Publication - Advice and guidance

Preparing Scotland: resilience guidance

"Core" guidance on resilience, covering resilience philosophy, principles, structures and regulatory duties

90 page PDF

3.1 MB

90 page PDF

3.1 MB

Preparing Scotland: resilience guidance

90 page PDF

3.1 MB


The development of resilience in Scotland is based on the doctrine of Integrated Emergency Management ( IEM). The aim of IEM is to develop flexible and adaptable arrangements for dealing with emergencies, whether foreseen or unforeseen. It is based on a multi-agency approach and the effective co-ordination of those agencies. It involves Category 1 and Category 2 responders (as defined in the Act) and also the voluntary sector, commerce and a wide range of communities. Resilience goes far beyond organisations and communities alone, individual responsibility playing a vital part in the establishment of a resilient nation.

This wider approach to the concept of resilience will ensure that we make use of all talents and resources at our disposal and will play a central role in working towards the national outcome of having strong, resilient and supportive communities.


IEM is underpinned by five key activities, namely:

  • Assessment
  • Prevention
  • Preparation
  • Response
  • Recovery 5

These activities do not stand in isolation and each is inextricably linked to the others.

IEM should be integrated both within and amongst organisations. It should be an integral part of how an organisation functions as opposed to being a discrete function within that organisation.

Whilst an individual commitment to this process is important, experience shows that working together greatly increases effectiveness. All involved should therefore ensure that they have explored fully the benefits of collaborative working. In doing this they will gain the benefits of partnership working, maximise effectiveness and, in large part, meet their duty under the Act to co-operate.

A committed and inclusive approach to IEM will allow the skills and knowledge of a wide range of participants to play an active role in building resilience, locally, regionally and nationally. The resilient communities thus created will be better able to prepare for, respond to and recover from a wide range of emergencies as part of a safer and stronger Scotland.


Risk assessment is both an integral component of risk management and a key activity in the emergency planning process.

The initial aspects of assessment are based around the concept of anticipation. The aim, at this stage, is for responders to systematically identify new or changing hazards and threats from both local and wider environments. This process, sometimes known as horizon-scanning, may include political, environmental, social, technological, economic and legal factors.

Having identified relevant hazards and threats, responders must assess the likelihood of such events taking place and the potential impact upon communities. This process allows responders and others to measure risk and to base planning priorities appropriately.

It is important that responders have a realistic understanding of the hazards and/or threats 6 for which they should be prepared. As such, assessment is a key part of preparation.

Assessment plays a key role in preparation and response where, for example, a dynamic risk assessment process gives responders an ongoing appreciation of potential or actual risks during an emergency.

In addition, assessment plays a role around the longer-term issues associated with recovery, providing information for decision-makers around recovery options and the potential community impacts of those options.

In this way, whilst assessment remains an important consideration, it generally functions as part of the other key activities.


Whilst Category 1 responders have a duty to maintain plans for the purposes of preventing an emergency, Preparing Scotland guidance is concerned primarily with developing resilience and dealing with consequences rather than causes. In adopting an all-risks approach to developing our response to emergencies, matters of prevention are not addressed in great detail. This is not to discount prevention, merely to acknowledge that guidance and legislation on the subject lie largely elsewhere.

Where an emergency cannot be prevented entirely, the mitigation of its impact and the prevention of further impact should be considered. Useful guidance on this includes the Cabinet Office's recently published Keeping the Country Running: Natural Hazards and Infrastructure (see: The Scottish Government contributed to this guidance, which supports infrastructure owners and operators, emergency responders, industry groups, regulators and government departments working together to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and essential services.


Preparation is a duty under the terms of the Act and a key aspect of responders' efforts to protect the public. It encompasses planning, training and exercising activities.

A robust risk assessment process ensures that any subsequent planning is based on a sound foundation. Plans can be specific or generic in nature as well as being either single or multi-agency. Wherever possible, plans should be simple and should offer flexibility and adaptability. They should include business continuity considerations to ensure that the critical functions of an organisation can be maintained during the emergency.

To ensure their effectiveness, plans should be tested by being regularly and robustly exercised. Thereafter, an effective process should be put into place to ensure that lessons identified from exercises are incorporated into the next generation of plans. Lessons identified from incidents should, of course, be similarly incorporated 7 .

Plans are put into action by people. People should be clear about their role in an emergency and, where necessary, given training to undertake that role. Good communication and a meaningful training programme are key means of ensuring the engagement and support of the people who will respond during emergencies. Participating in exercises builds confidence and tests arrangements. Further guidance on Training and Exercising is available at: Preparing Scotland: Scottish Exercise Guidance.

Preparation is not an activity confined solely to responders. Individuals, communities and organisations of every type should consider how best to prepare themselves for emergencies. The Ready Scotland website ( ReadyScotland) provides a wealth of information and guidance for individuals, for example practical suggestions on preparing for adverse weather or developing a personal emergency plan. Similarly, Ready Scotland provides advice for community groups: ReadyScotland - My Community.

Response and Recovery

Response and recovery can encompass a wide range of diverse activities, often moving at different paces and frequently overlapping. It is usually unhelpful and/or impractical to try and be too precise in distinguishing between them. Recovery considerations should be an integral part of the combined response from the beginning of an incident to ensure an effective overall outcome.


An effective response will, in large part, reflect the preparedness of an organisation prior to an emergency. An organisation which has committed itself to a programme of preparation is much more likely to respond in an effective manner.

Whilst the initial emergency response is normally led by the emergency services, experience has shown that emergencies, even on a relatively small scale, involve a number of organisations. Whilst each agency is likely to have different roles and responsibilities, they will each contribute towards a successful outcome. Irrespective of how effective a single organisation is, operational success will be enhanced by an integrated approach from responding agencies and this is achieved largely through effective co-ordination.

Generic guidance on responding to emergencies is found at Preparing Scotland: Responding to Emergencies in Scotland.

More specific guidance on a range of response options is available within the wider Preparing Scotland suite of documents.


Recovery addresses the human, physical, environmental and economic impact of emergencies. Recovery should be an integral part of the combined response as actions taken at all times can influence the longer-term outcomes for communities.

Experience of emergencies in Scotland has demonstrated the importance of involving the community in its own recovery. Effective communication and support for self-help activities are important considerations for responders. Those co-ordinating recovery should remain aware that various communities within an area may be affected differently and that new communities of circumstance may be created by the emergency itself. See: Preparing Scotland: Recovery Guidance.


The following guidance underpins the principles of IEM and can apply, to greater or lesser degree, to all aspects of preparation, response and recovery.

Consequences not Causes

Whilst emergencies can be caused by a wide range of factors, the effects will often share identical or similar consequences. For instance, care for people issues can arise from a wide range of incidents which share few other characteristics. A flood, a terrorist attack or an industrial incident can all lead to similar requirements for shelter and support to a local community. As a result, many aspects of preparation can be generic in nature, focusing on mitigating the consequences of an emergency whilst, from a planning perspective, paying relatively little attention to the cause of the disruption.

This all-risks approach, concentrating on consequences rather than causes, allows a process of generic planning which can be adapted readily to fit to a wide range of issues around response and recovery.


Whilst the all-risks approach is effective, it should be noted also that each emergency will have unique aspects, some of which may be unforeseen. In this context, the ability to be flexible and adaptable is a crucial quality.

Emergencies can not always be accurately predicted and responders must always be ready to adapt plans to suit a situation unfolding in an unforeseen way.

This flexibility will ensure that incidents are handled in a manner appropriate to the circumstances rather than rigidly following a plan to the detriment of the response.

Responders should be aware, however, that veering substantially from agreed plans does carry some risk around potential gaps in the training and knowledge of personnel. Clear guidance to staff will minimise these risks.

In a similar manner, partner agencies are likely to have expectations based around previously agreed plans. If these plans are not being followed then communication with partner agencies, important in all incidents, becomes vital.


There needs to be clear ownership of, and commitment to, resilience and contingency planning from the senior management of all organisations that have a part to play. Establishing resilience is not simply the domain of emergency planners but should be seen as an integral part of corporate governance and business planning at all levels.

When an emergency occurs, those responsible for managing the response phase can face conflicting demands and pressures. Many organisations may be involved, often with specific roles and responsibilities. Whilst it is essential for managers to establish clear aims and objectives for the response, this should be done in conjunction with the aims of other partner agencies to avoid silo-based working and maximise the benefits of an integrated multi-agency approach.

As the immediate objectives of the response phase are achieved, the wider objectives of the recovery phase will assume greater importance. Whilst this process may involve a shift in leadership, typically from police to local authority, this too needs an equally clear sense of direction to achieve its aims.

Clear audit processes around cost and decision-making will be important for all agencies involved, especially in the context of cost recovery.

A robust debrief process supports the identification of potential improvements in performance. This is generally referred to as "lessons identified" and provision should be made to incorporate such lessons into future planning.

The decisions made by those giving direction are likely to be the subject of scrutiny in the post-incident phase. Records of these decisions and, where appropriate, the rationale behind them may be the subject of investigation during any subsequent inquiry. Accurate record-keeping in this regard will assist those involved.

Records may be subject to the legislative provisions of, for instance, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Data Protection Act 1998.


Local responders' IEM arrangements are the foundation of dealing with emergencies with control of operations being exercised at the lowest practical level. The co-ordination and support of local activity should be at the highest level required and both principles should be mutually reinforcing.

The majority of incidents are dealt with at the local level with little or no regional or government involvement. This approach has proven to be robust in Scotland.

However, in the event of an emergency (as defined by the Act), arrangements should be made to inform the Scottish Government as soon as it is reasonable to do so. As the emergency develops, Scottish Ministers will need detailed and up-to-date information about the effective progress of the response.


It is important that organisations develop individuals with expertise in the context of resilience. These personnel will ensure that a professional ethos underpins an organisation's approach to matters of resilience.

Resilience does not depend, however, on a large establishment of civil contingencies experts. What individuals do in their day-to-day roles should form the basis of their role in an emergency.

Planning should therefore ensure that, wherever possible, individuals, organisations and groups of organisations use the skills they already have to meet the urgent needs of communities at times of crisis.

Whilst the concept of continuity is sound, people may require additional training to meet the demands of some emergencies. This training requirement will be guided by the experience and knowledge within responder organisations and will generally be mediated through the cadre of resilience experts. The multi-agency nature of resilience should be a consideration in the development of such training.

Personnel should be fully aware of their role in an emergency. It is pointless making preparations if people are unaware of their respective roles and/or are not trained to perform effectively. Preparation should ensure that the appropriate people are trained appropriately, that they are aware of their role in an emergency and that plans are in place to support them in that role.


Category 1 and, to a lesser extent, Category 2 responders have legal obligations under the terms of the Act and other legislation. However, responsibility for developing resilience is not confined to those organisations.

Faced by challenging emergencies, responders may be forced to prioritise resources, thereby offering less immediate support to some individuals or communities. This is not an admission of failure but an acknowledgement of the reality of emergency situations.

Given this reality, businesses, communities and individuals must also bear a responsibility for their own resilience. The two key strands in this area are those of business continuity and community resilience. Whilst Local Authorities have a legal responsibility regarding the promotion of business continuity, other Category 1 responders should assist where possible. For further guidance on Business Continuity, see Preparing Scotland: Guidance on Business Continuity Management: It's Your Business.

All responders should support the development of community resilience and associated activity, applying and encouraging an innovative approach throughout. Guidance on many aspects of personal and community resilience can be found at ReadyScotland.


Experience has shown that emergencies, irrespective of scale, will involve a number of partner agencies undertaking different functions. As the scale of an emergency grows so too does the complexity of the response and the necessary higher level of co-ordination and support.

Clear direction during preparation should ensure that emergency management structures and procedures are agreed by members of the SCG in advance and supported by training and exercising. Consistency in the structures established by each SCG will facilitate closer working across boundaries and with Scottish Government.

During the response phase these structures will assist responders to manage the multi-agency nature of the response, make joint decisions and act in a unified manner.

During the recovery process, the joint nature of the arrangements becomes no less important, especially given the likely involvement of a wide range of people from within the affected communities.

All of the foregoing depend on relationships marked by mutual trust and understanding. An open, inclusive and positive approach to resilience is essential to a successful outcome. This will be enhanced by close co-operation in preparation, training and exercising of the arrangements for co-ordination. The SCGs have a key role in co-ordinating local arrangements and promoting wider awareness of the roles and responsibilities of their members.


Communication plays a central role in establishing resilience and dealing effectively with emergencies. It incorporates how organisations communicate internally, how they communicate with each other and how they communicate with the public.

During preparation, clear communication within and between all partner agencies will allow them to give expert advice pertinent to their role, outline their concerns and contribute to the planning process in general.

Establishing effective communication structures in the preparation phase will greatly facilitate the initial stages of an emergency response. Training and exercising in these structures is therefore vitally important. This training should address internal and external communications as well as the critical links within the multi-agency framework.

Accurate and timely information is always at a premium during emergencies. The nature of emergencies and the demands of emergency response place significant pressures on communication. Clarity and brevity are therefore key qualities of effective communication and responders should strive toward this in preparation and response.

Any emergency, actual or potential, will result in public and media interest. Large numbers of requests for information can overwhelm an organisation. Responders should have arrangements in place to ensure that the public is regularly informed of essential facts throughout the emergency. This should, where possible, include relevant contact details. It is vital that responding agencies consult and co-operate in the dissemination of public information as consistent and clear messages will assist in achieving public re-assurance.

In the recovery phase, clear communication lines with the public will ensure that they feel involved as participants in the recovery process.

The Scottish Government plays an important role in public communication. As well as local responders and many other organisations (e.g. the British Red Cross, government is well placed to provide advice and information about emergencies. In support of this, a strong communication process between responders and the Scottish Government helps ensure clarity and the effective provision of advice and information both to the public and to the media. In the event of an emergency, the public will often turn to the Scottish Government and to responders for information and reassurance about the emergency and the response to it. Those involved in this should engage early and effectively to ensure that messages are consistent and of maximum help to the public.

Guidance on communications and engagement with the public is available at: Preparing Scotland: Warning and Informing Scotland - Communicating with the Public in Civil Emergencies.