial organisations to provide services. It deals, for example,
with consultants that maintain trunk roads, consortia that dispose
of waste and organisations providing care for vulnerable people.
We are fortunate that in Dumfries and Galloway
we have co-terminous Police Force, Fire Brigade and Health Board.
We also work closely with the voluntary sector through international,
national and local organisations.
In wide area emergencies, we might have to work
with Government Departments. For example when foot and mouth outbreak
affected the region we had to work with DEFRA based in London,
SEERAD based in Edinburgh, the State Veterinary Service (based
in Ayr, Stranraer and Dumfries) and the Army.
The role of the local authority emergency planner
is to make local arrangements that simplify the complexity outlined
above. The aim of the emergency planner is to enable those who
would be involved to work effectively in difficult circumstances.
We do that in Dumfries and Galloway through our Major Emergency
The Major Emergency Scheme has two key componentssimple
arrangements and good people. The Scheme is based on an inclusive
management philosophy. The Scheme is not a traditional emergency
plan. As stated above it is a dynamic and evolving entity built
around a management process that is owned by its partners.
The MES arose from a project sponsored by the
Scottish Office and Home Office that examined Local Authorities
Management of Emergencies and was influenced by the recommendations
of the Chief Executive's report on the Lockerbie Air Disaster.
A copy of the Project's Report will be provided for background.
In principle the Scheme remains as outlined in the report, however,
some changes have been made in the documentation that is now provided
for teams and not for individuals.
Through the MES the Council takes the lead in
the non-emergency services preparations, working closely with
all other organisations with a role to play. The Emergency Co-ordinating
Group leads the management of preparation and response. The Group
has responsibility for ensuring that arrangements are in place
that can both cover all reasonably foreseeable local hazards and
enable the initial response to all other unforeseen emergency
The MES provides a framework for co-ordination
of effort through a management philosophy that has come to be
called Integrated Emergency Management (IEM).
The IEM philosophy embraces a number of concepts
that are embodied in the MES. Those arrangements:
are simple and adaptable to all emergency
emphasise the management of response
to the effects of an emergency and not its cause.
are applicable to all organisations
involved and make clear their roles and responsibilities.
address the overall management and
co-ordination of activity in response.
The MES has "earned its spurs" on
a number of occasions since it was established:
In 1993 it dealt with the effects
of a high pressure gas pipeline rupture as its first major test.
In early 1996 severe snow falls trapped
some 2,500 travellers in vehicles on trunk roads and motorways.
Those trapped were rescued and placed in emergency rest centres
where they were cared for over three-four days until travelling
conditions improved. At the same time emergency services had to
be maintained for vulnerable people throughout Dumfries and Galloway
trapped in their homes without power in many cases. The Police
and Council called for military assistance, to save lives, in
the most difficult of conditions.
The MES showed its flexibility, strength
in depth and resourcefulness in an event where its managers were
also victims of the emergency being trapped in their own homes
or places of work.
On Boxing Day, 1998 hurricane force
winds caused extensive damage in the region. Many tens of thousands
of people were without electricity for up to 12 days when the
weather was poor and particularly cold. Arrangements were made
across Dumfries and Galloway to protect vulnerable people and
engage with communities to ensure that no one in difficulty was
Preparations for the Millennium were
very simple for the MES partners. Contingency plans took a few
minutes to arrange at each of the Scheme's Team meetings. The
MES was able to cope easily with the uncertainties surrounding
In January 2000 the trawler Solway
Harvester was lost. The loss of seven young lives had a devastating
affect on the local community and MES teams set up in the background
to provide discreet support services. Advice and support were
given to those wishing to establish an appeal fund and a Trust
to administer the fund.
During the remainder of 2000 there
was an unprecedented series of emergencies, including the fuel
crises, that required the initiation of the MES. They included
evacuations due to flooding and unexploded bombs, train and military
aircraft crashes, chemical leaks and problems with water supplies.
In February 2001 the Scheme was initiated
to deal with severe snow in the east of the region. Once again,
vulnerable people were identified and helicopters used to evacuate
difficult cases. Scottish Power allowed West of Scotland Water
to use its helicopter to ferry workers to a remote water treatment
plant to prevent disruption to water supplies, another example
of partnership in action. The MES stood down at midday on 28 February
only to be recalled one hour later, when . . .
Foot and mouth disease was identified
in Dumfries and Galloway. The Council's report to the Royal Society
of Edinburgh outlining the response to foot and mouth disease
will be available as a background paper.
Many of those involved in the response to emergencies
in Dumfries and Galloway have worked together in crises since
the Lockerbie Disaster, they pass on their experience to new generations
of managers in the hope that it can be used for the benefit of
those affected by future emergencies. In view of the number of
real emergencies experienced in recent years training for MES
Teams has, generally, been restricted to table top exercises and
training in specific contingencies, for example, nuclear weapons
accidents. Most of the Teams' meetings relate to keeping abreast
of changing circumstances. One of the few constant features in
emergency planning is the discontinuous change taking place within
a majority of organisations.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 had
an impact on emergency planning nationally. There was a good deal
of concern that existing plans could not cope with indiscriminate
acts of terrorism.
Dumfries and Galloway's MES is designed to allow
a response to any emergency. In the event of terrorism our approach,
locally, would be similar in all events. However, there would
be significant differences in the way in which Government would
respond to a terrorist attack compared with "civil"
emergencies. The MES managers need to know how we would manage
within the national arrangements that would move into place. The
national arrangements that would be put in place following a terrorist
attack can be accommodated if an IEM approach and management philosophy
is adopted. The role of the non-emergency services remaining supportive
of the key players and community. I see no difficulty in accommodating
the necessary changes whilst working within the MES.
The nature of terrorism means that the potential
effects could be relatively small, or of national significance.
Emergency planners need to be realistic in what can be done locally
to mitigate the effects of terrorist attacks.
In a small scale event the part played
locally would probably be significant. The issue for planners
in preparation is knowing what the potential effects of an attack
might be. It is unrealistic to expect all the effects of all attacks
to be made available. Preparations can work on broad principles,
but easy access to authoritative sources of information is vital
if an attack occurs.
Much attention is focussed on chemical, biological,
radiological or nuclear terrorism. Emergencies caused by chemical
or biological agents, caused by accidents or nature, are dealt
with daily by the emergency services, health services and Councils.
Significant outbreaks of e-coli, salmonella, winter vomiting virus
and other diseases are dealt with effectively throughout Britain
and outbreak plans are tested and exercised regularly. National
and local arrangements are in place to deal with nuclear or radiological
accidents. The scale of a terrorist CBRN attack may be much greater
than envisaged for a "normal" CBRN event but the underlying
principles remain the same.
In the event of a national level attack,
or one with wide spread consequences, the national management
arrangements that we have in the UK would reduce the effectiveness
Recent experience of preparations for the Millennium,
the fuel crisis and foot and mouth disease have highlighted a
need to review national arrangements.
The Governments' "lead Department"
philosophy is fundamentally flawed. In the event of a major incident
the Department that has a particular expertise, for example, DTI
for the fuel crisis and DEFRA/SEERAD for foot and mouth disease,
is expected to lead for government. However, general issues, such
as a "radiation" emergency, are not so easy to allocate
to a Department.
The lead Department's role encompasses co-ordinating
the activities of central government, co-ordinating the collection
of information for the purposes of briefing Ministers and informing
parliament and providing information for the public and media.
It is expected to do these things whilst dealing
with the possibly devastating effects of an emergency! There appears
to be no co-ordination of support for the Department most affected,
by those not directly involved. When a lead Department is nominated
other Departments concentrate on their specific responsibilities
with what appears to be very little cross-departmental liaison.
During the foot and mouth outbreak the MES was
initiated to support those fighting the disease. The MES allowed
people to do what they did best whilst the burden of administrative
and other arrangements was carried by others. This role appears
not to be replicated in government.
In considering national response to terrorist
events account should be taken of the principle that the first
response is at local level (Dealing with Disasters TogetherScottish
Office). In doing so national arrangements should allow local
authorities to make arrangements that suit their management structures
and local partnerships, the key features for assimilation being
simple and appropriate mechanisms for communication and co-ordination.
It is inappropriate to develop separate national
arrangements specifically related to terrorism. Arrangements should
build on current mechanisms and obviate identified problems for
co-ordination. Imposing a "plan" or planning philosophy
that does not build on current arrangements, unilaterally, would
replicate the arcane civil defence planning of the post war years.
In Scotland, we have the Scottish Emergency
Co-ordinating Committee and the Scottish Executive Emergency Room.
These are established means of co-ordinating activity and gathering/disseminating
information. In a major emergency the local authority emergency
planner's first contact is invariably with the Executive's Emergency
Planning Division in the Justice Department. Communication and
awareness of each other's roles is good. The strengths of the
Scottish model should be reinforced by national arrangements.
The government philosophy of IEM should be adopted
by central government Departments. There is currently little integration
between the centre and local agencies.
Efforts should be made to raise awareness of
emergency roles and responsibilities of all agencies. Recent documentation
on the response to CBRN attacks makes statements about Councils'
roles related to road closures. The paper was written by a central
Department. In Scotland Councils no longer have responsibility
for major roads. Planning and preparation needs to be realistic,
based on experience and involve the people who will implement
Whilst emergency planning is still supported
by specific grant in England and Wales, in Scotland funding is
provided through normal Council funding mechanisms. A number of
Councils, particularly those with experience of emergencies, fund
the task appropriately. The pressure on Council budgets has had
an effect on the funding and status of emergency planning in a
number of Councils.
Relationships with the military are generally
good. Dumfries and Galloway has had good cause to be grateful
to the Army over recent years. Call out arrangements are simple
and the Army always tries to help.
The loss of many TA units has affected local
response and any strengthening of the TA, and its role, should
re-examine the vital local links that have been lost in recent
In Scotland, most Councils have arrangements
in place to respond to most emergencies.
Relationships between the Scottish Executive
and Council Emergency Planners are good. Reporting lines are well
Contemporary terrorism presents a new risk.
Preparations for responding to hazards need to be appropriate
and clear, and simple to assimilate into existing arrangements.
Local authorities are best placed to lead local
response. In large-scale events the role of the local authority
has to be assessed realistically. Councils no longer provide many
of the more traditional public services.
Integrated Emergency Management requires to
be adopted at all levels to ensure the effectiveness demonstrated
in response to local emergencies can be replicated in wide area
Emergency Planning is normal business for all
organisations. To see it as a discrete task will undermine its