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May 2019

Good Practice

Good Practice

Recommended good practice

This section makes recommendations, based on existing good practice, for developing community resilience. It is structured around a four-step process:

  1. Awareness – engagement with communities to develop a shared understanding of the risks they face
  2. Landscape review – establish what assets are available, both amongst responders and the communities themselves
  3. Option appraisal – establish a strategic approach, deciding who to engage with, in what order of priority and how support will be offered
  4. Develop and implement support with communities – creating local activism is key to long-term success


Awareness – understanding and communicating risks

RPs and responder agencies are generally aware of the risks likely to have a significant impact in their area. Historical events are the best indicator of risks they face. Scotland is a relatively safe country, and if communities can prepare for events like flooding, disruption due to weather, or extended loss of power, this will help them to cope with other incidents they are likely to experience. Community Risk Registers are now mature documents – but are not widely known about or understood by the public. If individuals and local community groups are not aware of the risks they face then there will be little motivation for them to act.

RPs and responder organisations developing programmes to build community resilience should consider:

How they generate interest in this issue without causing undue alarm, bearing in mind that Scotland is a relatively safe country. Experience has shown that successful public communication on this issue can be structured around three key messages:

  1. Emergencies happen, and will impact on everyone
  2. There are straightforward steps that individuals and groups can take to help themselves and their communities and
  3. Signposting to further [local] help and advice


It’s important to be clear when promoting community resilience that communities and individuals are being asked to take steps that complement the work of emergency response organisations in partnership with them, not replace it.

It may be that interest stems directly from communities when they have experienced the consequences of an incident, such as flooding or a significant utilities failure. In this case the challenge will be to encourage them to use their energies to prepare for a broad range of consequences as opposed to focusing solely on the last incident

Once responders are ready to launch an initiative they should consider the following communication channels – both to raise risk awareness and to announce any proposed activity:

  • Existing credible channels of communication such as council newsletters and websites
  • Community facing-processes such as community planning and community safety processes and area networks
  • Existing sources of information and advice, such as the Scottish Government’s Ready Scotland website
  • Working in partnership with other organisations, including schools, community councils, housing associations and other partnerships and voluntary sector groups, who have networks in communities


Sharing examples of good practice can be helpful in promoting involvement. Where communities can see the benefit of a community emergency plan or other initiative in a neighboring community they may be motivated to develop something which is appropriate to their area. There is also evidence that engaging in community resilience planning can in itself foster a sense of community by promoting:

  • Shared identity among community members around awareness of hazards, assets and planning to pull together in a crisis
  • Greater mutual understanding between community members
  • Enhanced networks and social capital, within communities and with the responder community


Encouraging households to complete a household emergency plan, can improve household level resilience and encourage people to take the next step towards building resilience in their neighborhood. Working with young people, particularly through schools, can be a useful way to build awareness and a desire to take further action amongst individuals and families.


Landscape review – establishing what assets are available

In seeking to build community resilience it is important to establish what organisations are active in an area and try to identify both organisations and individuals that could “anchor” community resilience work in different communities. Responders should consider the contributions which could be made by:

  • Voluntary sector organisations which have emergency response as part of their core remit. These can be national organisations such as British Red Cross or RVS, which have a footprint in communities locally, or local groups such as community flood groups
  • Wider voluntary sector organisations which make an existing contribution to resilience, but for whom emergency response is not an existing core activity, such as residents’ associations
  • Community safety organisations and groups such as the Scottish Community Safety Network, the local Community Safety Partnerships across Scotland and organisations such as Neighbourhood Watch Scotland
  • Representative groups such as community councils and residents associations
  • Voluntary sector organisations which work with vulnerable people such as lunch clubs for older people
  • Organisations that may be able to provide particular assistance (e.g. social clubs or rugby clubs who could provide extra resources during severe conditions etc.)


It is also important to consider the role that existing community activists and elected members can play. Community activists, even if they are not currently engaged in community resilience activity, can provide a link between communities and responders. Elected members, both at local authority and community council levels, as elected representatives of their communities, can promote awareness of the concept of community resilience and act as a conduit for information between local authorities and communities. They should ensure that they are aware of the responsibilities of their Council under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA) and have a good understanding of their role in terms of emergency planning. Guidance on the role of elected council members in resilience is available through Council Emergency Planning Units or through the Briefing Note10 provided by the Improvement Service for Elected Members.

Once interested and willing groups have been identified, they should be encouraged to consider the assets which they have available to assist. The Guide to Emergency Planning for Community Groups takes interested groups through this process.


Option appraisal – establish a strategic approach to engagement

Responders should take a strategic view of how to prioritise their engagement with communities. It will not usually be appropriate to target all communities at once, as this would be difficult to resource and sustain. In practice, the best approach is likely to be a pragmatic one which focuses both on identifying opportunities to support local activism, and on working with those communities which have the most significant risk profiles and levels of vulnerability. In many areas it will make sense to take an approach which involves focusing both on:

Communities which may be more likely to self-start with involvement in community resilience activities, such as:

  • Communities which have recently experienced the effects of relatively frequently occurring emergencies such as severe weather or flooding, which have raised awareness of the need for resilience
  • Communities which have particularly strong social capital assets, such as active community councils, neighbourhood watch groups or residents associations


And communities which may be particularly vulnerable to the consequences of emergencies:

  • Communities which are subject to particular risks, such as isolated areas, or places close to specific hazards (e.g. COMAH sites)
  • Vulnerability can be exacerbated by individual or community level deprivation, or other social or demographic factors that mean that community members could be disproportionately impacted by the consequences of emergencies


The profile of resilience is often raised when individuals and communities face adversity, and adversity often brings communities together and provides a focus for collective action. Places which have been hit by relatively frequently occurring emergencies such as severe weather or flooding are likely to be easy to involve in community resilience work, although clearly sensitivity is required when working in these areas.

There is some evidence to suggest that rural communities, and relatively affluent communities may start from a higher level of resilience, and have higher levels of social capital more generally. In the case of rural communities they may also be more likely to be subject to more routine emergencies such as isolation and utilities failure caused by severe weather.

Working with a pilot community to develop approaches can also serve to raise the profile of community resilience in other areas. For example, Scottish Borders Council initiated its

‘Resilient Communities’ Initiative by helping certain communities develop Community Emergency Plans. When the plans were launched to an audience of community council members from across the local authority area over 50% of the council’s 66 community councils requested that they be helped to produce a similar plan, and the council has put in place a strategic programme of activity to provide this support.


Developing and implementing support for communities

Responders should think about how to support communities in ways which meet local priorities, and build on existing local arrangements for engaging with communities, where these exist.

The Scottish Government does not want to prescribe ideal forms of engagement or working methods – individual RPs and responders are far better placed to design and implement programmes appropriately. How these develop will depend on the approach taken by the agencies and the make-up of the communities themselves. A suggested model to help consider how best to engage and some good practice examples are provided below in order to assist. As more community resilience programmes are developed, this guidance will be updated to ensure that good practice is shared widely.


Awareness – Develop a collaborative approach

Experience from those areas that have already launched community resilience initiatives suggests that communities are more likely to become involved if one or more of the responder agencies will “meet them half way” in the challenge – this allows the community to realise that it is not alone in its efforts to build resilience. Successful examples of good support being provided to community groups include:

  • Helping to produce an outline of a Community Emergency Plan for the community, populating with demographic information, flood maps, key contact points, etc
  • Offering modest levels of equipment, training or support in response to development of plans and working groups
  • Offering local recognition or reward to communities that take action – both to keep their motivation levels high and to generate interest from other communities


Assets – Review good practice and help communities make use of the assets they have

There is a wide range of central and local initiatives planned or under way to help encourage, build and recognise community resilience. A summary of the main areas is provided below with links to more information.


Support Action – Guide to Emergency Planning for Community Groups

The Scottish Government has published a Guide to Emergency Planning for Community Groups, which takes communities through a process of identifying risks and measures which community members can take to make their communities safer.

The guide contains advice, a step-by-step guide to producing a community emergency plan, and templates which communities can use or adapt to their needs. The templates are not branded, and communities are free to change the appearance in order to promote a sense of community ownership of the plan. The approach which the guide sets out is designed to be flexible, and communities and responders can take from it what suits them, and adapt it for their needs.

To be most effective, this process requires support. It will work best where community groups are supported by responders who have an understanding of emergency planning, the local risk environment, and community development skills. Key aspects of support which communities will require to successfully complete a community emergency plan are:

  1. General background information, which may include local maps of main roads and rail lines, rivers and lakes, community facilities like, schools, village halls and demographic and other statistical background information
  2. Advice about risk assessment, which is appropriate for their area
  3. Information about what they can expect from local responders if an emergency occurs
  4. Advice about overcoming barriers to participation, such as worries about insurance and public liability, which may arise


However, for the process to be sustainable, it must be community-led, and community emergency plans must be owned by the community. An important part of this approach is to ensure that channels of communication between responders and communities are established. This is usually done by nominating one or more coordinator within the community who can become known to local authority emergency planning officers (EPOs), and who are contactable by and can contact the EPO in the event of an emergency. Local services such as shops and pubs can also act as a communication hub within communities, and in recent emergencies, people who run these businesses have acted as the point of contact between communities and responders.

Examples of community emergency plans which have been produced by Scottish communities are available on the Ready Scotland website.


Contributing to this guidance

Any user of the guidance who wishes to propose a change/s for consideration is encouraged to make contact via the following e-mail address:




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