Hammersmith & Fulham Council took another step forward in its ground-breaking approach to working with the community to deal with an emergency.
Following the tragedy at Grenfell and the Parsons Green terror attack, the council decided to harness and coordinate the community spirit seen during these major crises.
H&F Council went on to create the new Community Resilience project where the community work in collaboration with the council to discuss how it could do things better and how best to involve residents and local groups in response to an emergency.
And so, community organisations, residents’ groups and local businesses, which have joined the new project, were invited down to the latest Community Resilience event on 7 July at Hammersmith Town Hall in King Street where they were shown first-hand how the H&F emergency response network is run during a crisis.
“We do things with residents, not to them, which is why we’re working together with our residents and businesses to respond as one when an emergency occurs,” said Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
“We want our emergency response to be the best it can be and we cannot do that without the help of the community.”
On the day, the ‘community responders’ went through a simulated emergency scenario as it played out.
It included a real-life version of a rest centre, a police cordon - like the one successfully used in the response to September’s Parsons Green terror attack, a look inside H&F Council’s CCTV room, and the London Fire Brigade showcased one of their command and control vehicles, so participants could see how they work in an emergency.
Volunteer Wilma Owusu, a member of the Emlyn Gardens tenants’ association said: “We should have more of these types of groups around the country. There are many people in the community that want to help. Now they can with this group. It’s a fantastic idea.”
Community responders will next learn about their role in a crisis, and how best to work together, whether it’s in co-ordinating volunteers and donations, opening up community halls or providing interpreters or transport.
It all started with a community ‘hackathon’ on emergency planning last year. Attended by more than a hundred community representatives, the brainstorming event was the first step in developing a shared emergency plan with local organisations.
That led to the creation of a community extranet – a secure emergency response website where community groups can quickly connect with each other to share information and offer support.
Other councils are now taking a keen interest in how the council is empowering the community to play a more vital role in emergency situations.
Inspector Jim Cook of the Met Police added: “The chances of something happening are slim but if they do we’ll have an established mechanism in place to deal with it. We can’t do it alone. We need the community’s help.
“The council is doing a fantastic job with Nextdoor and I urge you all to sign up to it. Together we’re stronger.”
H&F Council was the first local authority in the UK to partner with Nextdoor.
Almost 11,000 residents have now signed up to the private social network for local neighbourhoods.
H&F Volunteer Centre
The council’s emergency response team will have even more support after the H&F Volunteer Centre in King Street recently formed its own community resilience volunteer scheme.
After the Grenfell Tower blaze, the volunteer centre realised there were an abundance of residents with useful skills and experience who were unable to help, for instance people offering counselling to victims of the tragedy, as there was not enough time to vet the individuals.
The CAMERA (Co-ordinating and Mobilising Emergency Response Activists) scheme will establish an emergency programme of trusted and vetted volunteers, provide emergency awareness training, support to set up emergency volunteer plans with employers and social media volunteers to help spread the correct information during an emergency.
H&F Volunteer Centre Chief Executive Dominic Pinkney said: “We are delighted to be launching this new emergency volunteer programme which will give local people a real opportunity to help in a time of an emergency.
“We saw first-hand with Grenfell that when an emergency situation takes place local people want to be able to help but they do not really get an opportunity.”
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