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Paper 9 - 24 November 2000 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

24 November 2000

EMERGENCY PLANNING RESPONSE TO THE RECENT FUEL CRISIS AND FLOODING

Report by the County Emergency Planning Officer

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RECOMMENDATION

That the report be noted.

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PURPOSE OF REPORT

1.The purpose of this report is to outline to the group the recent activities of emergency planners in relation to the two recent incidents of the fuel crisis and the flooding which affected our area. Also, to advise of national and local initiatives in relation to emergency planning.

2. Please note that this report will look specifically at the work undertaken by the County Council’s Emergency Planning Unit, but this does largely reflect the work undertaken by other local authorities.

INTRODUCTION

3. The fuel crisis which occurred in September, the threatened repeat in November and the flooding incidents which occurred around the end of October and early November resulted in a very busy period for emergency planners.

4. Using the three situations referred to above I shall pick out the key actions taken by emergency planners and local authorities in respect of each incident and highlight what action Central Government is taking in the light of these national incidents.

FUEL CRISIS SEPTEMBER 2000

5. Following the actions of the fuel protestors blocking of petroleum distribution centres, the Country was very quickly and unexpectedly brought to a position of virtual stand-still. Very few petrol stations nationally had any fuel, those that did ran out very quickly and the situation was starting to affect food supply with some essential goods being in short supply e.g. bread and milk.

6. In response to this situation the County’s Emergency Planning Unit undertook the following actions/responsibilities:

* Established an inter departmental group to ensure all County Council issues were being addressed, and raised at external meetings.

* Represented the County (and Districts) at the Strategic Co-coordinating Group.

* Compiled a comprehensive list of all the County and Districts priority essential fuel users.

* Developed and implemented a system involving the distribution of priority fuel user cards to all staff requiring fuel to fulfill their duties

* Acted as a clearing house for all relevant information

* Dealt with a large number of enquiries from staff, outside bodies/agencies and the general public re the situation.

* Provided regular updates and information to both Central and Regional Government, and our own elected members.

* Liaised directly with petrol retailers to ensure supplies.

* Provided guidance for the management of internal fuel supplies

* Established fuel stocks

* Liaised regularly with the Corporate Communications Team to ensure accurate and timely dissemination of information through media channels.

* Provided the press and media with interviews and press briefings

7. The principal operational difficulty we faced was dealing with the huge volume of calls into the Unit from internal and external staff, other agencies and the general public. Our second difficulty was we were not working to a pre-prepared plan, but making one up as we went along.

THREATENED REPEAT OF THE FUEL CRISIS NOVEMBER

8. The original fuel protestors had threatened to repeat their action within 60 days if the Government did not respond to their call for a reduction in fuel tax. The Chancellor in his autumn budget statement on November 8th apparently took sufficient steps to avert this threat. However, in preparation for a repeat protest the Emergency Planning Unit put into place the following arrangements:

* Reconvening the inter departmental group.

* Advising all staff issued with fuel cards to retain them (a further stock was available for lost cards or newly identified staff requiring them)

* Regular meetings with external bodies/agencies

* Liaison with central and regional government

* Liaison with the armed forces in preparation for invoking MACC (Military Aid to the Civil Community)

* Drawing up of an operational order or plan

* All other ongoing actions to ensure the supply of fuel to designated local authority staff and premises.

* Preparing a secure, password entry, site on the Website to release key information to internal and external partners.

* Installed the hardware for a public enquiry ‘helpline’ facility

* Set up a rota of local authority personnel to staff government designated petrol stations.

9. The above actions were designed to meet all of the perceived problems raised by a repeat of the fuel crisis, fortunately the situation did not arise where they had to be put to the test.

FLOODING INCIDENTS

10. The emergency response to flooding incidents is done under close working co-operation by the District Councils and the County Surveyors department, with the former looking after homes and businesses and the latter roads and suporting Districts where resources allow. The County Council had to purchase an additional 20,000 sandbags to meet demand, on top of the stocks already held by the County and Districts.

11. The principal actions undertaken by the District Auhtorities in respect of flooding incidents were, and are, as follows:

* Operation of some form of emergency centre for the communities affected to call for assistance and to establish a tactical approach to the incident.

* Co-ordinating the deployment of operatives to relive localised flooding hotspots due to blockages in drains and ditches

* Where possible, delivery upon request of sandbags to residents where flooding to properties is envisaged.

* Opening of rest centres to enable displaced persons to locate

* Assisting flood affected householders in clearance of damaged property by provision of skips etc.

* Advise to householders on flood damage and safety implications of utility services

* Welfare provision in support of affected persons such as temporary housing and support

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

12. It is fair to say that Central Government were caught off balance with the fuel crisis, a number of departments started issuing guidance to local authorities and other bodies, and the general public. Much of this information however was confusing and often conflicting with that put out from other sources. In the main local authorities, through emergency planning, had already acted on a number of issues before central government had addressed them. The flooding incidents which followed reminded the government that emergency planning existed as a function in Local Authorities, and despite issues such as funding and legislation not having been addressed by government for some considerable time, seemed to be working. Although the response nationally has been ‘patchy’.

13. As a direct result of these incidents the Government has decided that a review of Emergency Planning should take place. This is now under way and DETR expects a report by early December.

IAN HOULT
County Emergency Planning Officer

Date: 14 November 2000
Annex: 0
Contact: Ian Hoult, 01962 846840

Last update: 23/11/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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