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Authorised Professional Practice

This page is from APP, the official source of professional practice for policing.

First published
Written by College of Policing
Civil contingencies
9 mins read

Forces require robust and flexible emergency planning and interoperability arrangements to meet legislative requirements.

This page looks at the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA) and relevant Statutory Instruments.

Civil Contingencies Act 2004

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and associated guidance deliver a single framework for civil protection in the UK.

The CCA is separated into substantive parts:

  • Part 1 – local arrangements for civil protection
  • Part 2 – emergency powers

For further information see the full text of the CCA.

CCA Part 1

Part 1 of the CCA, supporting regulations and the statutory guidance on Emergency Preparedness establish a clear set of roles and responsibilities for those involved in emergency preparation and response at the local level.

The CCA divides local responders into two categories, imposing a different set of duties on each.

Category 1 responders

Category 1 responders are organisations at the core of the response to most emergencies. For example:

  • Home Office police forces in England and Wales
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • British Transport Police
  • Fire and Rescue Service
  • Ambulance National Health Service (NHS) Trusts
  • local authorities
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement
  • Public Health England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • port health authorities
  • the Secretary of State, in relation to maritime and coastal emergencies only

Category 1 responders are subject to the full set of civil protection duties. They are required to:

  • assess the risk of emergencies occurring and use this to inform contingency planning
  • put in place emergency plans
  • put in place business continuity management arrangements
  • put in place arrangements to make information available to the public about civil protection matters
  • maintain arrangements to warn, inform and advise the public in the event of an emergency
  • share information with other local responders to enhance coordination
  • cooperate with other local responders to enhance coordination and efficiency
  • provide advice and assistance to businesses and voluntary organisations about business continuity management (local authorities only)

Category 2 responders

Category 2 responders are ‘cooperating bodies’. They may be referred to as ‘statutory undertakers’.

These organisations are less likely to be involved in the heart of planning work, but will be heavily involved in incidents that affect their own sector. For example:

  • utility companies
  • transport companies:
    • railways
    • Transport for London
    • London Underground
    • airport operators
    • harbour authorities
    • the Secretary of State, in relation to their function regarding section 1 of the Highways Act 1980
  • the Health and Safety Executive

Category 2 responders have a lesser set of duties that involve cooperating and sharing relevant information with other Category 1 and 2 responders. Category 2 responders may support strategic coordination groups (SCGs) with a single decision-maker who links in with the SCG chair as required.

Local resilience forums

Category 1 and 2 organisations come together to form local resilience forums (LRFs). LRFs are based on police areas and help responders at the local level to coordinate and cooperate.

See planning for more information on LRFs.

For further information see:

  • Cabinet Office guidance on the role of LRFs Cabinet
  • Office expectations of Category 1 and 2 responders

CCA Part 2 – Emergency Powers

Part 2 of the CCA allows for the making of temporary special legislation (emergency regulations) to help deal with the most serious of emergencies.

The use of emergency powers is a last resort option, which is subject to a robust set of safeguards. They can only be deployed in exceptional circumstances.

Local-level planning arrangements should not assume that emergency powers will be made available.

Responders without duties under the CCA

Certain organisations and groups are excluded from a legal requirement to perform duties under the CCA. They may, however, have duties to assist Category 1 and 2 responders under other legislation and regulations.

Military assistance to the civil authority

Military operations in the UK are placed under the overarching title of military assistance to the civil authority (MACA).

Some military support, however, falls outside the scope of MACA. This includes bomb disposal.

MACA principles

MACA provision is guided by three principles. Military aid should be provided only where:

  1. the need for someone to act is clear and where other options have been discounted by the civil responder
  2. the civil authority making the request lacks the required level of capability and it is unreasonable or prohibitively expensive to develop
  3. the civil authority has a capability but the need to act is urgent and it lacks readily available resources

The MACA principles make UK government ministers formally responsible for the deployment of the armed forces within the UK at the request of a government department or civil authority – see MACA process.

MACA process
  • MACA is initiated by a request to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and ministers via the relevant UK government department or agency.
  • The SCG chair makes the request through the joint regional liaison officer (JRLO) or government liaison officer from the relevant government department.
  • The MOD assesses the resources that may be needed to achieve the desired effect and whether the request can be met.
  • Military support will be provided only if resources are available. MACA should, therefore, be regarded as a contingency and not as a standard response.

There should be proactive and early consideration by SCGs of military capabilities. These considerations and capabilities should be reflected in local planning arrangements.


In most cases, the costs to use the military have been reduced from full cost recovery to marginal costs. Marginal costs are consumable costs, such as subsistence, fuel or travel costs.

The costs are met by the responding agency or group of agencies that has most benefited from the use of military resources.

The SCG chair must consult with SCG members on the use of military resources and secure agreement from the relevant agencies for liability for the marginal costs incurred.

For further information see Ministry of Defence policy guidance on armed forces support.

Voluntary sector

The voluntary sector operates in many guises. LRFs have a number of workstreams, one of which focuses on the voluntary sector. In some areas, the voluntary sector is represented by one organisation (for example, the Red Cross).

Voluntary sector capability varies from region to region. It may be beneficial to have an established relationship and understanding of the voluntary sector to make the most of the resources available. There are, however, national assets that can be activated if required.

The Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership is made up of a range of organisations within the sector, with the aim of improving co-ordination at national and local levels before, during and after emergencies. The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) is a core member of this group.

Statutory Instruments

There are businesses and operators who have specific duties under the following Statutory Instruments:

COMAH Regulations 2015

The aim of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015 is to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances, and to limit the consequences to people and the environment of any accidents that do occur.

These Regulations came into effect on 1 June 2015 and include a new requirement for cooperation by Category 1 responders (including the police) in tests of the external emergency plan. This includes participation in exercises.

Site operators

The Regulations require the operator of an upper-tier COMAH site to prepare adequate emergency plans for dealing with the on-site consequences of possible major accidents, and assisting with off-site mitigation.

An upper-tier COMAH site is typically an industrial premises with a large quantity of toxic and/or flammable materials over a specific threshold.

In preparing an internal emergency plan, the operator must consult the emergency services, local authorities and health bodies.

Local authorities (COMAH)

The Regulations require the local authority (or the fire and rescue authority) for the area where an upper-tier COMAH site is located to prepare an emergency plan for dealing with the consequences of possible major accidents beyond the site boundary.

This plan should detail the roles to be carried out by emergency services, local authorities and partner agencies. Police and other relevant emergency response organisations must be consulted in preparing the plan and a multi-agency planning group is usually formed for this purpose.

The local authority must review and test the plan at suitable intervals not exceeding three years. Testing may consist of a live exercise or a table-top exercise supported by testing of other components, including communication arrangements. The local authority must identify which organisations need to participate in the test.

Where the local authority considers it necessary, it can formally request cooperation from a designated authority (Category 1 responders under the CCA) and the designated authority must cooperate.

For further information see:


The Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR) establish a framework of emergency preparedness measures to ensure that members of the public are:

  • properly informed and prepared, in advance, about what to do in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency occurring
  • provided with information if a radiation emergency actually occurs

A radiation emergency is defined as an event that is likely to result in a member of the public receiving an effective dose of five millisieverts during the year immediately following the emergency.

Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996

PSR 1996 provide for the management of pipeline safety with a risk-based approach encompassing both onshore and offshore pipelines.

For major accident hazard pipelines, the Regulations cover major accident prevention and arrangements for emergency plans.

Major accident hazard pipelines are defined as having the potential to cause death or serious injury arising from a fire, explosion or uncontrolled emission.

These types of pipelines typically contain flammable and/or toxic fluids or gases, such as butane, propane or crude oils, above a certain pressure.

For further information see:

Local authorities (PSR)

The Regulations require the local authority (or the fire and rescue authority) to prepare a specific emergency plan for each major accident hazard pipeline passing through their area.

These plans should detail how an emergency would be dealt with, in terms of the protection of the health and safety of people.

Police and other emergency response organisations should be consulted in preparing the plans. A multi-agency planning group is usually formed for this purpose.

For further information see full text of PSR 1996 HSE guidance on PSR 1996.

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