Strong partnership working between Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Council played a significant part in the County Council`s `Beacon Status` award for Emergency Planning earlier this year. The close links were tested briefly last week as Loughton High Road was closed due to a gas leak. The Beacon Scheme was established by the Government in 1999 to identify local government excellence and best practice.
All Councils are now required to play an enhanced emergency planning role since the introduction of the Civil Contingencies Act in 2004. Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Councils have complimentary arrangements for responding to emergencies. They share emergency planning staff and expertise, and run test exercises together aimed at ensuring the best possible combined response.
Councillor Mrs Syd Stavrou, Community Wellbeing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: It is often the Police or Fire Service that leads in emergency response but Councils can be called upon in very important supporting roles. We never know exactly what the next emergency is going to be so we plan in terms of the services we can provide such as rest centres, building control advice or public health expertise. We also have vehicles and machinery that can be put at the disposal of the emergency services as well as small stores of items such as sandbags.
In the last few years we have been called upon in situations as diverse as an unexploded war-time bomb, floods and fire. We were on standby during the fuel blockade to help ensure essential services continued to be delivered and formed part of the nation-wide response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001.
A great deal of our recent planning and training has centred on the role we would play during a Flu Pandemic, during which Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council would support the Health agencies. Separately, every agency continues to take terrorist threats extremely seriously and we also plan for man-made emergencies too.
Councillor Mrs Stavrou added: We were very pleased to be recognised by Essex County Council as a Beacon Partner for Emergency Planning. It reinforces the strong partnership working that has existed in Epping Forest for many years. Mercifully, the emergencies to hit the District in recent years have been relatively small scale but people will remember the scenes of the fuel storage fire in Buncefield, Hertfordshire and the Korean cargo jet airliner that came down a few miles north of us in Uttlesford just a few years ago. Whatever, the future holds we must be prepared.