The British Red Cross is urging the government to update the law so that individuals and communities have more say in how they are treated and the kind of support they receive during an emergency. At present, councils, government bodies and emergency services who are responsible for the emergency planning are not bound by law to involve any other groups from the community.
This means they will not be able to consider local knowledge regarding the needs, vulnerabilities and sensitivities. The British Red Cross has published a report which examines how local forums which lead local council emergency planning are able to absorb the knowledge, skills and capabilities of the voluntary and community sector. The reports found that collaboration was variable and this means emergency responses tend be focused on command and control mechanisms.
That focus results in missed opportunities to mobilise the power of the people and encourage communities to build resilience and recovery support internally. The report suggests reviewing the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act and the charity is calling on the government to enshrine the role of voluntary and community sectors during emergencies in law. British Red Cross has engaged in prior research which showed how grass roots organisations that have participated in emergency responses makes local communities feel listened too and empowered in the face of a disaster.
The charity argues that it is not realistic to ask councils and emergency services to adopt a single approach for all emergencies. Instead it is urging for local authorities to work together with the voluntary and community sector and have the law amended immediately.
Mike Adamson chief executive of British Red Cross says the charity’s response to flooding last year across the Midlands and Yorkshire has demonstrated the value brought when the charity supports fire and rescue operations or welcoming those that were rescued into rest centres. The British Red Cross was able to demonstrate how it can complement the work of its partners and is able to provide a voice to victims of emergencies.
Update the law
Mr Adamson adds that locals and communities are the ones who know what they need the most and how best those needs should be addressed. There is local knowledge regarding who may be very ill or have disabilities or mobilities issues. Some victims in emergencies may face problems as a result of language barriers, poverty, immigration or other issues. Mr Adamson concludes by saying people’s needs will be met far more easily when the law is updated.