Step 1 - Making your plan
Download the templates:
- Community Emergency Plan template
- Community Emergency Group draft first meeting agenda template
- Household Emergency Plan template
This guide takes you through a step by step process that will enable you to decide who your plan is for, get the right advice, think about the risks your community faces, think about the local skills, knowledge and resources, involve all the people who can help, and to write and test a plan.
Achieving any of these things will help make your community more resilient.
Look out for the "action" markers in the guide for suggestions on how to complete sections of the plan, and where to find information to help you.
It may help you to gather background information on your community, such as a map of the area covered, which could include:
- main roads and rail lines
- rivers and lochs
- community facilities such as schools, village halls and residential homes
- grit bins
A guide to making your plan
- Getting advice
- Who can you work with?
- Who will take the lead?
- Identifying risks
- What your community group can do to prepare
- Assessing community skills and resources
- Tools and equipment
- Insurance and health and safety
- Identifying key locations
- Emergency contact list
- Your completed plan
You will want advice and assistance preparing your plan.
Contact Argyll and Bute Council Emergency Planning on:
01436 658728 or 01436 658729
Argyll and Bute Council also has examples of completed emergency plans from other communities and can send copies to you if requested.
Action: Decide who and where your plan is for
One of the first things to think about is who can help you. In many areas there are already active community groups and businesses which help respond to emergencies. Consider what already exists around you.
As well as Argyll and Bute Council, you may want to talk to your local councillors and local organisations like the police, fire service, ambulance service, NHS board, and voluntary organisations active in your area such as mountain rescue teams, the RVS or the British Red Cross.
It is important to remember that you need to have support and enthusiasm from your community for a plan to work. People need to be prepared to sign up and offer to get involved in helping if an emergency happens. Raising awareness and encouraging people to see the value of joining in are an important part of building the foundations for a plan.
To make your plan more effective, as diverse a group as possible within your community should have a chance to get involved. Different people bring different skills and opportunities. For example, some people may not be able to clear snow, but could be willing to help look after people who have to leave their homes in an emergency. People from different ethnic communities may have language skills, and could help communicate with people in your community whose first language is not English.
You could have an open meeting where the community can discuss their ideas for the plan and find out who is interested in helping to create it. There may already be a regular meeting where you can do this – such as a community council meeting, neighbourhood watch or residents’ association.
You will need to bear in mind that you may need different methods to communicate with all your community. For example, people with childcare responsibilities may not be able to attend evening meetings and not everyone will be comfortable getting information by e-mail or through websites.
When you have got a group of people together, this is the group that will lead your preparations and coordinate the action you take with the emergency responders in your area.
It may help to identify a co-ordinator to take a lead role in organising and taking forward the work of this group, and helping to keep up motivation and interest from their community.
It is important that the person taking on this role has a good understanding of your community, and has the backing and support of community members.
Action: talk to your local authority, and other key agencies if you need to, and the rest of your community.
In order to plan for emergencies you need to know:
- what risks face you?
- how likely are they to come about?
- if they happen, what would their impact be?
- are any people in your community particularly at risk?
It’s important that you focus on those risks that:
- are important to you; and
- you can do something about.
Examples of the sort of risks you can consider are described below.
- are there any particular areas that flood regularly?
- are you frequently cut off by snow?
- are there any sites of environmental or historic importance which may be impacted?
- is there a major transport facility (like a ferry port or a train station) in the area?
- are there any vulnerable bridges or main roads?
- are there any large industrial sites in the area?
- are there any known vulnerable people/groups in your area?
Examples may include:
- people who have recently had an operation
- people without access to transport
- people with limited mobility
- people reliant on regular medication or health visits
- are there any groups who might find it difficult to understand emergency information?
- are there any groups who don’t live in the area full-time like holiday makers or travelling communities to consider?
Emergency responders cannot always determine exactly what individuals need, nor can they always identify who in your community may be vulnerable in a crisis, particularly those who may not previously have received support.
This requires local knowledge and help. Think about how you could share this information with the emergency responders if an emergency occurs.
Argyll and Bute Council, NHS Highland, housing associations and other voluntary groups will also have a good idea of the people or communities who are vulnerable.
For each risk, you should also think about what actions you can take to reduce the chances of it happening, or to minimise any impact.
The emergency responders already do a lot of work to identify the risks in their areas. They meet regularly as a Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG). This group has the responsibility for the co-ordination of regional emergency planning and for overseeing the response to and recovery from, major emergencies. It also has a duty to publish a “Community Risk Register” (CRR) showing what risks have been identified in your area, and their potential impact.
It is worth looking at this document to help you think about the potential risks to your local area and their impacts.
However they will not know who may become vulnerable in a crisis, or what help they might want or need. This is where your help is particularly important.
However, the CRR mainly talks about relatively high-level threats, and how the emergency responders can address them. You should also use your local knowledge to try and identify other risks in your local area that may not be included in them.
Action: Complete the risk assessment template on page 3 of the Community Emergency Plan
One of the key things which your community group can do to make your community more resilient is to encourage individuals and families to think about what they would do in the event of an emergency.
You might want to consider encouraging local people to make plans for how they and their families would cope in an emergency. We have put together a Household Emergency Plan template which you can encourage people to complete and this is included in the guide on page 37. You may want to consider circulating this or something similar in your community.
Once your community is aware of the risks and what their impacts would be, it is important to consider what skills, resources and equipment your community already has that could be used, if needed, during an emergency.
You may be surprised at the level of knowledge you have and the wealth of equipment and other resources you have in your community. In any case, it is better to find out now what is or is not available.
You may want to look at your community’s existing skills and resources under the following headings and add this information to your plan.
People already help each other in emergencies. However, as part of your planning, you could speak to people and groups in your community and ask them, in advance, if they would be willing to volunteer during an emergency, and if they have skills, tools or other resources that could be used. For example, some people may have equipment and expertise they are willing to use while others may be trained in first aid or food preparation. Many people will be able to help in tasks such as clearing snow.
You can ask people about their skills and resources using a questionnaire. It’s important to remember that people like to be communicated with in a number of ways.
You might also want to consider talking with existing local community groups to see if their volunteers or contacts would be willing to help in an emergency.
For example, sports club members may be willing to help out if required. It is important to make sure that you keep volunteers up to date and engaged with your emergency planning.
With your community, think about what tools and machinery might be needed if an emergency occurs. There may be people who are qualified, capable and willing to operate these tools and machines in an emergency. For example, tree surgeons may have useful skills and equipment and farmers may be willing to use their tractors to help. It is important to make sure that anyone using this kind of equipment is properly qualified and insured to do so. This is for their own protection and to protect the people they are helping.
In an emergency, your community could require supplies, like food and water, which may be difficult to obtain. Where appropriate, you could consider talking directly with local businesses and suppliers who might be willing to provide them. If a written agreement is made between your community and the supplier, attach this to your plan.
Find out which vehicles could be used by the local community and know how to access them in an emergency. It is important to make sure that vehicle owners are properly licensed and insured to use their vehicles in this way.
Action: Complete the local skills and resources template on page 4 of the Community Emergency Plan
You should definitely not see insurance and liability as a barrier to preparing your community for emergencies. Having a Community Emergency Plan does not mean that volunteers will be putting themselves in danger, or endangering other people in the community. In fact it means the opposite.
For every-day activities that you might do to help your neighbours, in a personal capacity, your ordinary household buildings or contents insurance will generally provide personal liability cover. You will need to take reasonable care and should not take unnecessary risks. If you are in doubt, you should check your policy or ask your insurer.
If you are part of an existing group, you will probably have third party liability insurance, and you can check with your insurer that the types of activities you want to do will be covered by your policy.
If a group is not employing anyone health and safety legislation, does not, in general apply. Voluntary organisations and individual volunteers do, however, have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities. In every case it is important to ensure that volunteers working on community resilience activities do so safely and anyone affected by their activities not put at any additional risk. If your group has control of premises the law requires you to take reasonable measures to ensure the hall, access to it and any equipment and/or substances provided are safe for people using it.
It’s important that you take volunteer’s safety into account even when doing relatively low-risk activities. For example, no-one should clear ice and snow wearing inappropriate clothes or shoes, and no-one should clear snow in an area which is overhung by large icicles.
General advice on health and safety, and risk assessment for voluntary groups is available at:
In an emergency, the council might need the community assistance to identify a safe place for people to shelter and set up a rest centre.
You should talk with the council to see what help the community could give to set up places of safety or rest centres.
Action: Identify list of sites. Complete the key locations template on page 5 of the Community Emergency Plan
It is important to keep a record of who in the community has offered their help in an emergency. This will help you contact everyone quickly and make it easier for you and the emergency responders to identify who is able to help. It is important to keep personal details safe and available, remembering that you could lose power and access, and only share them with those who need the information. For further information see the Guide to Data Protection on the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website
Assessing community skills and resources
Once you have drafted your plan, share it with your community to get their views. It is important that all members of the community feel that the plan works for them. By sharing it you may get more people interested in it and gain further support.
The council and other emergency responders need to be aware of your plan so that they will know who to contact and what assistance you can provide. You should record who has a copy of your plan and ensure that they receive a revised copy whenever it is updated.
Action: Record who needs copies of your plan using the template on page 2 of the Community Emergency Plan
Please send your completed plans to Argyll and Bute Council Emergency Planning, 25 West King Street, Helensburgh, G84 8UW. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Argyll and Bute Council will circulate copies of your plans to the appropriate emergency responders. Please remember to keep a copy for yourself!