Helen Burton – Written evidence (RSK0078)

 

Local resilience forum support officer at west Mercia Resilience Forum

 

  1. What are the most significant extreme risks that the UK faces?

-          Weather, a second pandemic, cyber attack. Social influencing.

Are these kinds of risks discrete, linked or systemic?

-          Weather could be linked to the pandemic but is a separate issue in it’s own right. The cyber attack could quite easily be systematic.

What do you understand the term ‘extreme risk’ to mean?  

-          A risk that is above the reasonable worst case scenario High consequence, low probability – outside of the norm

  1. Are there types of risks to which the UK is particularly vulnerable or for which it is poorly prepared? What are the reasons for this?

-          Flooding – there is a coordination network and arrangements in place. This works well for short duration or single events. However there are still gaps in resources both operationally and within the LRF scenario that cause capacity issues for long duration events.

 

-          Telecommunications failure –

 

-          Cyber – lots of individual pieces of work going on, but is it joined up?

  1. How could the Government’s approach to risk assessment be strengthened to ensure that it is rigorous, wide-ranging and consistent? Your answer could refer to any aspect of the risk assessment process including, for example, its governance, the evidence base, or the degree to which it is open to scrutiny and the input of experts.

-          The risk assessments could be changed to show some context. For example, some of the areas are very subjective depending what area people work in. this would help with consistency of scoring. Very London centric

-          CCS as the lead HMG Dept for the NSRA, set against MHCLG being the significant driver of the work through LRFs creates confusion and conflict

Using LRFs as a basic building block in risk assessment is most sensible but the removal of the Regional tier from 2010 (incoming coalition government) handicapped the process. In matters of significant, wide area ,complex risks, hazards and capabilities, Regional collaboration was key.  Individual LRFs should not be left on their own assessing and planning around these types of challenges in isolation.

 

  1. Given the range of possible national risks, and the need to achieve a balance between efficiency and resilience, what level of assurance should the Government be seeking on the UK’s resilience to hazards? What would effective national risk management achieve, and how could its success be measured?[1]

-          A minimum number of people within a resilience team, with specified roles and tasks.

-          A minimum level of training of working within a resilience team, ie TCG / SCG / RAWG awareness packages.

-          Standard reporting forms and information sharing protocols

-          Standard working platform to share information that is used and understood by all members (insit on use of RD)

-          A common communications network / platform.

  1. How can the Government ensure that it identifies and considers as wide a range of risks as possible?

-          Ensure a broad range of involvement from relevant parties for each risk areas. Cat 1&2 responders plus industry and scientific partners.

What risks does the inclusion criteria for the National Security Risk Assessment exclude and what effect does this have on long-term resilience?

-          Possibly the impact effect of social media / crowd / mob influence. This “fake news” effect hampering response to incidents and influencing decisions / actions

  1. How effectively do current ways of characterising risks (for example, the use of a five-point scoring system of a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’) support evidence-based policy decisions? What other information would be useful?

-          More information on how to scale the risks to a local level. Maybe an update to the scoring methodology to show local scales

  1. How effectively do Departments mitigate risks?

-          Each department mitigates risks that are known and specific to that department. Gaps can occur when the risk overlaps departments or responsibilities

Does the Risk Assessment process and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat adequately support Government departments to address risks within their remits?

-          The systems in place are appropriate and where capacity allows works well. This allows for SME’s local to risks to be used to give site specific information as well as to allow them to share knowledge across the national picture.

 

-          Capacity is an issue though It has been evident over the last 14 months that across the board the civil contingencies teams have been stretched. This has led to delays in programmed work and many staff feeling stressed and overworked.

 

-          Huge duplication of effort: The NSRA is not presented in a format that allows easy extraction of data into local risk assessment templates. Each of the LRFs are spending significant time & energy to transpose this information into RA templates before they can begin the process of reviewing the risks locally. This transfer of data onto a RA template should be done at the centre and then shared to avoid mass duplication.

Is further oversight or accountability required, and if so, what form should that take?

-                    Development of the National Risk assessment Working Group should be continued that works on a standard approach and allows for peer assessment of regional risks that form the National picture.

  1. How well are national contingency plans communicated to and understood by those at a local level, including emergency responders?

-          Those involved in the contingency planning activities understand the national work, but it is unlikely that those outside of that group do. Emergency responders have specific plans for local risk and within each LRF emergency planning takes place for known risks within the boundary area. These are based on National planning but would be adopted to be local plans.

 

-          CNI. Local sites are known & understood, but not a clear picture of impact should something occur. For example, an impact on a site in one LRF may impact partners hundreds of miles away, and the understanding of these relationships is not widely understood at a local level.

What could be changed to increase the capability of local responders to effectively plan for and respond to emergencies?

-          More resources / capacity

-          Standardised reporting forms / approach

-          Standardised training package

-          Standardised briefing sheets

  1. What is the role of the individual in relation to national crises?

-          To take ownership of their personal circumstances. Be aware that if they live in a flood plain then they should plan to be flooded and put steps in place to mitigate them. listen to the advice given and support the agencies trying to help them by following the said advice.

-          Self help & supporting local communities. Personal resilience

Are there potential benefits in increasing public involvement and transparency in emergency planning?

-          Possibly in utilising private sector innovation and experience. Yes, there are simple self help steps that individuals & communities can take to increase their knowledge & understanding, & therefore the minimising the impact should something occur.

What limitations are there to this?

-          There is a point where security and command and control can become compromised.

-          Unless an issue is high priority it is easy to overlook the risk until it is too late

What lessons have been learnt or should have been learnt about the approach taken to risk assessment and risk planning in this country from the COVID-19 pandemic?

-          There needs to be a joined-up approach between what is being said centrally to what is -happening locally. This message needs to be discussed locally and the impacts considered before being released by the media.

  1. What challenges are there in developing resilience capability? Your answer could refer to critical infrastructure, but also to systems and networks beyond those elements.

-          Sufficient resources (people) and training in using a common platform. A single communications platform and communications network.

What is the role of exercising to test risk preparedness, and are these methods utilised effectively in risk assessment and risk planning in this country?

-          The testing is critical to the success of the plans, providing it is a robust test of the plan. Better use could be made of simulation software and planning tools to peer assess plans in LRF areas.

  1. What can be learnt from local or corporate risk management processes, or those of other countries?

-          Multi role responders who all carry out the same risk planning course, similar to the military planning course. This will ensure the consistent approach.

Are there any specific examples of practices, processes or considerations which could improve the UK’s national risk resilience?

-          Flood Planning in Holland

How could businesses and civil society more effectively support national resilience preparation?

-          Effective community volunteer registration and basic training around structures and responsibilities. This would allow numbers available and skill sets to be known in advance.

-          Nationalise a volunteer service programme.

  1. What individual or economic behaviours would strengthen national resilience against hazards, and what mechanisms are open to the Government or society to incentivise these behaviours?

-          Encouraging people to help themselves, through preparation and accepting the risks and putting measures in place to mitigate them.

-          Having clear and consistent financial packages already prepared for financial assistance.

-          Utilise those actively seeking employment to carry out roles within the required scope of emergency volunteers.

How should we prioritise any changes required in approach, process or policy needed to improve risk mitigation and strengthen the UK’s resilience to extreme risks and emergencies?

-          Consideration around communication channels from strategic direction to operational action needs to be in place before the public are told about it.

-          Consideration of budget and staffing resources for long duration or multi concurrent incidents.

10 February 2021