Only one in four communities ready to cope with emergency

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TOWN and parish councils in the East Riding are being urged to form community emergency plans after it emerged less than a quarter of the 168 councils in the borough had one, despite calls to make contingencies in the wake of the 2007 floods.

The need for local initiatives to provide rapid support in the event of an emergency is particularly great in areas with many relatively isolated rural communities such as the East Riding.

A report to a key East Riding Council committee said: “The importance of community resilience was highlighted in the East Riding of Yorkshire during the 2007 floods and in the severe weather in 2010. Some communities were cut off and had to fend for themselves because responding organisations prioritised life-threatening emergency calls.”

It continues: “In the East Riding, town and parish councils have been asked to lead the development of community resilience through the development of community emergency plans.

“Community emergency plans usually identify a local emergency co-ordination team, a place for the team to work from during an emergency, a safe place for any evacuees to shelter, a list of the vulnerable people that might need additional support, and contact details for people with skills or resources that may be helpful during the response to an emergency.”

East Riding Council regularly asks town and parish authorities if they have such a plan or place or intend to create one.

Latest figures show only 24 per cent of councils in the area have emergency plans, although 35 per cent said they were in the process of preparing one.

A total of 27 per cent decided not to produce a plan and 14 per cent failed to reply.

Less than half of the 13 town councils in the East Riding already have plans in place - those in Bridlington, Elloughton cum Brough, Howden, Market Weighton, Snaith and Cowick, and Withernsea.

The remainder – in Beverley, Driffield, Goole, Hedon, Hessle, Hornsea, and Pocklington – said they were preparing one.

Completed plans are owned and stored by the town or parish council with copies sent to East Riding Council.

It is recommended that plans are updated at least once a year.

Coun Richard Stead, chairman of the corporate and communities overview and scrutiny sub-committee, which will consider the report next Thursday, said: “I can’t understand why anybody would not have a plan in place after what happened in 2007.

“One of the first places I visited was Roos, which was badly affected, and the villagers and parish council got together straight away and put together a very good emergency plan. That could be used as a template by any council in the East Riding.

“All of a sudden they found out they had people in the village with certain expertise.

“How wonderful to know that in an emergency they and anybody in the village knows who to go to for help.

“There are areas where they can take people if their homes are flooded and they have equipment waiting at venues. They’ve got people willing to use 4x4s and other types of vehicle.

“Within a couple of hours every vulnerable person in that village will be helped in one way or another, and how wonderful to have that in place after what we went through in 2007.”

He added: “It could be floods or an aircraft disaster, all sorts of things can happen, and it would be nice to know we’ve got that comfort of having a plan in place. It’s amazing what community spirit it does bring out.”

The number of completed plans has doubled since 2009, the report said.

• LARGE swathes of the East Riding were swamped by the floods of summer 2007 and many communities were cut off.

East Riding Council admitted it had been “stretched to its limit” by the floods, which damaged 6,019 homes and 93 businesses.

In neighbouring Hull, the worst-affected local authority in the country, more than 8,000 homes and hundreds of businesses were affected.