What was the issue that made you start this project?
Over recent years a number of areas within Perth & Kinross have experienced an emergency situation in their community, or become aware of the potential risks to their community, and are keen to build resilience in their community. As a result, several have developed, or are developing, a Community Emergency Plan.
Who was involved and what did they do?
By 4th December 2015 persistent and heavy rain from Storm Desmond was exacerbating existing saturated conditions in Perth and Kinross, raising the likelihood of some level of disruption and flooding. During the afternoon, Tayside Local Resilience Partners participated in a teleconference to ensure they were as prepared as possible.
In the early hours of 5th December, the Blair Atholl & Struan Community Resilience Group (BASCRG) were contacted by the police emergency control centre in Dundee about rising water levels on the River Garry at Blair Atholl, causing flooding in houses at Garryside. The team assembled at the site, and at the village hall where preparations were immediately made to use the hall as a temporary safe refuge, and made themselves known to the police officer in charge.
Thirteen people were taken to the village hall where coffee, tea and soup had been prepared and names were recorded. The BASCRG, which includes a retired district nurse in case of any medical problems, were able to record that most evacuees appeared in reasonably good health, though some were slightly distressed, all had brought their medications with them. After it became clear that the hall accommodation could not be a long term solution, arrangements were made to move evacuees next door to the Atholl Arms Hotel, which also agreed to serve them with breakfast.
At lunchtime the BASCRG met with Atholl Estates and the Perth & Kinross Social Services to assess the situation and discuss what further action was required. By early afternoon, the BASCRG had visited all affected households with representatives from Perth & Kinross Housing and Social Work, and damage to property had been appropriately reported. Subsequently the BASCRG were able to stand down.
Similarly, and over the same period, Community Resilience Groups in Bankfoot and Comrie were out in their villages during the early hours, helping flooded members of their communities, working on sandbag defences and recording where (and how high) the water had reached. Later in the day, the groups were able to message members of their communities with updates and key information on Facebook groups – for example, when the supplies of sandbags were running low, they highlighted the alternative of using carrier bags filled with earth.
What worked well about the project?
There was excellent communication taking place, both within the groups and between groups and the emergency service personnel in their area. This enabled the groups to fulfill crucial roles in keeping community members safe and minimising the damage caused by flooding.
What did you learn during this project?
It is really important to have a clear emergency plan in place prior to an event starting, perhaps involving a mobile text to everyone in the area, a designated gathering point, and availability of a street map to assist in dividing up door knocking work and other tasks.
There are occasions when, even with the Fire Brigade in attendance, they have nowhere to pump water to, and there may not be enough sandbags available to cope with demand. In addition to having an emergency plan in place, contingency planning is also important.
Following the flooding, the Community Resilience Coordinator said:
“This event marked the emergence of the Blair Atholl and Struan CRG from a theoretical entity to an on-the-ground action group executing our stated role of providing direct support to emergency responders and the community at large, through our key strengths of local knowledge, availability of resources and ability to deploy volunteers with a diverse range of skills and experience”.
What was it that made it work?
The community groups in this area have good relationships with a range of other local organisations and responders, excellent knowledge of the local community and their own skill sets, and a proactive attitude to communication.
Perth & Kinross respond to Storm Desmond