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PROVIDING PUBLIC HEALTH, ENVIRONMENTAL, SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ADVICE TO STRATEGIC COORDINATING GROUPS IN SCOTLAND

December 2012

Part 2

Part 2

STAC Detailed guidance template

This template provides a model only and needs to be adapted for local area use by the responder members of the Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG). Responders should develop their own detailed practical guidance and should include as much specific local detail as necessary to ensure that a functioning STAC can be established rapidly and supplemented as necessary, depending on the nature and scale of any particular emergency.

1. Introduction

This annex sets out detailed guidance on the practical aspects of organising and managing a Scientific and Technical Advice Cell (STAC). The template is based on a model originally developed by Health Protection Scotland with the NHS Boards.

A STAC may be established in any circumstances where it is likely to be helpful and need not be reserved only for situations where the full strategic level arrangements are enacted. Local area arrangements for establishing a STAC should therefore be sufficiently flexible to allow for the formation of a STAC for various types of scenario (e.g. where expert advice is required for tactical or operational level action).

Where appropriate, a STAC should be established at an early stage of development in an emergency to allow time to anticipate the range of impacts which could occur. The STAC therefore has a proactive anticipatory role and should actively consider “what if” scenarios, rather than being solely reactive.

2. Definitions

The STAC will be the main mechanism for coordinating multi-agency specialist advice to cover public health, environmental, scientific and technical issues. Protection of public health should be a foremost concern of STAC as part of any coordinated emergency response.

Arrangements for calling-out and supporting a STAC should be included in Strategic Coordinating Group generic plans. Detailed arrangements for scientific and technical advice are included in plans for a number of specific types of emergency – e.g. oil and chemical spill (MCA National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution); nuclear sites (HSE REPPIR and NEPLG Guidance). The SCG area generic arrangements can be used in the case where specific plans are not activated.

The core composition of a STAC and the mechanism for assembling it are likely to be similar irrespective of the type of emergency. In some specific types of emergency, individual or groups of specialist advisers or other government agency advisers can support the work of the SCG. The advice from these specialist advisers must be fed to the SCG through the STAC reporting arrangements to ensure coordination of the advice.

3. Activation of STAC arrangements

STAC will usually be formed at the request of the lead responding organisation (in most, but not all cases this will be the Police) in discussion with the potential chair of STAC.

The responsibility for activating the initial call-out of a STAC should lie with the lead responding organisation as a standard arrangement.

The Director of Public Health (DPH), or the duty Consultant in Public Health Medicine (CPHM) for the relevant NHS Board should be contacted and asked to chair the STAC.

It is recommended that in the very early stages of any emergency (unless it is very clear at the outset what scale and nature of response is required), only the core members of the STAC should be requested to attend a meeting. Following an initial risk assessment the remaining members of the STAC may be asked to attend or be put on standby to offer advice as required by telephone.

In addition to activating the STAC core members, the STAC Support Team should be alerted and the pre-identified dedicated facilities for the STAC and the STAC Support Team should be activated.

4. STAC Support Team

A dedicated support team will be required to facilitate the functioning of a STAC. The organisation chairing the STAC will be responsible for ensuring that there are adequate administrative arrangements in place to support the operation of the STAC. A STAC Support Team Manager should be appointed to be responsible for the team.

The role and responsibilities of the STAC Support Team are:

  • operating the STAC facility for the duration of the emergency
  • recording and logging all calls to, and requests for advice from, the STAC
  • managing generic mailboxes
  • maintaining action and decision logs and producing minutes of STAC meetings
  • maintaining a “focus board”; or equivalent to record live issues and status of STAC actions
  • maintaining a current STAC members briefing board listing all the current STAC members and chair
  • any additional practical and facility support as requested by the STAC chair

The STAC Support Team Manager should coordinate support team members and create a rota to ensure adequate coverage on a 24-hour basis, if required.

The composition of the STAC Support Team should include:

  • STAC Support Team Manager
  • staff officer/emergency planning adviser to support the STAC chair specifically
  • sufficient administrative and clerical staff to cover:
    1. secretariat assistance to the STAC chair and STAC members
    2. minute and action note taking
    3. message logging, telephone answering and general admin support (a minimum of three individuals is suggested)

There may be other support roles agreed locally and sufficient staff should be required to undertake these duties.

5. STAC facilities

A STAC should operate at the same location as the main coordinating group or its equivalent, e.g. at a Strategic Coordination Centre (SCC). Where this is not the case an alternative venue must be identified and communicated clearly to all members of the STAC, the STAC support team and the SCG.

The STAC should have at least two dedicated areas, i.e. a staff working area and a separate STAC meeting area.

Facilities for the STAC should be pre-identified and tested and once the decision to form a STAC is made, these should be brought into operation as soon as possible. Detailed plans for the facilities should be provided in advance to enable their rapid setup. The working area should be suitably equipped with adequate:

  • meeting table and chairs
  • computers and laptops as required
  • working desks and chairs
  • room dividers/screens
  • telephones/teleconferencing and video conferencing facilities
  • network access points
  • faxing facilities
  • photocopying facilities or ready access to such nearby
  • copies of appropriate documentation and templates
  • one or more whiteboards, flip charts and notice boards

At the very least there must be a suitably equipped working area with adequate telephone and IT connection facilities so that members of STAC can communicate with responding organisations and other STACs if activated.

A local STAC plan should incorporate a list of all equipment available to the STAC (see Appendix J).

6. STAC meetings

The STAC chair will coordinate the STAC meetings and will represent the STAC on the SCG or equivalent.

The STAC chair will be responsible for ensuring that the STAC functions effectively and provides the necessary advice to support the effective management of the emergency.

The STAC chair should brief the other STAC members on the role and remit of the STAC and should set out “ground rules” of operation at the initial meeting and thereafter as often as required (see Appendix G for list of briefing issues and ground rules).

A model agenda for STAC meetings is provided (see Appendix F [initial meeting] and H [follow on meetings]).

Meetings should be short, regular and decision focussed, ideally lasting no more than 30 minutes. Decisions should be made on the best possible information available at the time and not delayed unduly until the “ideal” information becomes available.

Meetings should be timed to occur between meetings of the SCG or equivalent to enable the STAC chair (or alternatively another designated STAC representative) to attend SCG meetings. Meeting scheduling is critical for multiple STACs to enable joint STAC meetings. Joint STAC meetings with all STAC chairs should be considered to ensure effective information provision and networking.

Meetings should have accurate minutes taken to record the decisions and actions that are agreed. There should be a rapid turnaround of the minutes to incorporate new actions in a running action log for review at each subsequent meeting. Meeting protocols should include the minute circulation details particularly when multiple STACs are functioning. The decision log template (Appendix M) may be useful to record decisions.

New STAC members or staff rotating into STAC due to shift arrangements should be briefed adequately by their colleagues so that STAC meeting time is not wasted by repetitious updating of new members. This could be achieved through the use of a status board.

STAC members should be aware of their role and that of the organisation they represent and should consult the action cards appended (see Appendix A).

7. Communications and media relations

The STAC should advise the SCG on appropriate risk communication messages for release through the Public Communications Group, which in turn will advise on the most appropriate methodology for release.

Where possible a designated communications officer from within the PCG should be identified to support the STAC, who can coordinate and liaise with the other members of the PCG and with the communications staff of any other agencies represented on STAC.

8. Prolonged emergencies

If an emergency is expected to last for more than 24 hours, agencies represented on the STAC will be required to ensure adequate rotation of staff to minimise fatigue. This may include mutual aid support being identified from surrounding responding agencies.

See Appendix E for example rota planning template

9. Recovery and remediation phase

Coordination of an emergency may move from the police or another lead responder to a local authority once the acute response phase is complete.

The requirement for a STAC is likely to continue though the type of advice required may change focus.

It may be appropriate to consider a change in the chairmanship of the STAC if the focus for advice has moved from public health aspects to more environmental or technical issues. Any decision to change responsibility for chairing the STAC should be by mutual agreement.

10. Stand down of STAC

The STAC should be stood down when it is clear that there is no continuing need to maintain such a group and in agreement with the chair of the SCG or equivalent.

11. Debriefing process

There should be a debriefing process to capture lessons identified by the STAC membership during the course of the emergency. These lessons should be fed into a final debrief report. The STAC chair should ensure recommendations are noted regarding the operation of the STAC and these should be circulated via the final debrief report to all participating agencies, to enable them to address any areas identified as requiring improvement action.

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