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Civil Defence today

Regional Planning

The UK national regions played a fundamental role in emergency planning during the cold war. Regions would have specifically been devolved to a 'regional commissioner' who would have overseen the running of each region. It was assumed that as central government may no longer be able to function, each region would therefore run independently.

Under the Tories, in 1994 9 regional government offices were setup. Each regional office represents key government departments in each region. The ideal therefore was to incorporate regional emergency planning into how things were done.

There are many different 'buzz phrases' within regional emergency planning. I will now look at each one in brief to give an introduction.

Regional resilience unit or team

This is the unit mainly responsible for planning and organisation within each regional government office. Each team normally consists of 4 or 5 people, overseen by a senior official from the government office. If a RCCC is setup the resilience team will then become the administrative wing of the committee.

Regional resilience forum

This forum is the " strategic" level within regional emergency planning, by bringing together the blue light services, Government offices, Armed forces, and the department of Food etc.

Regional Civil Contingencies Committee

This group is only convened once an emergency threatens the region or nation. It will build a response in line with plans, and will normally be the same as the resilience forum, but will meet in one of 3 ways depending on the type of emergency. These include meeting when the emergency is local (before it goes regional), response co-ordination (regional), regional state of emergency (co-ordinator appointed).

Strategic Coordinating groups

Where each organisation (the blue light services) will normally have their own strategic responses, the SCG will bring these together with maximum effect. They will oversee local communication, resources and will direct tactical commanders on the ground within each body's structure. This is a more "local" group rather than regional.

There are therefore 2 types of planning groups - strategic and operational. For the strategic planning, the resilience team and forum come into play, and for the operational, the RCCC and resilience team along with SCGs are active.

Clearly however the main structure of regional planning is that of the Regional Nominated Coordinator and the RCCC. This is because where an issue goes regional; the operational decisions are going to be made at this level. The RCCC membership is made up of the same as the regional forum in most cases, including emergency services, government offices, local authorities, military etc.

In some cases specific forums will be set up in each region to deal with specific tasks. For example in Yorkshire and Humber, these include mass fatalities, transport, utilities and CBRN forums.

Once the RCCC (the 'peacetime' RRF) had been declared, it would have a number of tasks, including:

  1. Gathering a strategic picture
  2. Arranging mutual aid from other regions
  3. Ensuring effective communication
  4. Guiding deployment of scarce resources
  5. Providing where needs be a " regional spokesperson"

Under a major regional incident where emergency legislation was created, a regional nominated coordinator would be appointed to oversee the response.

Under certain circumstances (although I doubt there would be many where one is not required), a Regional Operations centre would be setup to support the RCCC. During the Triton exercise by the Government office in the East, a ROC was setup in the GO in Cambridge to collate all the information that came in. Much as I would love to give a prescribed list of ROC's as we formally had with the Regional HQs, it doesn't appear that such a network exists, rather they would be setup on an ad-hoc basis.

It does appear however for the cold war historian, that many of the old groupings are back (simply under new titles). For example the Regional commissioner, could now be seen as the " regional nominated co-ordinator", whilst the regional emergency committee is now the RCCC.

Role of local councils?

The question must be asked, where does regional emergency responses leave the local situations of our county and district councils? According to the Civil Contingencies Act, it is this group who must warn the public of an emergency which is about to or has already occurred. It is this group that must therefore plan for how at a local level the response must be dealt with, such as stage 1 of the RCCCs - i.e. when the event is not on a regional scale. Regional Government offices do not (yet) replace local councils as Category 1 responders (Civil Contingencies Act), and in fact are not actually listed. This is simply because they are administrative bodies rather than authorities in their own right.

Many of the councils still have their old War time HQs as their emergency planning centres, and sometimes these have been " hardened" against the effects of war.

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