In praise of… Emergency Planners
This blog likes good news and we like promoting the hard work of underappreciated local government professions. You can only imagine then how excited WLLG towers was when we received the below post in our inbox. Today’s post is in praise of emergency planners and apparently if we’re all really nice the author will follow this up with many more. So, all on our best behaviour and if you have a local government profession you think deserves special praise, or would like to contribute a guest post about any other area of local government, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, make sure you read this first:
People outside of Local Government often mistakenly assume that Councils are homogenous organisations where everybody has the same background, thinks in the same way and is working to achieve the same thing. This is a myth which is easily dispelled but it got me onto thinking about some of the groups or teams within our Councils who perform such important work yet are not recognised for it.
These are the teams that have predictors of Beaconicity (see, it can go in a sentence!) but are too busy to fill in the forms.
This may turn into an occasional series on some of the more exotic, unappreciated and hidden roles within Councils as a celebration of their work (internal audit we mean you – work out which of the three you are), and I’d like to start off in praise of emergency planning officers.
I walked past our Head of Emergency Planning in the corridor last week. His shoulders were hunched, his head bowed and he had the beginning of a scowl on his face. “How are you?” I enquired, nervously; “very well” he replied “on good form”, with what appeared to be a smile spreading across his face. I was relieved: there was nothing for him or me to worry about and I could sleep easily that night.
People who work in Emergency Planning are a peculiar breed: like risk managers, they have to spend their time thinking about the worst possible outcomes and what might go wrong.
This pessimistic worldview can begin to affect you after a while and it is no surprise that Emergency Planning officers can sometimes be dour and terribly serious. I knew one who seemed to be completely devoid of any sense of humour whatsoever, and the slightest joke about a flu pandemic (probably not the best topic) always resulted in a 30 minutes lecture on how important a flu pandemic was, how likely it was to happen, why I should be preparing and how many people were likely to die: I felt unmotivated following this conversation but did make sure that my parents had a vaccination that year.
In my previous Council, the Emergency Planning team worked in a bunker, sorry “room”, in the Basement of our main headquarters building. They rarely seemed to come out of their lair but were an experienced group of officers who had seen most things before and knew exactly what to do when they happened again: there was a real sense of surefootedness about them and no sense of arrogance. There must have been hundreds of years of service between them and used to enjoy telling stories about what happened in the storm of 87 or the flood of 95. Foot and mouth had an outbreak whilst I was there and they handled it superbly, yet didn’t really get the full credit they deserved.
In a real emergency though, emergency planning officers are worth their weight in gold, platinum and a range of other precious metals. When something goes wrong, people always turn to the emergency plan and are pleased that somebody else has thought through the full implications of whatever has happened and outlined what should be done. Planning a response in a calm and rational manner always seems to be a better bet to me than in the midst of an emergency when communications are difficult, people unavailable and adrenaline flowing. The reassurance of this proves the value of an emergency planning team, along with the reminder that regular practices are carried out.
It could be an easy thing to cut emergency planners given the budget pressures that many Councils find themselves under, and it may be more efficient and effective to organise this role on a wider footprint. I was trying to think of what part of the body an emergency planning officer would be: they wouldn’t be on show and you probably didn’t realise how much you needed it until you needed it. My human physiology isn’t good enough to work this out but something like a small intestine that you can do without most of the time but when it isn’t there you realise how much you needed it. Comments on this below would be welcome.
Emergency planners of the country we salute you!
And I am sure that they would wish me to remind you to have your flu jab and to make sure that your phone is always charged and your copy of the emergency plan is kept about your person.
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