Civil emergencies – immediate response support

Humanitarian assistance

Major emergencies happen with or without warning, causing or threatening death or injury, damage to property and/or the environment, and disruption to communities. The County Council is involved in the immediate response to an emergency where there are significant human or environmental concerns, and will gradually assume a greater responsibility once the immediate response by the emergency services is finished and there is a focus on recovery.

Working with the eight district councils in Devon, we have structures and plans in place to support the people of Devon, its communities and visitors to the County during an emergency and in the aftermath.

Volunteering staff are trained to undertake the management and staffing of rest centres, which are led by the relevant local authorities or, during large scale events, by us.

We are responsible for identifying, managing and staffing a humanitarian assistance centre in the event of a major incident in Devon. We also assist the police at evacuation assembly points (when required), and provide welfare support in survivor reception centres and friends and family reception centres. In addition, voluntary sector organisations and the Devon Faith Response Team (trained by the Devon and Plymouth Councils, the police and the Diocese of Exeter) provide important welfare support within all the centres.

All our plans and guidance, including those relating to the above mentioned centres, have been drawn up in the context of the County Council’s commitment to equality and diversity.

Evacuation assembly points

These will be set up and managed by the police to gather together those people requiring evacuation to the rest centres, or who need transport out of the area being evacuated which is set up by us. The police are assisted by social care volunteers and the voluntary sector, where possible. Evacuation assembly points may be located at a bus stop, for example, or may be under cover in places such as village halls.

Rest centres

Rest centres are a local authority responsibility, and are set up in response to an evacuation where there is no immediate possibility of people returning to their own homes for an unspecified period of time. The primary function of a rest centre is to provide shelter, warmth, refreshments, and emotional support and first aid, and to assist evacuees to return to their own homes or on to temporary or longer-term accommodation arranged by the relevant district council.  Rest centres may be staffed by volunteers from the County Council, a district council, NHS, Devon Faith Response Team and the voluntary sector, and can be open for up to 72 hours.

Survivor and friends and family reception centres

In the event of a major emergency where there has been loss of life or trauma, the police are responsible for establishing and managing these centres and will allocate a family liaison officer to families of the deceased.

Our trained Crisis Support Team, consisting of volunteers from social care, health and other related agencies will assist the police in these centres, providing emotional welfare support to those people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of comfort and professional guidance. The Team, as a whole, is able to provide signposting, first aid, welfare and faith support.

We also have a trained Defuser Team that will be deployed to look after the welfare of our responding volunteers in these two centres and within the humanitarian assistance centre. The humanitarian assistance centre will open as the survivor and family and friends reception centres close; usually within 42-78 hours from the onset of the emergency. Dependent on the severity of the emergency, this could be a physical or a virtual site.

Longer-term support will be provided by signposting to the health community, either through GP surgeries or dedicated adult mental health teams.

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