Skip to main content


November 2017

Care for People Tasks and Activities following an emergency

Care for People Tasks and Activities following an emergency

The Team’s activities should follow the stepped care model described above.

For the purpose of illustrating the Team's activities following an emergency, the examples below are built around response to a catastrophic emergency in one location. However, by basing its response on generic arrangements, the Team will be able to adapt to the particular needs of most emergencies. Resilience partners should acknowledge that the Team's activation may be required for events below the scale of emergency identified by the Civil Contingencies Act.

In an emergency the Team would be called out and would take action to care for people. The Team's arrangements will need to describe activation and reporting procedures. The activation procedures should minimise delay in alerting and implementing the Team's activities. Ideally a single point of contact will have access to those authorised to act regardless of the establishment of the resilience partnership strategic level.

The emergency services are well trained and prepared to deal with those seriously injured or whose lives are at risk. Those activities are covered in Responding to Emergencies in Scotland elsewhere in Preparing Scotland.

There may be evacuees and those who have survived and have been assessed as not requiring medical treatment. They may be traumatised, suffering from shock, anxiety or grief. The emergency services may ask the Team to provide for their wellbeing while they address other urgent needs.


Immediate - During the First Few Hours

The core activity of the Care for People team is to provide practical and psychosocial support for those affected by the emergency. As noted previously the response should be based on the principles of PFA and:

  • provide immediate care for physical needs
  • protect from further threat and distress
  • provide comfort and consolation for people in distress
  • provide practical help and support for real-world-based tasks
  • provide information on coping and accessing additional support
  • facilitate reunion with loved ones where possible and/or connection with social supports
  • provide education about normal responses to trauma exposure.


In the event of an incident such as a building collapse, transportation incident, an industrial accident or similar event where there is a need to provide short term shelter to those who may have been directly affected by the incident but do not require immediate hospitalisation, the Police may request a Survivor Reception Centre to be established.

A Rest Centre may also be established to provide a place of safety where people who have been evacuated from an area of risk and unable to return to their own premises can receive welfare assistance and/or psychosocial support.

Depending on the circumstances, the centre may be opened for a short or prolonged period as appropriate. It may provide shelter; food and hot drinks; comfort and support; advice and information, and if necessary dry and clean clothing. Again, depending on the geographical location and specifics of the incident, these premises may be required to be capable of sheltering and coping with large numbers of people and in exceptional circumstances may be required to provide overnight accommodation.

Following incidents where there have been a significant number of casualties or fatalities, relatives and friends of those involved may decide to travel to the scene. In such an event and normally on the request of the Police, the Local Authority (or other operator), may arrange for the opening of a Family and Friends Reception Centre to receive them.

Casualty Bureau is established by the Police as a mechanism for receiving and collating all data about casualties. Information received through a public-facing telephone line is collated and processed by a Police team to:

  • gather as much information about the incident as possible - information is processed and disseminated as appropriate to inform ongoing response operations and communications
  • help trace and identify individuals who have been involved in the incident
  • reunite missing persons with family/friends.


Casualty Bureau numbers may be linked to telephone support lines, which will provide initial support and signposting for those contacting the Bureau line.


Short Term - Following Hours and First Few Days

Specific formal interventions, such as single session debriefing, should not be provided.

Whilst the immediate needs of those affected are being addressed the Team should consider people's requirements for the medium to longer term. It should adapt its management arrangements to suit the circumstances of the emergency.

Wherever possible, the Team should work in partnership with the individual, family and community to promote self-help and enhance social support.

Tasks and activities that the Team should consider when caring for people during the first week of an emergency include:

  • activate and coordinate multi-agency response to the emergency.
  • establish support centres as appropriate if not already set up in the first few hours for example a Humanitarian Assistance Centre (HAC) may be established if the response is likely to run for the medium to long term. (See Annex B on different functions of centres and tips on setting them up)
  • provide shelter and sustenance for those affected.
  • provide practical support and advice for those affected.
  • provide comfort and emotional support (based on principles of PFA)
  • contact people identified as vulnerable prior to the emergency.
  • collect information about the people affected by the emergency so they can be offered follow on services as appropriate.
  • aim should be to record data only once and for there to be effective information sharing between partners. If there is a Police investigation, balance the need to collect evidence with people’s needs for practical and emotional support.
  • engage with the affected communities.
  • plan for funerals/memorial services with the affected people (see section on memorials).
  • communicate with the public (including through incident specific websites, and in a range of language/formats).
  • work in collaboration with your agency’s press office to provide quick and accurate updates for the Media and to convey to the public, coordinated with other agencies as required.
  • provide care and support to staff of responding organisations.
  • see advice regarding establishing appeal funds (see section on donations).
  • seek specialist advice from social care, public health and mental health professionals.


An important role for the Team's managers is to keep abreast of the contemporary environment in which its work is set and adapt its management to suit and linking in with the broader recovery team. This will include the important decisions to expand, maintain, reduce or discontinue any special arrangements and manage the transition to provide care through normal services. These decisions should be taken with the knowledge and support of those affected.

Managers will need to reflect upon a variety of features which may include:

  • the Team's capacity and arrangements for joint working including: location, hours, staffing levels;
  • identifying the needs of those affected by virtue of the particular circumstances of the emergency;
  • establishing the means of reaching out to individuals and communities that might include:
  • a single or multiple outreach centres for those affected (HACs);
  • outreach facilities for particular communities;
  • provision for the bereaved, relatives and friends of those affected;
  • direct contact with affected individuals;
  • community engagement and monitoring of community wellbeing;
  • public information (helpline, website, newsletter, etc.) in conjunction with the Public Communications Group (PCG);
  • service delivery at the point of need;
  • links with other agencies (transport operators, those affected support groups, etc.);
  • links with remote support organisations (for example, local authorities at departure points in transport accidents); and
  • links with the RRP's other functional management teams (PCG, STAC, finance, etc.)


During the First Month

Flooding and storm damage can result in need for shelter and support for a number of weeks and longer. The cumulative effects of Storm Desmond and Storm Frank in 2015/16 would have required this type of support.

Tasks and activities that the Team should consider when caring for people during a prolonged emergency include:

  • review and co-ordinate multi-agency response to the emergency including practical and psychosocial needs, seeking specialist advice as appropriate.
  • ensure emergency specific support centres are available to all those affected and are integrated with other community, social and mental health services (see Bond Helicopter Case Study on page 31).
  • facilitate mutual support between those affected if they wish to meet.
  • address practical needs of those affected, e.g. shelter, support dealing with insurance claims.
  • monitor vulnerable people including those directly affected (bereaved, injured, made homeless) and offer psychosocial support as required. In some situations (e.g. where those affected are spread across a wide geographical area) monitoring may be done via a Mental Health Check, where people are sent a questionnaire to assess how they have been affected and whether they require additional support.
  • provide mental health assessments and evidence-based psychological treatment as required.
  • update websites and other public communications.
  • continue to support staff involved in the response (especially where staff are involved in the response role in addition to their usual role).


Case Study: Bond Helicopter Crash 2009

The April 2009 North Sea helicopter crash involved a Eurocopter AS332L2 Super Puma Mk 2 belonging to Bond Offshore Helicopters, engaged on flight 85N, that crashed 11 nautical miles (20 km) north-east of Peterhead, Scotland just before 2:00 pm on 1 April 2009 in the North Sea while returning from a BP oil platform in the Miller oilfield, 240 km (150 mi) north-east of Peterhead. The crash killed all sixteen people aboard. The cause was main rotor separation following a catastrophic gearbox failure. Fifteen of the dead lived in Aberdeen City or Aberdeenshire and there was one foreign national.

The oil companies involved wish to set up a facility to support the bereaved families and an Incident Support Centre was set up in a detached property within the grounds of an Aberdeen Hotel. The centre was designed to be a focal point for information and assistance to bereaved families, friends and work colleagues, and to all those directly affected by, and involved in, the incident. The Centre was staffed by Social Workers from both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, Salvation Army, RVS, Red Cross as well as the companies who had staff onboard the helicopter.

The centre was opened for 3 weeks where support, advise and signposting for everyone who was involved directly and indirectly. A very few were referred to statutory services/support services ie financial and bereavement. A closure date for the Centre was determined at the outset, albeit the length of time it remained opened was extended to allow all ongoing support mechanisms to be put in place.

All bereaved families were allocated a Social Worker who continued to work with families as required once the Centre closed.

The OOH Social Work Service was the initial point of contact after the Centre closed for those who required support, but did not access it whilst the Incident Support Centre was operational. The Incident Support Centre telephone number which had been widely publicised was replaced with an answering machine message which gave information on how to access support.


Two Months and Beyond

It is important to recognise that the wide range and diversity of activities required to support and assist those affected by emergencies may need to be place for some time. In addition to immediate shelter and practical assistance, there may be a need to provide psychosocial and mental health support for a number of years. For example, it is not uncommon for legal proceedings relating to emergencies to take place several years after the event. These proceedings and their findings, together with any associated media interest, may be a source of further distress for those affected by the emergency and for the wider community.

The Lockberie Disaster, the Dunblane massacre and the helicopter crash at the Clutha bar are all examples where this has been a concern for the community and the families involved.

Tasks and activities that the Team should consider when caring for people for emergencies that may have happened months and years previously include:

  • continue to provide practical and psychosocial support to those affected.
  • provide specialist support as appropriate, e.g. financial or legal advice.
  • provide mental health assessments and evidence-based psychological treatment as required.
  • liaise and consult with support groups if established.
  • ensure emergency specific support centres are available to all those affected for as long as need persists.
  • give careful consideration to the closure of support centre and ensure they are integrated with other community, social and mental health services.
  • provide work, rehabilitation and play opportunities for those who need them to re-adapt to routines of everyday life.
  • memorial services, acts of remembrance and cultural rituals marking the anniversaries of the emergency should be planned in conjunction with the people who have been affected. Some people may require additional support at this time.
  • as it is not unusual for legal proceedings relating to emergencies to take place several years after the event, the Care for People team should work with communication teams and relevant agencies to ensure psychosocial support is available to those involved.



Experience has demonstrated that memorial services provide an opportunity for people to come together in mutual support and that this can help or hinder people’s recovery in the aftermath of an emergency.

It can be a challenge to balance the needs of the bereaved, of survivors, and their family and friends with those of the local and national community but funerals, memorial services, acts of remembrance and cultural rituals should be planned in conjunction with the people who have been affected.

Memorials may also receive extensive media coverage. For these reasons it is important to consider the organisation and structure of events very carefully (covering such aspects as timing, invitations, representation and conduct) and to liaise with relevant media agencies.

Preparations for such an occasion should involve representatives of the bereaved, survivors, the local community and relevant faith communities as well as dignitaries, those who provided different aspects of the response and advisers on security and media coverage.

Consideration should also be given to the appropriateness of the location and lifespan of spontaneous floral or other tributes which may be displayed.


Stay Informed

Ready Scotland regularly publishes alerts on both Twitter and Facebook. Follow and like our pages to keep up to date wherever you are.

follow us on twitter like us on facebook