What councillors should do online in emergencies

One of the workshops I attended at #localgovcamp this week was on councillors and digital. This has been written up by Dave McKenna as 11 digital tips for new councillors.

During that session a couple of councillors highlighted that they weren’t sure what the right thing was to do online during emergencies. Can we have 1 side of A4 telling us what to do? they asked.

This is an emerging area. I remember a deputy leader in a previous authority (some years ago) returning from her training at Easingwold to report that

“Councillors’ role in emergencies is to shut up and keep out of the way”

. That was only partly true then and it isn’t even slightly true now.

Though it is the case that dealing with emergencies is an operational matter and staff in public bodies are probably best left to get on with the job. There is still an important community leadership role for elected members which is both more important and made easier by digital tech.

Obviously as this is my particular area of interest I volunteered to draft something. Now obviously I am knowledgeable in this area but it’s not really my place to issue guidance to the thousands of councillors (tens of thousands?) across the country. So I’ve drafted something that could be used by comms teams or emergency planning teams to give to their members. It has so far, to my knowledge, been inspected by 2 people.

So let’s call this an Alpha version. I’ve put it on Penflip to make it easy for people to collaborate directly on it (please contact me if you’d like to do that) and to make it easy for people to fork it and release their own, improved versions.

And of course this may already exist. If it does let me know and I’ll save myself and maybe others a bunch of work.

Here is is on Penflip Draft guidance for local elected members: What you should and should not do online during an emergency.