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Storm Arwen review recommendations update: June 2022

Update on recommendations made in a review into the response to Storm Arwen.


Progress update

Throughout this section, the number of each recommendation relevant to the work being described is listed in brackets within the text. Read the recommendations.

Storms Malik and Corrie

On 28 January 2022, the day following the publication of our Arwen Review report, an amber warning was issued for Storm Malik.  This proved to be one of the ten most significant winter storms to affect the UK since the storm naming system was introduced, and was followed only 36 hours later by Storm Corrie, which brought further damaging winds. 

These challenging conditions, while not as damaging to our infrastructure as Storm Arwen, allowed an early opportunity for comparison.  Resilience Partnerships (RPs) universally report a more effective response to these storms than to Storm Arwen, indicating that local lessons had already been implemented prior to the publication of the national review.  In particular, RPs report earlier activation and mobilisation of response processes, improved information sharing with energy companies, and more extensive local networks being brought into the response effort (8, 9).  

Risk and Preparedness process, Winter Preparedness Programme, Scottish Government winter monitoring

Through the first quarter of 2022, each of Scotland’s three Regional Resilience Partnerships (RRPs) conducted a full Risk and Preparedness Assessment (RPA).  These assessments ensure that partnerships have an accurate and shared understanding of the risks they face, including winter weather, and that their planning is founded on firm evidence.  The RPA processes conducted across Scotland in early 2022 informed detailed work plans for the partnerships over the coming year, and these work plans now include all relevant recommendations from our Storm Arwen Review.  (1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,13,15). 

In addition to building many of the Arwen recommendations into the ongoing workplans of Resilience Partnerships, the Scottish Resilience Partnership (a national group of the most senior statutory responders and key resilience partners in Scotland) is leading a specific time-limited programme of work to ensure that key lessons from the Review are learned and embedded ahead of the coming winter. 

This responder-led “Winter Preparedness Programme”, which will conclude by the end of September 2022, includes winter-related testing and exercising, and will review plans and arrangements for:

  • activation of partnership structures
  • requesting mutual aid across the partnership
  • communicating with the public in advance of and during an emergency
  • communications between responders and Government
  • care for people and the provision of humanitarian assistance – including the identification and support of vulnerable people
  • identifying and building or improving cooperative working arrangements with Voluntary and Community Sector groups (5, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15)

Following the conclusion of this programme, our own resilience operation will lead an enhanced engagement programme with resilience partnerships and key national organisations from October 2022 through to March 2023, to allow for regular monitoring of the resilience system, and the early identification and resolution of any issues arising.  This process will be evaluated in April 2023 and if successful will be implemented every winter. (11). 

Materials and training available to Community Resilience Groups

Our emergency planning portal, ready.scot, has recently (June 2022) been updated to include a new “Learn” section.  This section hosts three new online learning modules, as well as links to trusted content on related topics.  It is designed to support the public, community groups and Voluntary Sector partners by raising awareness of emergency resilience structures and processes, and helping them to understand how they may participate in an effective and joined response to an emergency. 

While some groups may wish to focus purely on local resilience planning (for example in areas particularly prone to flooding), other groups who normally have an entirely different focus will also have important resources and volunteers with the skills and ability to help people during and after a crisis.  For example a faith group may have access to property and equipment to provide warm food and shelter and volunteers able to provide psychosocial support; a community woodland group may have local insight and access to tools to help clear drainage channels; or a local sports club may have an able cadre of volunteers and access to facilities and equipment to assist those in need.

We hope these modules are of use to those who wish to develop their local arrangements, and a feedback form exists for users to provide suggestions as to future content. (6)

We also run a proactive digital and radio marketing campaign, “Ready Scotland”, in relation to significant weather warnings.   This campaign encourages people to check ready.scot for advice and to take appropriate steps to prepare.   The campaign was active throughout Storm Arwen, triggered by the issuing of the weather warnings. 

Ahead of this winter we will seek to expand this campaign by working with resilience partners across Scotland, to ensure that appropriate preparedness advice is regularly issued well ahead of any storm, and fully coordinated with local authorities and other responders. 

Voluntary sector integration

As at June 2022, responders report that all Regional Resilience Partnerships include voluntary sector representation at their strategic level meetings, in both planning a response mode.   

Engagement with Third Sector Interfaces has also increased following Storm Arwen and will continue to do so, to ensure as effective coordination as possible between statutory responders and the wider voluntary sector.

The voluntary sector is also involved in most subject-specific planning groups, though there is recognition of the need to go further and enable greater voluntary sector engagement and better understanding of the sector’s capacity and capability at  Local Resilience Partnership and sub-group level.  

The creation and expansion of local directories of assets and capabilities is being progressed by resilience partnerships to map out the variety of property, equipment and skills available in communities across Scotland as part of the plans in place following the RPA process outlined above.  (4,5)

In the longer term, a single national Community Asset Register (CAR) for use by responders is in development by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), who are in active consultation with the Scottish Resilience Partnership to agree a delivery plan to make the Register as effective as possible for partners and the sector.  We anticipate that firm timescales for the rollout of a national CAR will be available in autumn (7

Guidance updates and new National Care for People group

In light of the lessons from Storm Arwen, a range of existing guidance is being reviewed to ensure it continues to evolve in light of new experience and establishes a common picture of best practice across Scotland. 

The existing Voluntary and Community Sector/Resilience Partnership Integration Guidance, initially completed in 2019, is being updated in light of both the response to COVID-19 and Storm Arwen. (4, 5)

Responders in the RRPs are collaborating to review plans and improve communications between agencies during events when where telecoms are impacted (1, 3)

Our existing Care for People guidance, is also being reviewed by a new National Care for People Group to ensure lessons from Arwen are fully incorporated.   We anticipate this new guidance will be available to responders ahead of this winter.  (2, 15)

At a Local Resilience Partnership (LRP) level, all areas of Scotland are actively working to formulate, test and exercise their plans and capabilities in relation to widespread or prolonged power outages. (1, 2, 13)

Identifying those at risk

We, along with the Improvement Service, have now completed development of the Persons at Risk Distribution (PARD) system.  The PARD system enables the swift integration of local authority social work data with NHS (National Health Service) data to assist responders in identifying vulnerable individuals during an emergency. 

This Scottish Government sponsored system is now available to all local authorities who wish to sign up.  We have engaged with local authority staff at various levels, including Chief Executives, data /operational leads, COSLA,  SOLACE and the National Care for People Group to ensure that those involved in the various aspects of the project have the information they need and any final obstacles are overcome. 

By autumn 2022 we expect to have a complete picture of those local authorities who have or who intend to implement the PARD system, and we are committed to ensuring they have appropriate support and guidance to do so. We will also request confirmation from LAs that do not wish to utilise the PARD system that they have an alternative process in place to quickly identify those at risk during an emergency, in order that we can seek assurance before winter that effective solutions are in place right across Scotland.  (14)

Pre-established assistance centres

All LRPs (principally via Local Authorities) have a wide range of pre-identified rest or assistance centres, with associated arrangements for activation. 

Feedback from Resilience Partnerships however confirms some complexity in the issue of whether or not to publically designate these centres in advance to local communities. 

While plans exist to activate such centres across Scotland as required, the decision as to if and when to activate them will only be made by responders on the ground and in light of the specific circumstances of any incident. 

Communicating a list of such centres in advance may create the expectation that all such facilities in an area will automatically be activated, which may not always be necessary or appropriate, for example since a particular centre may be in an area affected by the adverse event itself, or the particular assistance it could provide it not required.  Publishing lists of rest centres may risk encouraging individuals to travel to these centres to find them closed, when they would be safer at home.   

It may be that it remains appropriate for these lists to remain unpublished and held by local responders, but for the public communications teams within Resilience Partnerships to ensure the activation of any such centre can be quickly and effectively communicated across local communities and under a range of conditions.  These issues, and other ways in which communities might be supported during these type of events, will be explored further through the Winter Preparedness Programme described above and a further update provided in autumn (2, 13). 

Ofgem Review

While energy infrastructure itself is an issue which is reserved to the UK Government, we note the findings of a recent report by the regulator Ofgem into Storm Arwen, which supported the recommendations for the sector made in our initial Review.  In particular, we are pleased to note recommendations proposing significant improvements to public communications, estimates of restoration timelines, the deployment of generators, and compensation.  (2, 12)

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