Communities in Skegness area to be in frontline in disaster

Councillors and members of the community could be called to help in situations like the floods in Skegness in 2013. ANL-161104-164105001
Councillors and members of the community could be called to help in situations like the floods in Skegness in 2013. ANL-161104-164105001

Councillors and members of the community could find themselves in the frontline alongside the emergency services should disaster strike in Skegness.

The announcement that towns and parishes are being encouraged to develop their own emergency plans was met with mixed reactions at the latest direction and strategy committee meeting of Skegness Town Council.

Flood warden Coun Malcom Gabbitas said: “I was against this from the beginning. What would happen if there were any disasters other than flooding?

“If there was an oil spill or gas leak, how could we deal with that? If we had three metres of snow I wouldn’t even be able to get out.”

However, clerk Steve Larner explained the Emergency Plan was not intended to replace the role of the emergency services or ‘primary agencies’ in an emergency situation.

He said: “It does, however, recognise that in some circumstances the emergency services may be stretched and that local self-help may be able to assist in dealing with some aspects of the emergency.

“I have been on a training course and the feeling is the plans work in a small village if emergency services can’t respond immediately.

“It would be different in towns the size of Skegness, where local emergency services would respond.”

Coun Steve Kirk, who chaired the meeting, said: “We are not first response. Our role would be to fill in the gaps.”

Coun Gary Ellis said he would be happy to act as co-ordinator for the Skegness plan. He said: “It’s something I’ve done in the past. We need to have the infrastructure in place. It doesn’t have to be immense. We need to work with ward members to get something in place.”

A copy of the Emergency Plan template had been circulated to committee members. It stated ‘the purpose of this Community Emergency Plan is to help prepare the community to be ready for an emergency’.

The finished plan would include important telephone numbers, local hazards and threats, community resources, such as temporary emergency shelter, other resources such as distribution of sand bags and access to food, skills within the community and location of vulnerable people needing more support.

The committee was invited to consider how to take this forward. It was agreed for Coun Ellis to go on the appropriate training course and report back. The town council will then decide whether to take this forward.

After the meeting, Steve Eason-Harris, emergency planning officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “In July last year, Lincolnshire County Council and the Environment Agency consulted with their Flood and Coastal volunteers on how they felt they could use their skills most effectively to deliver the best possible outcome for their community.

“After discussions with over 70 volunteers, it was decided that their remit would evolve and they would become Community Emergency volunteers – allowing them to have a wider Warn and Inform remit in emergency situations such as heavy snowfall, flu pandemic or river, tidal and surface water issues. They will continue to be supported by Lincolnshire County Council, the Environment Agency and their local Parish/Town Council to ensure Lincolnshire remains resilient.”