We are all facing unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Local Authorities across the country are taking steps to manage the inevitable pressures on vital services caused by the pandemic.
Devon County Council is working closely with our neighbouring local authorities to share resources and provide support during this difficult time.
We have put together these FAQs to provide information on the work we are doing as we develop our emergency planning response.
What is emergency planning and why is it needed?
Emergency planning is a normal part of any local council’s responsibilities. It covers events such as extreme weather, critical incidents, terrorist attacks and pandemics. It sets out clear roles and responsibilities for managing incidents and communicating with the public.
In the current situation, emergency planners review core services and how they can be managed in a variety of extreme circumstances. They decide which services are critical, how staff may be redeployed to support essential and new mitigating activities and any changes to council services, such as the frequency of bin collections.
What is the role of a local authority?
Local authorities have a critical role in emergency planning to ensure that they can respond to emergency situations in their areas. To do this they need to prepare, often through undertaking risk assessments, planning for recovery and working with the emergency services and other agencies. They are members of their Local Resilience Forum (LRF).
Who is Devon County Council working with?
The Local Resilience Forum includes Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, the Environment Agency, the NHS and the emergency services.
Together we will be working on our response to COVID-19 across each of our areas so that we can share information, resources and knowledge.
Are council workers essential workers?
Yes. Local authorities provide a range of essential services that need to be maintained during the current crisis. These include highways maintenance, waste collection, social services and care.
Staff are being redeployed to help deliver new services we have set up to support our communities.
Where can I find useful information?
Devon County Council’s Communications Team is working hard to supply our residents with timely and factual information through local media outlets, our website and our own social media accounts.
We only share information that has come from trusted sources like the NHS, UK government or Public Health England. Please take the time to look for information from reliable outlets as there is a lot of misinformation and rumour being shared on social media channels.
I’ve heard local authorities are planning temporary mortuaries, is that true?
Yes, it is part of the role of local authorities to plan for all sorts of emergencies. We are working with the NHS, funeral directors, faith groups and other partners to manage the pandemic effects.
We sincerely hope that with the social distancing measures in place, the temporary mortuary will not be needed. However the scale and speed of this pandemic means we have to put in place arrangements to ensure our existing mortuary facilities are not overwhelmed.
These facilities are a necessary and important precaution to protect public health and reduce risks to NHS staff, council workers and people working in the funeral business. Security arrangements are in place to guard the sites.
We are working hard to make sure that, should they pass away, people’s loved ones will be looked after with care and dignity.
It is vital that we all continue to follow government advice and guidance on social distancing and #StayHomeStaySafe
What impact might a temporary mortuary have on residents nearby?
We are doing all we can to ensure that the impact on nearby residents is minimised from the outset. The sites have been chosen to limit the numbers of people affected and these facilities will only be deployed if necessary.
The facility is very strictly controlled, and it does not pose any risk to residents or the nearby community. Security staff will be in place at all times and external lighting at night will be kept to a minimum.
Although there may be a slight rise in the numbers of vehicles visiting the site, this is not expected to be particularly noticeable for residents and we don’t expect there to be any increase in noise.
What about registering deaths and arranging funeral services?
Devon Registration Service will now be conducting death registrations by telephone. The process will be the same for deaths from coronavirus or for any other reason. Current guidance for members of the public can be found on Devon County Council’s COVID-19 births, deaths and ceremonies page.
Funeral services can be arranged by contacting funeral directors in the usual way. There is new advice from Public Health England about how funerals should be safely conducted including who can be there and how many people are able to attend.