What a good Local Resilience Forum does around communicating with the public

1964 - B-52 checklist

From last month

I’m a bit late with my list of recommended summer reading and, it turns out, there’s only one book on it.

The role of Local Resilience Forums: A reference document by the Cabinet Office

Never going to be a best seller but still a page turner.

If you’ve got this far you probably know what an LRF is. Just in case, the LRF is the partnership organisations in England and Wales are required to join (there’s a similar thing in Scotland called SCG). The role of an LRF is codified in law and regulation but there is still a lot of confusion within organisations. LRFs have no duties placed upon them, all the duties sit with the category one and two responders (local public sector organisations and infrastructure organisations).

This, rather useful, document goes through each of the civil contingencies duties  and explains what they “must” do, what they “should” do and then outlines indicators of good practice.

I have of course jumped straight to the section on communicating with the public.

The must dos

  • Category 1 responders must maintain arrangements to warn the public, and to provide information  and advice to the public, if an emergency is likely or has occurred. They must also arrange for the publication of risk assessments and plans in so far as publication is necessary or desirable for the purpose of: preventing an emergency; reducing, controlling or mitigating its effects; or enabling other action to be taken in connection with an emergency.
  • Responders within the LRF must facilitate the agreement of measures to educate, warn and inform the public
  • In arranging for the publication of assessments and plans, there is a collective duty to have regard to the importance of: not unnecessarily alarming the public; and safeguarding sensitive information that is relevant to the Prepare and Protect strands of CONTEST
  • Responders within the LRF must collectively support neighbouring LRFs in producing a generic, multi-area emergency response plan that includes a framework for awareness raising.

 

This shouldn’t be a surprise but it’s worth remembering the scope of what cat ones and LRFs are supposed to do with communications.

The should dos

  • The LRF should collectively identify Category 1 responders’ assessments and plans that may require part or full publication in accordance with the CCA.
  • The LRF should collectively support the design of procedures to warn and inform the public in its area, where necessary identifying strengths and brokering support.
  • The LRF should collectively examine the nomination of a lead agency among Category 1 responders and develop protocols for collaborative arrangements at the time of an emergency.
  • The LRF should support efforts to ensure that local warning and informing procedures have regard to similar plans held by Category 2 responders, government agencies or other bodies, and that unnecessary duplication is avoided.
  • The LRF should undertake collective scrutiny to validate warning and informing plans, where possible using independent and peer review processes to ensure quality and compliance with statutory guidance and advice. Where risk assessments or plans contain sensitive information, only summary or edited versions should be published.
  • The LRF should consider collectively what communication systems and procedures would be used by Category 1 responders to communicate with one another during an emergency. The National Resilience Extranet is the recommended principal mechanism for this communication.
  • The LRF should operate a programme to test and exercise warning and informing procedures, involving, where appropriate, independent or external peer review.
  • The LRF should use formats and systems that make information accessible, usable and useful to the public.
  • The LRF should ensure collectively that national security guidance principles are carefully considered before information relating to the detail of risk assessments or emergency plans is published.

 

Some top tips in here. The way we manage emergencies in this country means that lots of agencies must co-operate in the task of communicating with the public. Developing our plans together, sharing them and exercising them jointly would clearly benefit our citizens. Practically, it is difficult to see how much of this work will be prioritised given the current state of resources in the local public sector.

Also if the Cabinet Office wants people to use the NRE it should probably make better.

Indicators of good practice

  • The LRF has collective strategies or protocols identifying lead responder roles and appropriate methods used to inform the public in the area at the time of an emergency about assessed risks and planned responses.
  • The LRF collaborates with other multi-agency partnerships (such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships) in promoting public information.
  • The LRF engages partner organisations, including the Voluntary Sector and local community organisations / groups, and other tiers in its public information strategies.
  • Local partners among media organisations have been engaged and are committed to the LRF media plans for sharing information.
  • LRF member organisations have developed a shared understanding of, and commitment to, collective media plans across their media and resilience staff.
  • The LRF warning and informing strategy is linked with the Community Risk Register and includes consideration of any other risks from outside the area that may have an impact.
  • The LRF has established a programme to prioritise, test, exercise and validate its public information delivery, involving, where appropriate, independent or external peer reviews.
  • The LRF uses validated information from different sources to assess the effectiveness and impact of public information strategies.
  • The LRF ensures public transparency with regard to effective, exercised and up-to-date plans for both response and recovery.
  • Independent research and customer satisfaction surveys show that the public feels well informed.

 

I rather like this list of indicators. LRFs that manage to achieve this really would be able to describe themselves as good.

This is assuming that media includes all this online and social stuff.

This could provide an excellent basis for an action plan for LRF comms groups. Of course there may be LRFs that already display these indicators. I’d love to find out which ones so I can ask them how they did it.

 

Photo: 1964 – B-52 checklist by James Vaughan CC BY-SA 2.0