The events of 11 September 2001 marked a turning point in the challenge posed by terrorism. It prompted the Government to review and improve upon the UK's ability to respond to increased risks. This work involved a reappraisal of the response capacity and capabilities of the UK's emergency services. Civil Resilience Directorate (CRD) was established in June 2003 to co-ordinate Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's (ODPM) resilience programmes. The ODPM - now called the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) - works to ensure that the fire and rescue service is equipped and trained for disaster of all kinds, and that locally and regionally all stakeholders are able to deal with speed and certainty to any live emergency.
What is resilience?
Resilience means ensuring that the country is prepared to detect, prevent and respond with speed and certainty to major emergencies, including terrorist attacks.
Why are we concerned about resilience?
The deliberate destruction of the twin towers in New York on September 11th 2001 marked a turning point in the challenges posed by terrorism and the response needed from government and others. The more recent attacks on trains in Madrid have highlighted the fact that Europe is not exempt from such attacks and has underlined the vital importance of what we are doing and of remaining vigilant and remaining prepared.
However, while terrorist incidents are at the forefront of many people's minds - and certainly get a high media profile - there are a range of other emergencies that we must also be prepared for, both at a national and regional level. In the UK, over the past four years we have faced the challenge of large scale flooding, the fuel crisis and a major epidemic of Foot and Mouth Disease. So we need to be able to cope with and recover from a range of unexpected disruptive events, for example building collapse, or natural disasters.
What is the Government doing?
- Ensuring that the level of public safety is maintained and improved.
- Ensuring that the nation is well equipped to respond to the increased threat.
The UK has put enormous effort and resources over the past three years into strengthening our resilience capabilities. A clear programme of work - the Capabilities Programme - is now underway governed by an overall resilience strategy. Within this programme, CLG leads on two workstreams - regional resilience and site clearance - and contributes to another. The next section gives more information about this.
What is the CLG Civil Resilience Directorate doing?
Resilience work across government
CRD is responsible for developing plans for site clearance, one of the seventeen workstreams identified by the government. CRD has also contributed to the Home Office led workstream on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) resilience, by producing guidance on counteracting the effect of CBRN incidents on buildings and infrastructure.
It is important to have a legislative framework that gives government the powers needed to respond effectively to the emerging needs of a crisis. CRD have been involved in the Civil Contingencies Bill and the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, both of which seek to strengthen UK resilience.
We have reorganised contingency planning in London - potentially the major target for terrorism. In addition to our work in London, we now have parallel planning going on in every region of England - as well as in Scotland and Wales. Each region is planning training exercises for possible disasters to ensure that all agencies are involved and clear what role they would play in the event of an actual emergency. Front-line responders and other stakeholders throughout the country recognise that a key requirement for enhancing our resilience is to have a truly co-ordinated approach to anticipation, planning, response and recovery.
Equipping the fire and rescue service: mass decontamination and urban search and rescue
The UK government has invested on an unprecedented scale in our emergency and other services so that they are better prepared to respond to a terrorist incident. The "New Dimension" programme was established to improve resilience capability within the fire and rescue service and to ensure it could respond to an incident in Britain on the scale of September 11th. The programme provides or improves on capabilities such as public mass decontamination, urban search and rescue and dealing with flooding and structural collapse.
Improved fire and rescue service radio communications and control rooms
The Firelink project is an important investment in radio communications for the fire and rescue service and will deliver national interoperability both within the service and with the other emergency services by 2009. It will replace individual fire and rescue service radio systems with a common wide area radio system for the first time.
For further details of the Firelink project please see the Firelink section of the CLG website at http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/resilienceresponse/firelinkimprovedfire/
Alongside the Firelink project is the Regional Fire Control project which will create a network of nine regional control rooms for the fire and rescue service. The aim is to enhance the ability to respond to major terrorist incidents; the regional arrangement will improve the handling of a large scale incident response.
For further details of the Fire Control project please see the Fire Control section of the CLG website at http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/resilienceresponse/firecontrol/
CRD has a team specialising in scientific and technical research to ensure that the Directorate's policies and arrangements to deal with major emergencies are evidence based. It also relies on such research to ensure that the fire and rescue service is well equipped to respond effectively to a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack.
Further information on Civil Resilience can be found by going to the CLG website at http://www.communities.gov.uk/ and selecting the Fire and resilience section