Partnership working is critical to the effectiveness of local arrangements for emergency planning and response. The more engaged in emergency planning and response organisations are with each other the better the outcome when plans are tested in real time situations. Experience has shown that trying to establish relationships and protocols in times of crises is difficult, and effort made in the planning training and exercising stages are essential in providing an integrated emergency response.
There are a number of examples of good practice in partnership working in Scotland, detailed below are four examples. Approaches that work in one area may not be simply picked up and transferred and applied in another context but there may be individual elements which can be adapted.
Central Scotland SCG
A voluntary sector group has existed in the structure of Central SCG for some years however from around 2006 a debate started around what sort of engagement with the voluntary sector was needed. A turning point came during the 2009 swine flu pandemic and the winter weather response in 09/10 which brought a realisation of the professional skills and response that the voluntary sector could provide in times of emergency response.
Representation at SCG level
During a restructure of the SCG in 2010 the voluntary sector was represented on the SCG in an integrated way. The SCG now has 4 main working groups with voluntary sector representation on each with attendance coordinated by a Voluntary Sector Working Group.
Single Point of Contact
The SCG has also established a single point of contact for the voluntary sector in the form of a contact number manned by the British Red Cross. This service allows incidents managers to call the BRC, discuss their needs, and the BRC can then activate and deploy the relevant response.
Central Scotland Voluntary Sector Engagement Event
Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland
At the June 2010 Voluntary Sector Community Resilience Seminar lack of awareness of capabilities of the voluntary sector by Category 1 and 2 responders was seen as a barrier to engagement.
MRCofS have taken recent steps to enhance confidence levels with their key responders to allow them to make use of and access Mountain Rescue volunteers.
Some examples are:
- Consultation with responder partners over the MRCoS Strategic Plan 2011 -2015
- Publication of Core Capabilities
- Robust internal training to recognised standards
- Regular training and development opportunities with responder partners
- Development of joint working practices for search and rescue operations with responders
As a result of severe weather, a current project aims to set up a Voluntary Organisations Tasking and Co-ordination Cell which will be based in a Co-ordination Centre. The Cell is likely to be resourced from the voluntary sector and will have access to an asset register. Existing Memoranda of Understanding not withstanding, any requests for voluntary assistance will be processed through this Cell with appropriate prioritisation and tasking taking place.
Furthermore, Strathclyde Emergencies Coordination Group have an Emergency Contact Directory that gives a single contact for each Category 1, 2 and other organisation, including the voluntary sector. The document is reviewed on a quarterly basis and issued to all member organisations.
Lothian and Borders SCG
On 15 June 2011, Lothian and Borders SCG organised a voluntary organisations seminar and exhibition.
The aim of the seminar was to provide a mutual awareness of the various voluntary organisations operating in the Lothian and Borders area.
The objectives were to;
- Raise awareness of the capabilities of voluntary organisations and what limitations exist.
- Encourage wider thinking about how each organisation and/or resource may be utilised to best effect
- Raise awareness on how voluntary agencies can work better together.
- Provide an opportunity to network and build new relationships.
Over 100 delegates attended the event and one of the products was a Voluntary Organisations Directory and contact list which is already being used by Responders in Lothian and Borders.