Different communities face different issues, and have different strengths and ideas about how to tackle them. So, your Community Emergency Plan will be unique to your community.
This guide includes ‘Community Emergency Plan’ templates which you will find on Pages 20-34. You can use or change them in whatever way suits you and your community, including adding your own community name, logo or any other information that you think is relevant to your community.
You may find it helpful to talk to people in other community groups which have developed emergency plans. Your local authority will have an emergency planning or resilience contact who may be able to provide help. It is a good initial contact that can put you in touch with the key people locally.
It is very important that you:
- Talk to people in your community who have resources that they can use to help and;
- talk to your local authority to make sure that what you are planning fits in with the “big picture” of how your local emergency responders would act in an emergency.
Blair Atholl and Struan Community Emergency Plan
Increasing pressures on the emergency services during summer tourist seasons, experiences of regular heavy winter snowfall and long term power outages highlighted the increased risk to vulnerable groups in the Blair Atholl and Struan community. Whilst the local community responded well when emergencies occurred, lessons were learned over time and emphasised the need for a local emergency plan.
Blair Atholl and Struan Community Council set up a Community Resilience Group to identify, prepare for and mitigate risks to the safety and general wellbeing of the community, working in close cooperation with the authorities, emergency services and other organisations. The group was set up following consultations with the community, local landowners and businesses.
“The enthusiastic support and the determination of the community…to establish this initiative and make it a success has been extraordinary. We have a wide variety of useful skills and physical resources available within our community. Not least among these resources is a unique collective knowledge of local demographics and topography.”
The Scottish Government’s Ready Scotland website is a useful source of information for communities that want to develop Community Emergency Plans. It contains this guide, planning templates, examples of other ‘resilient community’ groups as well as further related advice:
In partnership with Evaluation Support Scotland, the SG’s ‘Resilient Communities’ team have also created “Our Community Resilience Toolkit”. It is designed for community resilience groups, or anyone thinking about setting one up, to guide them through the simple steps to help them explain and prove the difference their group can make and why it is important. It can help groups communicate with their wider communities, attract new members, obtain funding and support, and share good practice.
The Scottish Flood Forum has helped many communities in Scotland to set up Community Flood Groups. These groups have helped communities threatened by flooding or severe weather to become more resilient. They have collaborated with community councils and local authorities to identify solutions that work in local communities, and contributions that local people can safely make:
There may also be sources of funding available to help you to produce your Plan. Sources of funding vary from place to place and over time. A good source of information and advice for funding for community groups is the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations:
You will also get advice on sources of support, learning and development from your local Third Sector Interface. They are a local starting point to find out more about volunteering; setting up and running a third sector organisation; or using social enterprise as a model to deliver social good:
If you don’t have access to the internet and would like any of the above resources to be sent to you in hard copy, please write to:
Resilient Communities Team,
St. Andrew's House,
Step 1 – Making your Plan
1.1 Getting started
This guide takes you through a step by step process that will enable you to:
- Decide who your Community Emergency Plan is for
- Get the right advice
- Think about the risks your community faces
- Think about local skills, knowledge and resources
- Involve all the people who can help
- Write and test a Plan
Remember that your local authority’s emergency planning contact can give you advice and support.
Who is your Plan for?
Most Community Emergency Plans will be made for a “geographical community” or place. This can mean one or more neighbourhoods in a city, a town, a village, or even a street.
However, communities can also be made up of people who are connected by other things than where they live. When you are thinking about who your Plan is for, and who you will want to help you produce it, you should think about the different kinds of communities in your area (and neighbouring areas), that may need to work together and help each other in an emergency. You can consider all sorts of factors, for example - race, age, gender, disability religion, and shared interests.
It may help you to gather background information on your community, such as a map of the area covered, which includes things like:
- main roads and rail lines
- rivers, lochs and other water courses
- community facilities like schools, village halls and care homes
- grit bins
Who can you work with?
One of the first things to think about is who can help you. In many areas there are already active community groups and businesses which help to respond to emergencies. Consider what already exists around you and whether an existing group could be built upon to include dealing with emergencies.
As well as your local authority, you may want to talk to your Community Council or local councillors, as well as local organisations like the Police, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service, and voluntary organisations active in your area such as mountain rescue teams, the Royal Voluntary Service or the British Red Cross.
It’s important to remember that you need to have support from your community for a Plan to work. People need to be prepared to sign up and offer to get involved in helping if an emergency happens. Raising awareness and encouraging people to see the value of ‘joining in’ are an important part of building the foundations for a Plan.
To make your Plan more effective, as diverse a group as possible, within your community, should have a chance to get involved. Different people bring different skills and opportunities. For example some people may not be able to clear snow, but could be willing to help look after people who have to leave their homes in an emergency. People from different ethnic communities may have language skills, and could help communicate with people in your community for whom English isn’t their first language.
You could have an open meeting where the community can discuss their ideas for the Plan and find out who is interested in helping to create it. There may already be a regular meeting where you can do this – such as a Community Council meeting, Neighbourhood Watch or residents’ association. You might want consider if there are groups within the community for whom an open meeting wouldn’t work well, and think about other ways to get their views.
You’ll need to bear in mind that different methods might be needed to communicate with different people. For example, people with childcare responsibilities may not be able to attend evening meetings and not everyone will be comfortable getting information through social media.
You may want to consider:
- Discussing the idea at meetings of your community groups, and with other community groups in the area.
- Leaflet drops to local households (to save effort, where possible, you can co-ordinate doing this at the same time as other leaflets are being distributed).
- Distributing leaflets through local shops, pubs or other services using community websites, newsletters, papers and social networking.
- Including information in letters sent home with school children.
- Making use of social contacts to spread the word.
When you’ve got a group of people together who want to take part, you could form a Community Emergency Group. This will usually build on an existing community group such as a community council, residents association, neighbourhood watch or rotary club. But it could be a new group set up for this purpose. This is the group that will lead your preparations and coordinate the action you take with the emergency responders in your area.
Who will take the lead?
It may help to identify a coordinator to take a lead role in organising and taking forward the work of this group, and helping to keep up motivation and interest from the community.
It is important that the person taking on this role has a good understanding of your community, and has the backing and support of community members.
1.2 Identifying risks
In order to plan for emergencies you need to know:
- What risks you face?
- How likely are they to happen?
- If they happen, what would their impact be?
- Are any people in your community particularly at risk?
It’s important that you focus on those risks that:
are important to you and that you can do something about.
Examples of the sort of risks you can consider are described below.
- Are there any particular areas that flood regularly?
- Are parts of your community frequently cut off by snow?
- Are there any sites of environmental or historic importance which may be impacted?
- Is there a major transport facility (like a train station) in the area?
- Are there any vulnerable bridges or main roads?
- Are there any large or important industrial sites in the area?
- Are there are any known vulnerable people/groups in your area? Examples may include:
- People who have recently had an operation
- People without access to transport
- People with limited mobility
- People reliant on regular medication or health visits
- Are there any groups who might find it difficult to understand emergency information?
- Are there any groups who don’t live in the area full-time, like holiday makers or travelling communities, to consider?
Emergency responders cannot always immediately determine exactly what individuals might want or need, and nor can they always identify who in your community might be vulnerable in a crisis, particularly those who may not have previously received support. This requires local knowledge and your help. Think about how you could share this information with the emergency responders if an emergency occurs.
Local authorities and other organisations like the NHS, SEPA, British Red Cross, the Salvation Army or faith communities will also have a good idea of the individuals or communities who are vulnerable, however they may not have such good local knowledge about exactly who may become vulnerable in a crisis, or what help they might want or need. This is where your help is particularly important.
For each risk, you should also think about what actions you can take to reduce the risk of it occurring, or to minimise its impacts. For example:
If your community is subject to regular coastal or river flooding, are you and other members of your community group:
- Registered with Floodline Scotland to receive flood warnings www.floodlinescotland.org.uk/flood-updates .
- Aware of the Scottish Flood Forum and the extensive resources they provide to help you prepare for and recover from floods. scottishfloodforum.org
- Aware of the “Flood Risk Management Plan” held by your local authority.
- Aware of sandbag supplies and how to access or replenish them.
- Aware of key ‘assets’ in your community such as people who own 4x4 or ‘all terrain’ vehicles who could assist with getting people or supplies into or out of an affected area? See the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Community Asset Register.
The emergency responders already do a lot of work to identify the risks in their areas. They meet regularly as multi-agency Resilience Partnerships in the North, West and East of Scotland with a number of local partnerships within those regions.
These groups have the responsibility for the co-ordination of regional emergency planning and for overseeing the response to, and recovery from, major emergencies. They also have a duty to publish a “Community Risk Register” showing what risks have been identified in your area, and their potential impact on it.
It is worth looking at these documents to help you think about the potential risks to your local area and their impacts.
Community Risk Registers can be found at:
The National Risk Register (NRR) contains UK-wide information. This can be found at:
These risk registers mainly talk about relatively high-level threats or hazards, and how the emergency responders can address them. Your group is likely to have local knowledge and insight of other risks in your area that may not be included in those registers.
For example, is there a local road that regularly floods, or a footpath that could get blocked in severe weather, cutting off members of the community from vital amenities?
If there are risks within your community which need action, then you can have a say in how money is spent within your local authority. Participatory budgeting (PB) is a way for people to have a direct say in how local money is spent. PB is used across the world, and now in Scotland, where community groups and local authorities are using PB to give power to local people.
1.3 What can your Community Emergency Group do to prepare?
One of the key things which the Community Emergency Group can do to make your community more resilient is to encourage individuals and families to think about what they would do in the event of an emergency.
You might want to consider encouraging local people to make plans for how they and their families will cope in an emergency. A Household Emergency Plan template which you can encourage people to use is attached to this guide on page 34. You may want to consider circulating this or something similar in your community.
1.4 Assessing community skills and resources
Once your community is aware of the risks and what their impacts might be, it is important to consider what skills, resources and equipment your community already has that could be used, if needed, during an emergency.
You may be surprised at the level of knowledge you have, and the wealth of equipment and other resources in your community. In any case it’s better to find out now what is or is not available, rather than when an emergency happens .
You may want to look at your community’s existing skills and resources under the following headings and add this information into your Plan:
People already help each other in emergencies. However, as part of your planning, you could speak to people and groups in your community and ask them, in advance, if they would be willing to volunteer during an emergency, and if they have skills, tools or other resources that could be used. For example, local farmers and tree surgeons may have equipment (see below) and expertise which they are willing to use and perhaps have included on the SFRS Community Asset Register. Some people may be trained in first aid or food preparation. Many people will be able to help in tasks like clearing snow. Some local authorities have contracts with farmers to assist during severe weather, you may wish to check with your own local authority if there are any arrangements like this in your area.
You can ask people about their skills and resources using a questionnaire. It is important to remember that people like to be communicated with in a number of ways, and you can think about distributing your questionnaire using the same approach as you used to put together your emergency planning group – see Page 9.
You might also want to consider talking with existing local groups to see if their volunteers or contacts would be willing to help in an emergency. For example, sports clubs, faith groups or school parent councils may be willing to help out if required. It is important to make sure that you keep volunteers up to date and engaged in your emergency planning.
More information about managing groups of volunteers can be found at Volunteer Scotland:
Tools and equipment
With your Community Emergency Group, think about what tools and machinery might be needed if an emergency occurs. There may be people in your community who are qualified, capable and willing to operate these tools and machinery in an emergency. For example tree surgeons may have useful skills and equipment, farmers may be willing to use their tractors to help. It’s important to make sure that anyone using this kind of equipment is properly qualified and insured to do so. This is for their own protection, and also to protect the people they are helping. Such equipment could also usefully be added to the SFRS Community Asset Register so that emergency responders know that they exist and are available for use.
In Dumfries and Galloway the local authority issue grit bins and hand-gritting spreaders to communities which want to use them. In return the communities take responsibility for this equipment, and for informing the council if the grit bin is in danger of becoming empty.
It’s important that you take volunteer’s safety into account even when doing relatively low-risk activities. For example, no-one should clear ice and snow wearing inappropriate clothes or shoes, carry out tasks they are not physically fit for or use mechanized equipment they have not been trained to use.
In an emergency, your community may require supplies, like food and water, which may be difficult to obtain. You should talk to your local authority to see what arrangements are in place already and, where appropriate, consider talking directly with local businesses and suppliers who might be willing to provide these supplies. If a written agreement is made between your community and the supplier, attach this to your Plan.
Find out which vehicles could be used by the local community and know how to access them in an emergency. It is important to make sure that vehicle owners are properly licensed and insured to use their vehicles in this way.
Insurance, health and safety
You should definitely not see insurance and liability as a barrier to preparing your community for emergencies. Having a Community Emergency Plan does not mean that volunteers should be putting themselves in danger, or endangering other people in the community.
For every-day activities that you might do to help your neighbours, in a personal capacity, your ordinary household buildings or contents insurance will generally provide personal liability cover. You must always take reasonable care, and not take unnecessary risks. If you are in doubt, you must check your insurance policy or contact your insurer.
If you are part of an existing group, you may have third party liability insurance, and you can check with that insurer that the types of activities you want to do will be covered by your policy.
If your group is not employing anyone, health and safety legislation will not apply to you. However if you are motivated to do something to help your community in an emergency, you will want to make sure that the volunteers who are working with you do so safely.
Some communities have made arrangements with their local authorities to enable actions taken as part of their community emergency plan to be covered under the local authority’s third party liability insurance. You may want to discuss this possibility with your local authority.
For Community Councils covered by Zurich Municipal Insurance, it has been agreed that community resilience activities that don’t involve mechanized equipment will be covered under existing policies. You should contact Zurich Insurance to check if this applies to your group.
There are fuller guides to Insurance and Health and Safety for Community Groups in the annexes from Page 21 onwards.
Identifying and supporting places of safety
In an emergency, your local authority might need safe places or “rest centres” for people to shelter, or which can act as “hub” for information sharing across the region’s communities.
Your local authority is likely to have already identified a number of key locations, but your Community Emergency Group may be able to offer support in setting up additional locations in your local area or linking up with already identified places of safety.
Emergency Contact List
It is important to keep a record of who is in the Community Emergency Group, as well as others in the community who have offered their help in an emergency. This will help you contact everyone quickly in an emergency and make it easier for you and the emergency responders to identify who is part of the Community Emergency Group. It is important to remember to keep personal details safe, and only share them with those who need the information. For further information see:
You may want to record contacts in a “telephone tree”, which sets out a process through which people have responsibility for ringing other contacts, sharing the work.
Sharing your Plan – get other views
Once you have drafted your Plan, share it with your community, your local authority and emergency responders to get their views. It is important that all members of the community feel that the Plan works for them.
By sharing the plan you may get more people interested in it, gain further support and ensure that everyone knows who to contact and what assistance you can provide.
Step 2 – Responding and recovering
2.1 Using your Plan
In an emergency, having a Community Emergency Plan is not a substitute for calling 999.
When an emergency happens, you will need to know how best to use your Plan and volunteers.
You will have made your local emergency responders aware of your Plan as part of your planning process – and agreed how they will contact you, and how you should contact them - so it may be that you will activate your Plan in response to a call from the emergency responders. It is important that any actions which you carry out are coordinated with the wider emergency responders’ efforts.
In some circumstances, the emergency responders may be unable to contact you. Therefore, you should develop a series of triggers you can use as a Community Emergency Group to decide whether to take action, agreed in advance with your local authority.
- Have we been able to contact our local emergency responders?
- What messages are being put out in the media?
- What can we do safely without the help of the emergency responders?
What to do when you put your plan into action
Using your list of skills, people and resources, you will need to decide what you can do to work safely with the emergency responders in the immediate response to an emergency event, and a potentially long period of recovery.
2.2 Your first Community Emergency Group meeting
It may be possible for your group to meet briefly once the Plan has been activated. If so, an example of a draft agenda you can use for the first meeting can be found on page 31 of the template. The draft agenda is intended to be a guide only. You may find that your team and volunteers are already getting on with helping but it is important to make sure everyone is safe and working in a coordinated way.
During the initial response to an emergency, it might be necessary for some members of your community to be evacuated from their homes to a safe place. Speak to those coordinating the response (normally the police) to see what role your group can play in this.
You may be able to assist with tasks such as:
- door knocking or delivery of emergency messages; looking after people in a place of safety; or
- identifying those who may need extra help to move to safety.
Your group should discuss how it will cope if communications are disrupted in the area. You may have access to walkie-talkies or amateur radio groups like the Radio Amateurs’ Emergency Network (RAYNET), or other radio amateurs, that you can use to communicate with each other.
Your group could also consider door knocking as an option to communicate with the public and get the emergency responders‟ messages across if it is possible to do this safely. You should work with the emergency responders to ensure any messages they are delivering to the community are consistent with those from the emergency responders.
Step 3 – Practising and updating Your Plan
It is important to regularly review and update your Community Emergency Plan to ensure it meets the changing needs of your community. It is also important to make sure that your Plan will work properly in an emergency.
As a minimum, you should check regularly that it is still up to date. You may want to practise using the Plan to test how well it would work in an emergency, and see how ready members of your team and volunteers are to help out.
You could work with your local emergency responders, using the local risk assessment you have produced, to identify scenarios that you can use to test the arrangements you have made in your Plan.
Your local emergency responders may be planning to practise their own emergency plans and, if so, you may be able to practise “activating” your Plan as part of their exercise.
Practising the arrangements in your Plan will allow you to identify any problems with it. Once you have practised your Plan, you should review and update it. You should also regularly review and update your emergency contact list to ensure it is accurate.
When you make any changes to the Plan, you should record them to make sure that everyone knows they are using the latest version and ensure that everyone who needs a copy of the Plan is sent a copy of the updated version.
If you’ve reached this far congratulations! Every step of this process helps make you and your community more resilient – supporting the work of emergency responders and building the sense of community in your area.
Emergency responders and the Scottish Government are very interested in hearing about local communities who are rising to this challenge. If you are working on this process (or have completed it) you may wish to share your experience. You will have already involved your local authority in the process, but the Scottish Government are keen to hear about your experience: ReadyScotland@gov.scot