In The Event of a Disaster in Houghton Regis, How Would Central Bedfordshire Manage It?

CBC has responded to HRND's questions.

The chief exec of Kensington and Chelsea council has resigned over criticism of that council's response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

No-one wants a disaster locally, whether it's a plane crash, a meteor, or massive fire, but the question is an important one that we'd all like to think that our local authority is organised for.

HRND asked Central Bedfordshire Council, 
"In the event of a disaster happening in Houghton Regis, who will take charge of the situation, and how quickly will you be able to put people in position to command, control, and re-house any affected members of the public?"

A full response has been sent by Marcel Coiffait, the Director of Community Services, on behalf of Richard Carr, the Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council:

"The Council has a well-rehearsed Emergency Plan process and a range of staff specially trained to take charge at operational, tactical and strategic levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold); at the strategic level this is most likely to be the Chief Executive or one of the Council’s Directors who takes charge on behalf of CBC,  however we need to be able to rotate staff as emergencies can be long running. We are also members of the Bedfordshire and Luton Local Resilience Forum (and indeed we co-ordinate this body) which is a grouping of Emergency services, Councils, health, military and volunteer partners and we have agreed plans to work together and provide mutual support as required. We also train and practice our responses together."

"In the event of a disaster happening in Houghton Regis, Central Bedfordshire Council would activate its Crisis Management Plan."

"If the emergency was site specific then there would be an Forward Command Point set-up at the scene and each relevant agency would send a representative usually known as Bronze Commanders. This group of officers (from Police, Fire, Ambulance, Local Authority, Voluntary Sector etc) would work together to manage the immediate operational issues of the emergency."

"If the emergency was large enough a multi-agency tactical group may be activated and the Council would deploy one of our trained Silver Commanders to this group. Again with an even larger incident a multi-agency Strategic Group would be activated and the Council would deploy a Gold Commander to this group."

"Within the Council we would open up our Emergency Control Centre, which is the hub for the coordination of information and resources to aid the response. In the initial response to an emergency the Council’s role is to assist the emergency services, coordinate the voluntary sector involvement, look after people that have been displaced and look after the vulnerable. After the emergency response phase the Council would become the overall lead agency for recovery.

"To answer your other questions:

1.      Who will take charge of the situation – in a multi-agency response Bedfordshire Police would initially take overall charge of the situation and Chair a Strategic Coordinating Group of which the Council would attend. The Council would nominate a Gold Commander who would have overall responsibility for the Council's response.

2.      How quickly will you be able to put people in position to command and control – depending on the scale of the incident we would have a Bronze on the scene as soon as possible (we operate a 24 hour emergency response service). We would deploy officer to Tactical and Strategic Command Group also within hours of being activated.

3.      How quickly will you be able to re-house any affected members of the public – the initial response to any emergency where evacuation is required the Council working closely with the voluntary sector would establish an Assistance Centre of a suitable size and in a place of safety for people to initially go to. This would be open for the duration of the emergency. We aim to have a centre opened with basic resources deployed within 2hrs of the need for one being recognised. For smaller emergencies we often put up affected residents in hotel or B&B accommodation if they are unable to return to their homes that night. If people were unable to return to their homes and did not have suitable insurance, which would cover this and had nowhere else to go we would have to look into a medium to longer term accommodation plan."

◘ If you would like more information our emergency planning officer would be very happy to talk with you. or 0300 300 4439.

◘ People can also volunteer to become part of our Community Emergency Response Team. To find out more about emergency preparedness in Bedfordshire please visit the Local Resilience Forum partnerships website