The British Red Cross is calling for a change in the law so that the emergency services, government bodies and councils are required to involve voluntary and community groups when responding to emergencies.
In a report published today titled People Power in Emergencies, the charity says that more collaboration between emergency services, local authorities and local community groups is needed because people on the ground have a better understanding of particular needs.
It says that in areas where emergency planning and response focuses on a “command and control” approach from statutory agencies, it misses the opportunity to mobilise communities and build resilience.
The report’s key recommendation is for an “urgent” review of the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act to enshrine in law the role of the voluntary and community sector during emergencies.
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “Our own response to the recent floods across Yorkshire and the Midlands has shown the value we bring, whether supporting fire and rescue to distribute sandbags, or welcoming people who’ve been flooded out of their home into rest centres. This is about showing how we complement the work of our partners.
“It’s also about giving a voice to those affected by emergencies and highlighting local challenges, sensitivities and opportunities to help people survive and recover better.
“It’s people and communities who know best what their needs are and how they want them addressed. They are the experts in who may be seriously ill, have a disability or mobility issue, or face difficulties because of language barriers, poverty, immigration status or anything else.
“By listening harder and tapping into that resource, people will have the best possible chance of survival and recovery.
“By updating the law so that statutory agencies work more with communities and the voluntary sector, people’s immediate needs will be met more easily, in the most appropriate way.”