Despite being situated only five miles east of Plymouth, Brixton is a fairly rural south Devon village with several scattered hamlets across the Parish. In severe weather, particularly during heavy snowfall or ice, these hamlets quickly become isolated.
Prior to Communities Prepared, Brixton Parish Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was in the process of developing their community emergency plan. Led by Cllr Helen Deas Williams, the community also drew on the experiences of the adjacent Parish of Yealmpton, whose village had previously experienced severe flooding, splitting the village in two – at a time when they had no emergency plan in place. The Parishes decided to work together and support each other in any emergency, sharing copies of their plans.
Despite being a fairly engaged and involved community, Brixton’s higher proportion of older residents meant that maintaining resilience measures and adapting to the increasing risk of severe weather emergencies was a challenge. In 2017, as part of the first phase of the Lottery funded Communities Prepared programme, the joint CERT group received training, were supported as they developed their plan and helped to implement key resilience measures to promote longer-term sustainability.
Training covered the different volunteer role profiles, understanding flooding and flood risk awareness, as well as providing an overview of the role of emergency response services. This helped the group to understand the responsibilities and limitations of their role, and how this complements the work of other agencies.
“It helped us to better recognise the separate needs of the emergency services, making sure they weren’t having to double check or duplicate information and that we were supporting them efficiently.”
Brixton Parish CERT and Yealmpton CERT also participated in a one to many style training session with other Devon parishes “bringing people from other communities together to help pool the knowledge, resources and skills.” Attendees also exchanged useful information following the event, thanks to the opportunity to meet and make contacts.
Additional support was provided by the Communities Prepared team to assist the group in securing funding to purchase handheld radios for use in emergency situations, ensuring both neighbouring Parish emergency teams were using the same equipment and frequencies in order to support each other in a crisis more effectively.
“This support was extremely helpful and assisted us greatly to become more cohesive in working with the community in the adjacent parish, becoming much more efficient, and training everybody in the use of handheld radios so we will be better able to communicate during a crisis.”
The group has now gone on to develop other areas of their community resilience, including training in roads management, skills and safety.
“We’re quite good at writing plans but were not so good at what you do afterwards. I think that was particularly helpful – understanding the follow-through needed to make sure people are supported in getting back to a working state as quickly as possible.”Cllr Helen Deas Williams, Brixton Parish Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)