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Emergency planning is no game

From severe winter weather to swine flu and climate change to the Olympics, it is hard to remember a time when local authorities have faced such a wide variety of risks Public Sector Executive magazine spoke to James Cook to find out what the main issues are around emergency planning

With the Olympics on the horizon the challenge for emergency planning and business continuity is clear: “efficiency versus resilience”.

“Local authorities are going to have to do a lot of work in the run up to the Olympics to ensure they are prepared,” says James Cook, who is chair of the London branch of the Emergency Planning Society.

“The profession is well aware of its impacts but I am not sure whether the rest of the organisation realise how much work is needed . The impact of the Games will be unlike anything London has seen in recent years.

“There is likely to be a fine balance within the capital between resilience and the maintenance of ‘normal life’ and ‘business as usual’ versus the successful delivery of the Games. This will result in arrangements and procedures to ensure that the City and Olympic Park have the resources to ensure the capital and Games keep running during a financially difficult time.

“Not only will organisations need to ‘scale up’ activities but business continuity and the ability to maintain critical activities is vital, in some cases new activities may need to be established.”

Apart from the Olympic issue faced by London councils, one which will affect all councils is that of flooding, both surface water and river flooding and the new legislation around it which recently received Royal assent.

“Years ago the government took the responsibility for flood risk management away from councils and now they are giving it all back. This means that all of the expertise around flooding and drainage has now gone from councils yet we are now expected to lead on local flood risk management without the expertise and resources to do so.

“Some local authorities are very well advanced in terms of their planning but others are struggling due to the overwhelming expectations placed on councils with regards to emergency planning. There will also need to be a very thorough training and exercise programme once the planning is complete.”

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