Improving community resilience
A guide for parish and town councils
Parish and town councils play a key role in supporting communities to become better prepared for emergencies.
But remember: it’s NOT just about writing a community resilience plan…
Along with developing community resilience plans and flood plans, there are other ways in which you can help to strengthen your community’s resilience. Encouraging residents to become better connected will help them to prepare for, respond to and recover from any incidents that may impact them. Some actions are quick and easy, others take more planning and consideration, but there will always be something you can do.
Include it in your agenda
As a council, it is helpful to regularly include community resilience in your discussions. Reflect on how you may be able to support and expand on existing resilience activity in your area. Consider inviting representatives from your community, such as first responders, the voluntary sector and other key groups to participate in your meetings to share ideas, skills, and resources.
Contacts and communications
Council clerks are often the key contact for local authorities that may need to engage with your community in an emergency.
It is useful to make back up arrangements in case the clerk is away or unavailable, or perhaps lives outside of the area, and cannot immediately respond. Think about who else in your community could help instead.
Make sure you keep contact details up to date and that others council members are aware of arrangements.
It is useful to agree what kind of information the clerk may need to share, how they will do that, and how they will reach out to the community during an emergency.
You may wish to help households and businesses access information to improve their individual resilience to emergencies.
Local businesses could be encouraged to make business continuity plans and develop ways to support their communities. Advice, guidance, and useful business continuity templates are all available from www.kentprepared.org.uk.
Signposting existing resources
Let residents know about help available, such as:
Utility companies’ Priority Service Registers that prioritise support for vulnerable residents in an emergency;
Met Office weather warnings.
Environment Agency flood warning service.
The Community Messaging System lets residents opt in to localised email or text updates from Neighbourhood Watch, local authorities and emergency services.
You can also signpost residents to welfare support available through voluntary organisations, warm hubs, charities, and local community groups.
Provide seasonal advice
It is helpful to share seasonal advice on how residents can prepare for, or cope with severe weather events such as storms, flooding, cold weather, and heatwaves. Look out for seasonal campaigns that you can include in your newsletters or share via other local communications channels, such as social media community groups.
It is advisable to stick to information from trusted sources such as the emergency services, local authorities, the Met Office, Environment Agency, the NHS, or UKHSA.
Create a Good Neighbours Scheme
‘Good Neighbour’ schemes are community-run initiatives providing local support to vulnerable people. Set up and run by volunteers, they can offer practical help to fellow residents, such as carrying out odd jobs and small repairs, gardening, shopping, or transport. Such schemes can also help you to identify vulnerable people in your area who may need support in an emergency.
Neighbourliness is key
Strengthening the relationship between neighbours is a key element in developing community resilience. Organising activities that bring neighbours together will not only increase a sense of trust between them, but also help to create sustainable, safe, and resilient neighbourhoods. Some examples of such activities include:
litter picking sessions followed by refreshments;
acknowledging the efforts of individuals in local media;
promoting ‘getting to know your neighbour’ initiatives;
creating community groups on social media (e.g., WhatsApp Communities);
creating a welcome pack for new residents including local information, invitations to upcoming events, and groups activities.
Encourage local groups to help
It is useful to gather information about the resources and skills of existing local community groups, which could be called upon in a crisis. Such groups should be encouraged to attend first aid training, to support their community in the event of an emergency, and to volunteer as flood wardens.
It is important to provide opportunities for residents to be involved in preparing for emergencies. This could include sharing experiences about responses to past incidents and what might be improved upon. A community coffee morning or another similar in-person event can be a great opportunity to do this.
Community resilience planning
A community resilience plan identifies potential emergency situations and explains what local people can do to help each other and the responding agencies. It also identifies key contacts in the community who will coordinate the plan’s delivery and act as a point of contact. Being aware of the risks that you may face as a community and establishing who may be able to assist locally will ensure your community is better prepared to cope with an emergency.