n 1907 Scouting founder, Robert Baden-Powell, devised the motto ‘Be Prepared’.
These words came to mind this week when I read a brief that bin collections were to begin at 5.30am to avoid the current exceptional temperatures. Householders affected were being asked to place their refuse out the night before, and additional measures such as hats and extra water were being made available to crews. Simple, straightforward preparedness to ensure service continuity and safety.
It’s amazing how quick we are to take our public services for granted. We dial 999 and expect an ambulance, if there’s a flood or fallen tree, someone will step-in. When things go wrong we assume our Council, the NHS or our emergency services will sort the situation. It’s what we’ve come to expect, although we often don’t appreciate the amount of forward-thinking that goes on behind the scenes.
Within Councils there are officers whose job it is to identify potential situations and put solutions in place. And when their plans are called upon they can ensure a seamless service, or at least a considered response. As a recently-elected County Councillor, I attended an emergency planning training session at County Hall this week. The professional emergency planners took us through identified local risks, showed us how they plan responses, and how they co-ordinate with blue-light services and government. It was familiar stuff for those like me who’ve been involved with the NHS, and is an approach many organisations take, large and small, to ensure business continuity.
Some years ago, when I was Chair of Musgrove Park Hospital, there was a terrible pile-up on the M5 on Bonfire Night. You may remember it? The hospital received many patients with life-changing injuries. The situation was added to by a collapsed road during the carnival in Bridgwater, and a thick blanket of fog. Talking to staff afterwards, one overriding theme was how grateful they were that they had attended a recent exercise, with colleagues from the emergency services, to practise the hospital’s major events protocol. Without doubt, the hospital's response that night made a huge difference to casualty outcomes and to the several hundred inpatients.
Emergency planning takes place in our towns and parishes too. My small village has one for heavy snow, flooding and other scenarios, with an up-to-date list of people with first aid skills, identification of heavy equipment and drivers, and a tested communications chain to ensure every household can be readily contacted. The Parish Council has always regarded the plan as insurance: something to have, but hopefully never needed. That emergency comms plan actually proved invaluable to us at the start of the pandemic. The eyes-and-ears approach ensured that those who needed it, had support throughout the weeks of lockdown.
So ‘being prepared’ is not just a Scouting motto. It’s part of all our public services.
If you have any questions for me about this column, or anything else, do get in touch, I am always happy to hear from you. Email: [email protected] / Facebook: @RosWyke.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].