I chaired a meeting of the West Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum today at our HQ. It struck me as I was listening to the various contributions that not many people will be sighted on the work of the LRF, and what we achieve as a group.
If you want to know about the legislation that sits behind the LRF arrangements THIS is a good guide. More practically, the meeting brings together a number of agencies from across West Yorkshire to plan and prepare for a whole range of events that may happen in our area. Some of these events are identified in the NATIONAL RISK REGISTER and some are identified by local risk assessment.
The meeting has a co-chair arrangement with one of myself, ACC Mark Milsom from West Yorkshire Police, or Tom Riordan – Chief Executive of Leeds City Council taking the chair at each meeting. We also have a secretariat that support us, and a whole host of working groups that do the work of the LRF, chaired by numerous individuals from a range of agencies.
Attendees are senior officers from the Emergency Services, Local Authorities, NHS and its constituent parts, voluntary sector, transport, Met Office, utilities, DCLG, Environment Agency and the Military. We also have guest attendees where we need to consider a specific risk.
The group also forms the basis of the county wide emergency response when we have those significant incidents with a major impact. It is for these events that the LRF turns into the commonly termed ‘GOLD’ group, or more correctly the Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG).
By way of an insight into todays agenda, we first had a presentation on the Leeds City Region Green Infrastructure Project. This is a project that considers how all of the green spaces and waterways in the region are managed and maximized, and how they can support economic growth and help us manage climate change. All very important to us when you consider that one of our later agenda items was to consider the debrief and action plan that fell out of the county wide response to the 2015 Boxing Day floods. There is a lot that we can learn from our response and recovery work, albeit it was pleasing to note that our response had been viewed positively by central government. Members of the LRF, myself included, will take part in a national workshop later in this month to consolidate learning from all of those areas affected by the winter storms.
We then got a series of 3 updates – one from DCLG on the national risk issues, one from the local Counter Terrorism Unit on local issues of concern, and finally an overview of the top 3 risks being managed by each of the constituent organisations with a view to understanding each others vulnerabilities and risk areas.
The LRF has a series of plans developed to deal with the most predictable events – such as severe weather – and we received an update on our Recovery & Site Clearance Plan, and the plans to receive support from (and give it to) other Local Authorities in times of exceptional demand.
Further updates from the working groups were taken on board by the group, and we had a discussion about RESILIENCE DIRECT an IT platform that facilitates the sharing of information, securely, between multi-agency partners in an incident context. I think that there are really exciting opportunities for all of us if we can work closely together on this.
We then had a look at the exercising plan that we have in place. Recently completed, or planned, exercises/training events include a COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) exercise which some of our staff will have been involved in, a ‘black start’ electricity failure workshop, a flooding workshop, a briefing on the MODs procedures for moving nuclear materials by road, the third local authority based MTFA (Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack) exercise and a multi-agency severe weather exercise to be held later in the year.
The group also received an update on a recent workshop held in another LRF area that looked at the issues presented by ‘spontaneous volunteers’ at major incidents. In a way its a nice problem to have, but there are real issues with managing the arrival and use of people who ‘just want to help’ when some members of our community are in a very vulnerable position. All food for thought…
The last item of business was (sadly) to consider the recent tragic events that led to the death of our local MP Jo Cox. A number of agencies were involved in the response, and also in elements of the subsequent investigation and community recovery. It is entirely proper that we take some time to reflect and learn. Whilst hopefully this was a one off event, there will invariably be lessons to learn that we can transfer to other situations.
Finally, we marked the forthcoming retirement of Lt Colonel Graham Whitmore who has been the military Joint Regional Liaison Officer (JRLO) for the region for many years. The military attend all of our LRF meetings and stand side by side with us during our major incidents. The expertise, equipment, boots on the ground and advice that we can tap into is invaluable. Graham will leave big boots to fill.
As you will hopefully have seen we cover a lot of business. You’ll appreciate that the detail of some of the items on the agenda is not for a public blog like this one. As anyone who has been involved in the kind of events that we spend time planning for will tell you, the plans and training are vital but nothing can replace the relationships that are developed in times of calm and deployed in times of crisis. The first crisis meeting is not the time for introductions, its a time for action, decisions and the use of plans. That’s what the LRF is all about!