Emergency planning

An introduction to emergencies, emergency planning and business continuity

Working together to make Central Bedfordshire the most resilient place

What are emergencies?​

Definition of an emergency

An emergency as defined by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is "An event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom, an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of a place in the United Kingdom, or war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom".​

Definition of a Major Incident

A Major Incident as defined by the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) is:

An event or situation with a range of serious consequences which requires special arrangements to be implemented by one or more emergency responder agency. 

What are the different emergency scenarios we might face?​

There are many different types of scenarios that could cause an emergency, some human-made, some natural. Here is a list of just some of the different scenarios we could face:

The UK Government carry out a National Risk Assessment every few years. To see the full list of possible scenarios, find out more detail and see the level of risk, you can check the latest version of the National Risk Register.

Further information is also available on the Bedfordshire Prepared Community Risk Register pages.

What is emergency planning? ​

We must plan ahead to be able to successfully respond to these identified risks and scenarios. Emergency planning should aim, where possible, to prevent emergencies occurring. When they do occur, good planning should reduce, control or mitigate the effects of the emergency. It is a systematic and ongoing process which should evolve as lessons are learnt and circumstances change. We also don’t prepare alone, but work together with numerous other government agencies and volunteer organisations to make sure we can offer a comprehensive and collective approach, playing to each other’s strengths.

Why is an emergency plan necessary?

It all comes down to being as prepared as is reasonably practicable. Having an emergency plan helps guide us in what actions could be taken in an emergency, by who​, when and how. A good plan looks at activation processes, defines roles and responsibilities, what equipment is available and where, and provides guidance and checklists to follow. It also helps us train those people with identified roles so they know what to do.

What types of emergency plan do we have?

As a Council we have an overall Emergency Plan. This sets out the management structures and arrangements we would activate within the Council and details specific emergency response roles. Our plan is not just one document, it is a collection of documents, checklists, emergency contact lists and a few scenario-specific plans. For example, we have plans and checklists in place for such events as flooding, severe weather,​ animal disease, etc.

What is Business Continuity?

We must continue to maintain our most important day-to-day services within an emergency. It’s about being able to continue the services that are most critical to the public’s wellbeing, even (and sometimes, especially) in times of disruption.

How we do this?

We assess all Council services in terms of their criticality

To do this we consider what the ramifications would be, if the service were to be disrupted for at least two weeks.

Our impact ratings cover:

  • risk to life
  • impact on the public
  • financial impact
  • reputational impact
  • legal/regulatory and contractual impacts
  • political impact
  • stakeholder impact
  • workload impact

We also consider how quickly the disruption of a service would lead to significant impacts; for example, within hours, a day, 3 days and more. Basically, how long would it take for things to go wrong? And how can we quickly restore this service to prevent this from happening?

After we know which services are the most critical, we hence work to develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) with them

This includes identifying all the things that the service relies on to ensure it continues to function.

We look at everything from:

  • individuals
  • roles
  • IT software
  • IT hardware
  • vehicles
  • buildings
  • equipment
  • external and internal providers suppliers and contractors
  • email addresses
  • phone numbers and critical documents and records.

Once these are identified, we look at the contingencies we need to put in place should there be a disruption to any of these things.

We then look to test the plans that have been developed through exercises or by testing them against different emergency scenarios to see if they would work. After the exercises we critically assess if we got it right, identify any lessons and make improvements.​

If you run, or work in a business, do you have Business Continuity Plans, and are you prepared for an emergency?