Stress awareness in incident management training

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992, to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. This years’ theme is Community, largely because of the increased rates of loneliness and isolation that have emerged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this blog, Evie Whatling from JBA Consulting explores their recent work with the Environment Agency’s Wessex Area Incident team, to incorporate stress management into incident management training and exercising.

A community is much more than just a group of people. It’s about having a sense of belonging and connection to others and feeling supported and accepted by them. This is as true for where we live as it is for where we work. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to build or sustain these types of communities.

This community and loss of connection is something that is also extending to incident management arrangements. Virtual and hybrid incident management is likely to remain, and already we have identified that the risk of burnout has increased. There is a strong link that these burnout rates have increased because of loneliness and isolation, and burnout is a symptom of stress, and so an interconnected system emerges.

Stress is an inevitable component of incident management, there is no way of avoiding it – but being aware of the signs and adopting coping mechanisms can be very effective in managing stress. We have been working with the Environment Agency’s Wessex Area Incident Teams to work on addressing some of these emerging challenges, as part of our wider Incident Management Training and Exercising Framework.

How does stress management training work?

Stress management training needs to adapt and expand to ensure that we are not only helping to inform incident responders on what stress is and what can be done to help manage it. Stress management training now needs to include how we can try and adjust our virtual incident management operations to minimise these feelings of isolation and loneliness. This in turn extends to how we can mitigate burnout, and support stress from virtual environments. Stress management training can also explore what we can do to build a sense of community, internally and with partners agencies.

Our work with the Wessex Area Incident Teams is addressing some of these emerging challenges and providing tools to help incident responders.

Some key tools we focus on include:

  • Optimising how we communicate virtuallyEstablishing online etiquette to minimise information overload, and having responders consider specifically what output is wanted from information shared.
  • Prioritising breaks. It is easy in virtual arrangements to keep working through, forgetting that breaks now need to be planned for and can’t be ad hoc. Planning breaks and trying our hardest to stick to them is important to allow ourselves to decompress. Alongside this, breaks should be taken away from the ‘incident room’. Visually separating ourselves from where we are responding to the incident allows us to physiologically distance ourselves from the scene.
  • Team support. Have colleagues ready to stand in and enable breaks, as well as establish work rotations in place so we can switch between high stress activities to lower stress functions.
  • Establish buddy systems for mutual aid arrangements. This means establishing communication lines and teaming up someone from a different area with someone from the responding area to mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Stress bucket tool and adapting this to have people identify stressors they can remove; stressors they can’t remove but can control; and finally, any stressors that can’t be controlled or removed, and so learning how to accept these stressors in the incident.
  • Mindapple tool. The premise of the tool is to have ‘1 of your 5 a day’, but this has been adapted to allow responders to: mark 5 things they can do for their wellbeing before the incident (i.e., update calendar, keep commitments to a minimum, have food in the fridge); 5 things that can help during the incident (i.e., take a break, do a grounding exercise); and 5 things to focus on after the incident (i.e., go for a walk, debrief, have a balanced meal).

We have received positive feedback from our training that will hopefully prove valuable during future incidents. Reflections on the training include:

‘I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable sometimes.’

‘The knowledge in that I won’t be thought less of for taking a break or asking for help as there can always be such a stigma around it when the stakes are high.’

‘The need to connect more with those I am working with despite the difficulties of hybrid working.’

‘Understanding who you are working with and to prioritise what you do.’

Having such training arrangements in place can help incident responders feel seen, understood, and supported.

The Communities Prepared team is currently working with Evie and colleagues at JBA to put together a shared training and exercise offer for communities – more information on this to come in due course. Thanks to JBA and Evie for giving us permission to share their blog here – you can find the original post on the JBA website.

Now is the time to BeFloodReady

By Molly Flynn, Community Flood Resilience Coordinator at Cornwall Community Flood Forum

BeFloodReady is a campaign launched by the Defra funded and Environment Agency supported Southwest Property Flood Resilience (PFR) Pathfinder Project. Property Flood Resilience, or PFR, is the term used to describe measures that help to reduce flood risk to people and property. Using PFR enables households and businesses to reduce the damage caused by floods, making the process of recovery and reoccupation easier. The aim of the overall project was to increase the awareness and uptake of PFR measures in both residential and commercial settings across the Southwest.

The project ran until September 2021, but the BeFloodReady campaign will ensure that it will have a long-lasting impact on residents, businesses and communities at flood risk beyond September. Various legacy materials and tools were produced throughout the duration of the project which we would like to share with you in this guest blog!

You may be familiar with the various training resources which Communities Prepared can offer to support community volunteers and community resilience professionals. The original volunteer flood warden training series was developed within one of 13 Defra funded flood resilience Pathfinder projects with the support of CCFF. Throughout the 1st phase of Communities Prepared, these resources were advanced and are now recognised nationally as an example of best practice. The BeFloodReady team were keen to bring together the knowledge, skills and experience of CCFF and Communities Prepared to develop a new ‘Understanding Property Flood Resilience’ guide. With input from Cornwall Council, Environment Agency, JBA Consulting and Devon Communities Together, this popular booklet can be accessed via the BeFloodReady website, or you can request a hard copy from CCFF. The purpose of this guide is to introduce Property Flood Resilience (PFR) and how it can be used to manage flood risk to homes and businesses.

To accompany the newly developed booklets, BeFloodReady created online awareness raising workshops which were held over summer 2021. These were open to individuals and communities across Devon & Cornwall and featured a short presentation covering topics such as Climate Change, Community Flood Groups and, of course, PFR. This presentation is free to view online by clicking here. A local flood risk consultant then provided a live demonstration of some of the various PFR measures which are on the market today. In Cornwall, over 33 different communities were represented at these workshops with feedback showing that all felt the content was relevant to them and their community; many many even said they would now consider installing PFR in their homes!

In Summer 2021, the SW PFR Pathfinder project launched a specially commissioned Aardman Animations short film – ‘BeFloodReady- Missy’s Tale’. Aardman Animations are the world famous, four times Academy Award® winning animation studio, creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Creature Comforts and Chicken Run, to name but a few. This excellent short film promotes the BeFloodReady brand for PFR. The film received 3,200 views on Aardman’s Twitter page alone in just the first 5 hours post release and will continue to be shared widely to raise awareness of flood risk and how PFR can help reduce the damage and stress caused by flooding. You can watch Missy’s Tale by clicking on the following link: BeFloodReady: Missy’s Tale by Aardman Animations – YouTube.

Molly Flynn is Cornwall Community Flood Forum’s (CCFF) Community Flood Resilience Coordinator. Molly has been with CCFF for over 2 and a half years after completing a BSc degree in Geography and MSc in Volcanology. Molly helps CCFF to raise flood risk awareness across Cornwall, support communities in becoming better prepared and promote a partnership approach to flood risk management and community engagement.

CCFF have been on the steering board and a project partner for Communities Prepared since its pilot phase in the South West of England. CCFF has also been a delivery partner in the Southwest Property Flood Resilience (PFR) Pathfinder Project, led by Cornwall Council on behalf of all the Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) in the Southwest Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (SWRFCC) region. As part of this project, the team have developed the ‘BeFloodReady’ brand to help provide information and guidance on PFR to individuals, businesses and communities in the Southwest.

Three reasons why our response to climate change needs to be local

By Luca Tiratelli, Senior Policy Researcher at New Local

Climate change is a global problem.

As a result, many devote their energies to looking for a global solution. The COP26 summit that we shall see on these shores next month is a testament to this.

Of course, international coordination has a role to play when it comes to addressing climate change. Indeed, it is through work at this level that we have the greatest chance of meaningfully curbing carbon emissions at the macro scale – which is vital to limiting the amount of warming we shall see this century.

However, while the greenhouse effect operates globally, the manifestations of climate change are locally specific. Whether we are talking about storms, droughts, crop failures or industrial changes – the actual challenges that are created by a changing climate are things that will affect different communities and places in different ways. As such, a substantial part of our response to climate change must be locally rooted.

New Local are currently running a research project exploring the potential of local and community led climate action on climate change – and we have identified three key characteristics of local action that make it an invaluable part of the overall climate policy picture. These are as follows:

Local Climate Action is Responsive

The public is clear that they see climate change as one of the biggest challenges of our era. They are also clear, however, that at present, the government is not doing enough to address it.

Clearly then, national policy is proving unresponsive to the demands of people on the ground for action. This is a problem, of course. However, there are other ways to channel public energy, into institutions that can be much more responsive to democratic demands. Local government offers a way of doing this.

The wave of councils declaring climate emergencies and setting ambitious targets for emissions reduction is evidence of increased responsivity of local levels of governance – and the embrace of local government of deliberative democracy (citizens assemblies) shows that it is at the local level that people’s voices can be heard.

Local Climate Action Has an Inherent Legitimacy

Global warming means that we will all have to change aspects of the way we live our lives. There are positive opportunities within this, but with change comes resistance.

When change is imposed in a top-down manner, there is potential for local priorities and specificities to be missed. This increases the chance that there will be pushback against the changes that we will need to see. The Gillet Jeune protests against fuel tax rises in France might be considered an example of what this looks like in reality.

Action that is negotiated and implemented at local levels can take into account local issues and work around them. This can ensure that peoples’ needs are met during a period of change – and thus embodies the spirit of a just transition.

Local Climate Action is Adaptive 

At the macro-scale, climate change is a slow-moving phenomenon. Global temperatures tick up slowly, and perhaps a key reason for the inertia that we’ve seen in terms of taking radical action against climate change is the fact that the problem is sometimes hard to feel tangibly.

However, at the local level, the effects of climate change can sometimes manifest in the form of incredibly urgent situations. Flash flooding, heatwaves and infrastructure failure are things that, when they happen, happen quickly. Adapting and responding to them requires local knowledge and has to draw on local resilience and networks. 

As such, climate change adaptation – be it emergency response, or the building of infrastructure – is something that is done best at the local level.

New Local is conducting a project to explore the potential of community-based climate action.

Drawing on their research into community power and the work of Elinor Ostrom, they are making the case for a more democratic and localised approach to climate change policy.

Find out more here: https://www.newlocal.org.uk/research-projects/communities-vs-climate/

Luca Tiratelli is a Senior Policy Researcher at New Local.

With less than 3 weeks to go we take a look at this year’s Flood Expo!

The agenda is live and the countdown is on for the 2021 edition of The Flood Expo! You can start planning your day and prepare for the UK’s largest exhibition designed for individuals, businesses and local authorities to discover the latest products and strategies within the flood sector. Taking place on 22-23 September at the NEC, Birmingham, it’s time to connect the industry once again.

Education and Networking at The Flood Expo

The Flood Expo boasts a unique educational programme consisting of CPD accredited, expert-led seminars and panel debates, live demonstrations of the latest technology, as well as market-leading companies, equipped with the industry’s finest solution-led products and services. Here you can discover how we can transform the way flooding is predicted, prevented, and managed. 

The three main themes for the Flood Expo cover all aspects of flood prediction, prevention and response. Flood prediction looks at the latest flood forecasting models, discovering the use of technology, including artificial intelligence, flow monitoring and land surveying, helping to move towards accurate early warning systems targeted to a regional area. Flood prevention explores the latest infrastructure, technology and techniques to protect against flooding. Exhibitors will showcase solutions for SUDs, dredging, property flood resilience and infrastructure including flood barriers. Flood response covers the equipment and solutions for when the flooding hits. Experts will present the different safety equipment, flood barriers, pumping solutions, water rescue equipment and the post flooding clean-up solutions.

Communities Prepared’s Programme Manager, Hannah Baker is speaking in the all-new Defence and Response theatre on Day 1, 22nd September at 11am. Hannah will be discussing community resilience in a post-pandemic world exploring how communities have evolved through the pandemic. The organisers of the Flood Expo are also excited to announce new additions to the CPD accredited, expert-led speaker line-up:

Live flood warnings: how it started & how it’s going

Rod Plummer, Co-founder & Managing Director at Shoothill. From the man that spearheaded the creation of Shoothill’s Flood Alerts (the UK’s first online live flood warning map) comes a talk about how the idea of Flood Alerts came about, what it led to, where things are today, and what it’s like innovating in the flood sector.

ResilenceDirect supports flood NowCasting and accessibility mapping for emergency responders

Luana Avagliano, Head of ResilienceDirect at ResilienceDirect (Cabinet Office) and Dapeng Yu, Professor of River Dynamics at Loughborough University will be discussing how ResilienceDirect are using innovation and working in partnership with Loughborough University to deliver surface water flood nowcasting and accessibility mapping for emergency responders.

Planning and Flood Risk

Richard Blyth, Head of Policy Practice & Research at Royal Town Planning Institute. This session will cover the role of the planning system in reducing flood risk and explore what the prospects are for the future in the context of planning reform and the Environment Bill.

See the full agenda here.

Brand New Feature –  Flood Barriers!

A first for the Flood Expo, we would like to welcome you to an awesome new feature of the show, the Flood Barrier Zone. An area of the floor plan dedicated to showcasing the latest flood barriers in the industry; expect to see barriers of up to 20 metres up close and personal!

NOAQ Flood Protection will be displaying their barrier that is designed so that it is automatically anchored by the weight of the flood water itself. This means the barriers are extremely light, weighing less than 1% of the sandbags, whilst remaining extremely effective. A 50 cm high barrier weighs no more than 7 kg per running metre.

Innovative Global Products will be bringing their RAPID-H20 flood barrier, a new and innovative flood control system that is extremely easy to deploy and remove from location to location. Once on site, there is no heavy equipment required for full deployment or removal, thus keeping costs to a minimum.

Your safety is the event organiser’s number one priority which is why they are doing all they can to ensure you feel at ease when attending the Expo. The unmissable seminars from leading environmental experts will have added capacity, networking zones will include more space and access, plus, high touchpoints and interactive show features are subject to enhanced sanitising and cleaning regimes. See the full list of safety measures you can expect here!

Be sure to visit Communities Prepared on stand 4-D101 and why not invite your community too? To discover the latest innovations, technological advancements and to keep up to date with the latest legislation within the flood prediction, prevention and response sectors register for your free ticket today!

Online volunteer engagement: through COVID-19 and beyond

Lowdham Flood Action Group (FLAG) share their experiences of communicating as a group, and with the community through COVID-19, while offering some of their key online volunteer engagement tips. 

At the height of the early stages of lockdown, when there was significant volunteer activity, communications were daily with volunteers. This was both direct through WhatsApp and through social media, including Facebook. This structure was appropriate for the situation and the volunteers appreciated it.  As the need for support diminished, so did the appetite for volunteers to receive communications.  As a consequence, we stopped the direct messaging and reduced the volume of social media posts too. We now use a WhatsApp group made up of all current volunteers to ask for help for very occasional tasks, normally involving transport to Covid jabs.  

We also provide a minimum of monthly updates on flood defence progress across village Facebook sites, as well as posting on wider issues such as climate change from time to time. The most popular posts on Facebook tend to be the ones about flooding in Lowdham, especially when flood risk is in the air. Requests for assistance usually get good responses with offers.

Think about your audiences, even imagine a typical character, and plan how they would like to receive communications.

After an earlier flood risk incident this year, we posted on our Facebook page regularly during the event and these posts were viewed by hundreds, with many appreciative comments. We’ve gained over a hundred members since January this year. We still get a few requests to join the Facebook group every month. Members really seemed to like the regular updates during events, and on the progress of flood defences and on maintenance/improvements.

In the build up to a possible flood event we’re very careful with communications in two ways. Firstly, we don’t want to repeatedly stand our volunteers up only to discover that we have overestimated the likelihood of them being needed. Secondly, we are very mindful of the psychological impact we have on those vulnerable to flooding with repeated warnings. This requires fine judgment, and we very much take a ‘team view’ about if and when to communicate.

Our online volunteer engagement tips

  • WhatsApp is a useful tool and has really helped bind our group together
  • Consider putting in place certain rules in a WhatsApp group. For example, we request no general ‘chat’ as this causes too many alerts on people’s phones. Not everyone is always ‘on social media’ and it’s important to be respectful of this while retaining the focus on responding to requests
  • Build an online presence (website, blog, social media) to reach more people and raise awareness in the community
  • Encouragement is key! When contacted by phone, our admin team encouraged potential volunteers to sign up online but also took their contact details so they could follow up if the link to sign up didn’t come through. The team also encouraged residents who “didn’t want to be a nuisance” to sign up so we had their details just in case. Most recipients are not online “fluent” or used to asking for help but do respond with gentle hand holding
  • Share some of your Facebook posts on local relevant pages. We’ve found this has increased the reach of our posts. We’re careful not to share too specialist or detailed posts, so the people who are ’just interested’ don’t get overburdened
  • Where there are specific projects (e.g., repairs in one part of the village) then a small email group creates greater involvement, traction and feeling of belonging (remember to use bcc though!)
  • Think about your audiences, even imagine a typical character, and plan how they would like to receive communications. Recognise that not all information will be current all the time. For example, it’s OK to have slightly out of date written information in a monthly Parish Magazine as long as it’s clearly dated

Thank you to Lowdham FLAG for sharing their insights into online volunteer engagement. Do you have any experiences as a group you’d like to share on our blog? Please get in touch.

Spontaneous volunteering during the Pandemic

Back in June last year I wrote a blog for Communities Prepared about my research into volunteers in disasters after being awarded a Churchill Fellowship.  My report has since been published in September and can be found here.

I have now been commissioned to undertake further research into the work of spontaneous volunteer groups across the United Kingdom by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust as part of their Covid-19 Action Fund which provides grants for Churchill Fellows to run projects combatting the effects of Covid-19 in all areas of society. 

The UK government definition categorises spontaneous volunteers as “individuals who are unaffiliated with existing official response organisations, yet, without extensive prep planning are motivated to provide unpaid support to the response and /or recovery to emergencies.”

Through disasters such as the Grenfell Tower Fire and many flooding incidents over the last decade, groups have been formed in the community by concerned individuals who want to help others in need. Through the pandemic, thousands of spontaneous volunteers have come forward to support their communities, forming Mutual Aid and COVID-19 support groups.

Often, they have faced barriers and issues that have prevented them working as effectively as they could. New Local’s report Communities vs. Coronavirus: The Rise of Mutual Aid examines some of these challenges, including “how best to structure themselves” and “managing their relationships with local government.”

In examples where the authorities work with volunteer groups, the combination of effort maximises the benefits to those in need.

My research and experience working with these spontaneous volunteer groups in Eastleigh, Hampshire (where I am the Resilience Manager), have demonstrated the impact of a joint effort. In examples where the authorities work with volunteer groups, the combination of effort maximises the benefits to those in need.

Here we worked with three spontaneous volunteer groups, which were formed in direct response to the pandemic. They have acted as the delivery arm of our local response centre, providing help and support to both those Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people who were shielding, and also to those who were having to self-isolate due to catching the virus or being a close contact. We have hundreds of volunteers doing shopping, collecting prescriptions, dog walking, befriending over the phone and doing regular checks on those in need of support. It has been and continues to be a fantastic effort by many members of the local community.

I am therefore calling to all spontaneous volunteer groups in the UK to ask for their help by completing a simple survey on behalf of their local group. This survey looks at how the groups were formed, their role and the work they have undertaken, how they are led, their interactions with the statutory authorities and considerations for their future post COVID-19.

I am conducing this survey through my work with Eastleigh Borough Council which ensures therefore that all data will be kept securely and used appropriately during the course of the research.

You can find the survey here on my blog: https://disastervolunteers.home.blog/

Alternatively, please email Melvin.hartley@eastleigh.gov.uk and I can send you a copy.

Melvin Hartley
Melvin Hartley is Safety & Resilience manager at Eastleigh Borough Council and Community Resilience lead for Hampshire and IOW Local Resilience Forum. Following a career with Bedfordshire Police and in community safety, he was part of the London Borough of Southwark’s management team for the 2012 Olympics response. 

Community Mobilisation

Senior Policy Researcher, Luca Tiratelli discusses NLGN’s latest report on Community Mobilisation and what this looks like in practice.

The power of community mobilisation shown as a superhero

‘Community power’ is an increasingly fashionable idea in policy circles. Across local government and beyond, many people are seeing the benefit in democratising public services and allowing communities to take more control over the forces that shape their lives.

Getting communities to the point at which they can take on this power and control is where community mobilisation comes in. In NLGN’s latest report, we define this as a process that leaves us with communities who have clear objectives, understand what assets they have at their disposal, and have a plan for how to use them to achieve positive change.

Community mobilisation differs from notionally similar concepts, such as community engagement, in that it is a deep process, which requires the active building of bonds, assets and infrastructure within communities, making them stronger and more able to unleash their latent potential. By contrast, community engagement is a shallow process, which simply involves harvesting pre-existing opinions.

We define community mobilisation as a process that leaves us with communities who have clear objectives, understand what assets they have at their disposal, and have a plan for how to use them to achieve positive change.

On occasion, community mobilisation can occur organically, particularly in circumstances when communities have to come together in the face of adversity, or in opposition to something. The recent flourishing of mutual aid groups around the country in response to lockdown would be a good example of this. However, most of the time, some degree of external catalysation is needed for mobilisation to occur, which normally takes the form of an active effort on the part of either local government, public service professionals or the community and voluntary sector.

What this looks like in practice can vary considerably. In the report, we offer four case studies, which employ contrasting approaches, but have all achieved inspiring and positive outcomes. These include:

  • Community Catalysts, and their work to empower local people with passion and ideas to create new community led alternatives in the social care sector in Central Bedfordshire
  • The partnership between Haringey Council and the Local Area Coordination Network, which employs coordinators to work in the borough, connecting people with specific needs to community organisations that can meet them
  • London CLT, and their work in using community organising approaches to build more affordable housing in the capital
  • The ‘Every One Every Day’ project in Barking and Dagenham, which creates the infrastructure needed to support an ecosystem of community led projects and initiatives to emerge and flourish

Through these examples, the report also identifies numerous factors that can work as either enablers or barriers to community mobilisation taking hold in any given area. Overall, we found that mobilisation is more likely to be successful if you can cultivate strong community leadership, employ effective communication strategies, and engage positively with local authorities, who we found to often hold extraordinary ‘make or break’ power over community initiatives.

We view community mobilisation as an essential prerequisite to handing over power and responsibility to communities on the ground and were hugely inspired by the examples of people doing it effectively out there across the country.

On the other hand, we found that factors that often hold community mobilisation efforts back include things like working at inappropriate scales (mobilising over too large an area/group tends to be exceedingly difficult, whereas mobilising at too small a scale creates groups that lack the capacity to actually change things), and the characteristics of communities themselves. Quite obviously, communities afflicted with internal divisions prove difficult to mobilise, but so do communities that lack trust in existing systems or have developed a certain sense of fatalism about the possibility of positive change.

Hopefully, however, through the course of our report, we offer a roadmap for successful mobilisation strategies, capable of ensuring positive outcomes regardless of what obstacles stand in your way. We view community mobilisation as an essential prerequisite to handing over power and responsibility to communities on the ground and were hugely inspired by the examples of people doing it effectively out there across the country.

Luca Tiratelli, author of the NLGN's report onCommunity Mobilisation

#30days30waysUK to launch its 6th annual preparedness campaign this September

30days30waysUK.org.uk is a professional volunteer network with one common purpose: to raise awareness and capacities for emergency preparedness and community resilience. Preparedness concerns us all at all levels. No one is ever alone in an emergency and everyone can play their part by being informed, prepared and knowing where to access and give help. A little personal preparedness can go quite a long way towards community resilience. Informed and prepared individuals make resilient communities. This has yet again been demonstrated during these difficult COVID-19 times where so many have done and given so much. However, there are other risks.    

Since 2015, the hashtag #30days30waysUK runs every year during ‘September is Preparedness Month’ across social media with daily topics sharing stories, tips and resources about all kinds of hazards and how to take action. Quite simply, we discuss over 30 days how everyone can be better informed and prepared in 30 different ways.

A little personal preparedness can go quite a long way towards community resilience.

Everyone is welcome to participate by following the hashtag and key social media accounts such as @30days30waysUK. Now in its 6th year and gaining ever wider support, #30days30waysUK can get quite busy. Therefore, those that wish to simply access the shared core resources can subscribe to receive the free campaign email via 30days30waysUK.org.uk/subscribe.

So, what is in store for #30days30waysUK 2020 and how is the campaign different from previous years?

2020 is a very special and important year! With COVID-19 now a daily reality and compounding other hazards, the concept of preparedness has acutely gained in relevance and urgency. We adopt the UN definition:

            The knowledge and capacities of governments, professional response and recovery organisations, communities, and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions. For instance, installing early warning systems, identifying evacuation routes, and preparing emergency supplies. 

In other words: preparedness concerns us all and we hugely look forward to exploring many personal and community preparedness aspects during September.

With COVID-19 now a daily reality and compounding other hazards, the concept of preparedness has acutely gained in relevance and urgency.

As in previous years, the campaign takes a positive, motivating and gamified approach #BePreparedNotScared. The use of memes and cartoons helps break down cultural and language barriers and the free BINGO makes keeping track of the campaign fun and with a sense of achievement: all 30 days completed and crossed off – BINGO! Access it via 30days30waysUK.org.uk/join.

New this year is a full 10-day count-down to gather momentum and reach wide audiences and there will be a full introductory day. Without giving too much away, we can reveal that this year there are a good number of brand-new never before discussed preparedness topics while those that have followed us for some years will recognise old favourites and particularly pertinent themes. However, content and partners vary so there is always something new and interesting to learn. Some themes are ‘fixed’ in the sense that they tap into international contexts such as the International First Aid Day on 21st September.

For more information and to join visit 30days30waysUK.org.uk, like and follow Twitter and Facebook @30days30waysUK

Examining the role of volunteers in disasters across the USA and Europe

‘Travel to learn, return to inspire.’ This is the instruction the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust gives each year to 150 exceptional people from across the UK who are awarded a Churchill Fellowship.

Little did I realise when I was awarded a 2019 Churchill Fellowship, I would be putting into practice my learning within a week of returning from my travels. Back in 2017 whilst studying for my PG Certificate in Emergency Planning, I learnt about the Fellowships – ‘a unique programme of overseas research grants. These support UK citizens from all parts of society to travel the world in search of innovative solutions for today’s most pressing problems’ (Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website).

My interest in volunteers during times of crisis was sharpened by the tragic events of Grenfell Tower where hundreds of spontaneous volunteers from across the UK offered their help. The situation was chaotic, lacked coordination, resources were wasted, and no one appeared to be in control. Research showed other countries had tried and tested plans and so my project theme was set.

The 6-month process involves an initial application, detailed proposals, shortlisting and interview. In 2019, 1800 applications were received, and a 150 Fellowships awarded. Fellowships cover 8 different categories of universal themes in society. My Fellowship award was for travel to USA & Europe investigating the management of volunteers, especially spontaneous volunteers, at disasters.

My interest in volunteers during times of crisis was sharpened by the tragic events of Grenfell Tower where hundreds of spontaneous volunteers from across the UK offered their help.

September 2019:  I visited 5 states and met over 25 different organisations. In Georgia, Hurricane Dorian arrived after devastating the Bahamas, the coastal region was evacuated, volunteers staffed Red Cross Emergency Centre as they responded to the thousands of people in need. Spontaneous volunteers were directed to jobs on the ground, packing food and essential supplies, making deliveries or helping with the clean up. It was great to meet these volunteers many of whom used their annual leave to help.

Red Cross volunteers sat working in the Red Cross Operation Centre in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.
Red Cross Operation Centre, Atlanta

The Community Emergency Response Team is an 8-week programme, training volunteers to respond to disasters in their community. Speaking with volunteers starting out, and those who have subsequently responded to help, I found they were inspiring individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge. In California, volunteers helped with the wildfires that caused such devastation, wiping out hundreds of homes. I met the volunteer leaders who filled 2000 volunteer jobs in 10 days.

In my borough, hundreds of spontaneous volunteers have joined together through Facebook, churches, parishes and community groups to help. Using the learning, we have been able to coordinate their efforts to provide an accessible service of support to residents.

February 2020: I visited the German Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, speaking at a conference on managing spontaneous volunteers. I undertook academic research with 3 universities, learning from those who have examined incidents identifying best practice. I finished with visits to the World Port of Rotterdam, Amsterdam security region and the Red Cross, who showcased their excellent Ready2Help programme.

Returning home in early March, I became engulfed in the COVID-19 crisis, both with my own Council and as lead for the Local Resilience Forum. I have helped engage the voluntary sector. We have volunteers all over Hampshire helping those in need, delivering food parcels, fetching much needed medicines and providing emotional support for those who are at high risk and self-isolating. In my borough, hundreds of spontaneous volunteers have joined together through Facebook, churches, parishes and community groups to help. Using the learning, we have been able to coordinate their efforts to provide an accessible service of support to residents.

A Churchill Fellowship is a once in a lifetime opportunity and continues beyond the trip itself. It has been an incredible experience meeting so many wonderful and inspiring people. The annual Fellowships are open to any UK citizen over 18.

For more detail please see Melvin’s blog.

Melvin Hartley dressed in a high-vis jacket

Bio: Melvin Hartley is Safety & Resilience manager at Eastleigh Borough Council and Community Resilience lead for Hampshire and IOW Local Resilience Forum. Following a career with Bedfordshire Police and in community safety, he was part of the London Borough of Southwark’s management team for the 2012 Olympics response. 

He lives with his partner in his home city of Portsmouth and is a trustee of Pompey in the Community, the charitable arm of Portsmouth FC.

Interested in reading more about volunteering? Read our Q&A with Calum, aged 25, who started volunteering with the Bradford on Avon Town Council Community Emergency Volunteers (CEVs) in February.

Our partners