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You cannot plan for emergencies

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Page updated - 18 October 2013


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Hi, I am Tony Harman and I have been Community Emergency Adviser, for Great Cornard in the UK, for a number of years. Great Cornard is a ‘little’ village situated in the ‘deep south’ of Suffolk, very nearly Essex, and we have a population of over 9,500. Over the years I have dealt with a number of emergencies both within the village and elsewhere.


Although I have no specific qualifications regarding dealing with emergencies, I have been fortunate enough to work in many different industries and, for most of these years, ‘making problems go away’ for my employers using a variety of skills to implement practical solutions. Here are few of my personal thoughts and suggestions ‘honed’ as the result of, sometimes, quite painful and distressing situations.


Although some may feel the title is a little provocative, it is a truth. Emergencies give very little or, often, NO WARNING of developing. If the situation has been predicted then it may be an urgency when it occurs, but not an emergency.


When a real emergency strikes, unless your Community is very close to the County Resources that can be instantly ‘mobilised’, initially your Community is most likely to be on its own. So apart from ‘sit on your hands and do nothing but whinge’ what can you do?


The key to success for your Community to initially deal with an emergency is to know the capabilities within your Community. Your resources are rather like tools; some have an old bent screwdriver in the kitchen draw whereas others have large fully-kitted workshop seemingly capable of everything, including open-heart surgery!


Your Community Resources are whatever you have, or have obtained, as part of your ‘toolkit’. I am not going to list specifics because this will depend, to a degree, on whatever may realistically constitute a Community Emergency.


Start with a pad of paper, a pen and a pencil and just start making notes of the resources available or that may be needed. At this stage, do not discount anything, and include as much as possible including all residents with specialist skills, equipment, transport and shelter. As an extra prompt, think of the various ‘opportunities’ (emergencies) that have affected you Community over the years and what was needed as a resolution.


When either you have run-out of ‘steam’ or become overwhelmed by the list, re-write the your notes under the headings of Personnel, Transport, Feeding, etc. etc. pencilling out the original notes one by one.


Also the location of ‘tools’ needs to be known and the ‘custodians’ primed because it is no good knowing that there is a whole workshop of tools, with an operator, on the other side of the door if you cannot locate the damn key to the door!


Some say ‘the devil is in the detail’: Sometimes this is true but do not engage in a pointless pernickety ‘what if’ of wild improbabilities because you will lose perspective as to why you are creating a list of Community Resources.


When you feel that you have reached a suitable ‘milestone’, stop and consider a realistic scenario and outline achievable objectives. Test these using you Community Resources listing and measure the probable success and make any necessary ‘adjustments’. None of this is ever a waste of time.


After several of these exercises you will have a bombproof, foolproof and easily implemented solution to cover all possible Community Emergencies? No you won’t because you cannot plan for emergencies, but at least you now have a much better understanding of what is in the ‘toolkit’ and probably the best ‘tool’ to use when an emergency strikes your Community.


Please click this hyperlink to drop me an email and let me know your inputs, both positive and negative. Also please send any hints, tips, suggestions and relevant hyperlinks that I can add to the Resilience Area of this website. By good sharing information, we will have helped and supported each other in being able to deal when an emergency when one occurs in our Community.


Tony Harman.

26 September 2013


Please feel free to share the contents of this page as there is no copyright on any of the content.