Campaigns urge people to prepare for worst

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IN the same week that the Scottish Government launched their ‘Ready For Winter?’ campaign, Reston and Auchencrow Community Council was revealed as one of a number of bodies in the Borders set to sign up to a new scheme to help communities prepare, organise and respond to emergency situations such as severe weather.

The Scottish Government’s initiative, which is set to run until mid-November and is backed by the Red Cross, will: remind individuals and families of the risk and consequences of being under prepared for the impact of severe winter weather; offer information and advice on the simple steps that people, businesses and communities can take to reduce those risks and highlight the range of information, support and resources available across all sectors and all regions of Scotland.

Communities in Berwickshire pulled together during the two harsh winters that hit, last year and in 2009, and backed by both the Scottish and UK Governments, Scottish Borders Council are leading a new initiative which aims to help communities put in place resilience plans which will make them better prepared to cope with an emergency scenario in a way which complements the response of emergency responders.

SBC’s Emergency Planning Officer Jim Fraser explained: “We are aware that many people in communities often want to help in some way during an emergency but are not sure what they can do.

“The purpose of the resilient communities initiative is to empower communities to put in place a plan for their particular area that will allow them to be more prepared to cope locally with an emergency.

“Not only will they be better prepared and informed, but members of the community will know who to contact locally for assistance, and this will make it easier to recover from the impact of an emergency.”

Community members will be able to prepare, organise and respond to events and deal with local issues such as Clearing snow from the pathways of people who are unable to do it themselves; clearing snow from school and nursery playgrounds; placing sandbags in risk areas to prevent flooding; placing domestic flood gates in position; assisting with the delivery of supplies during severe weather such as hot meals and water; providing hot meals and assistance within community centres and village halls; and checking on neighbours to ensure their safety and well being during severe weather.

A framework is used which is known as a resilient community plan. This is specific to the community council area and can be split down into local areas if required. The purpose of the plan is to co-ordinate voluntary support and supply this to those who require it in a non-mechanised way.

A community resilience plan includes a community profile, community data, community council map, flood map, gritting routes and grit bin locations, community risk assessment, list of co-ordinators and volunteers, general and safety information, household emergency plan, volunteer questionnaire, and helpful links and documents.

Within the Scottish Borders there are examples of this type of group in the form of flooding self help groups where there have been examples of communities supporting and assisting each other during recent periods of severe weather.

Councillor Alec Nicol, chair of the Scottish Borders Community Safety Forum, commented: “During the severe weather over the past two winters, we were reminded of the excellent sprit and resilience of communities across the Borders. This new initiative looks to build on this, by making sure people in the Borders can work closely with the Council and emergency responders during severe weather and other emergencies. It will also raise individual and community awareness with respect to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.”