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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 emergencies
8 mins read

Civil emergencies response is based on consequence management. The capability and capacity to respond is based on the anticipated requirements identified through a robust planning process with partners.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA) places a duty on Category 1 responders to work together to plan and prepare for civil emergencies.

Planning is necessary to understand the requirement of the response and how the response will be delivered. Planning takes place through a local resilience forum (LRF).

Local resilience forums

Planning is done through an LRF. The LRF is a multi-agency partnership comprising Category 1 responders, supported by Category 2 responders, and includes partners such as the military and voluntary sector.

The LRF is not a legal entity. The CCA, however, provides that responders, through the LRF, have a collective responsibility to plan, prepare and communicate in a multi-agency environment.

The purpose of the LRF is to ensure effective delivery of those duties under the CCA that need to be developed in a multi-agency environment, and individually as a Category 1 responder.

National and Community Risk Assessment

The United Kingdom has a world-leading national approach to resilience and emergency response. Our ability to mitigate, respond to, and recover from significant events is vital to protect our people, values and way of life. Robust, evidence-led risk assessment underpins everything we do and enables contingency planning at all levels.

The National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) assesses the key risks that could potentially damage the safety or security of the UK or our interests, both domestically and overseas. It also draws out the consequences in the event of such scenarios occurring. This makes the NSRA an effective tool that can be used at all levels of government to drive risk management, and as an essential part of the way that we approach national security.

For further information see:

  • Cabinet Office overview of LRFs Cabinet Office guidance on the role of LRFs
  • Cabinet Office guidance on local responder risk assessment duty

Risk register

The risk register is produced by Category 1 responders through the LRF.

The risk register is an agreed position on the risks affecting a local area, and sets the planning and resourcing priorities required to prepare for those risks. Cooperation is required to maintain the risk register.

The risk register enables each Category 1 responder to:

  • be fully informed of the risks of emergency in their area
  • benefit from the range of views on risk of their LRF partners
  • identify the main local emergency plans and capabilities that appear to be needed across all the responders
  • decide which of the plans and capabilities should properly fit within the remit of the responder and be their responsibility
  • know which of their LRF partners acknowledges responsibility for developing plans and capabilities against the various risks

Specific plans

LRF members should consider the high-risk areas identified in the risk register and draw up specific plans for responding to those risks. Examples include:

  • pandemics
  • terrorism
  • transport accidents
  • flooding
  • chemical spills
  • nuclear accidents

Responding to a pandemic

For operational guidance, briefing papers and training material, please see the COVID-19 page on the Civil Contingencies section of Knowledge Hub.

Notifiable animal diseases

Exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks can have public health, economic and social impacts in the affected livestock or non-commercial animal sector. These outbreaks can also have wider industry, trade and community consequences. Contingency planning helps to maintain the good health of farmed, non-commercial animals and the livestock industry.

The risk of an incursion of exotic notifiable animal disease in the UK remains ever-present. It is important that we all maintain the highest levels of vigilance and continue to build on our existing high level of preparedness.

Outbreaks of exotic disease present a significant threat to farming, rural communities, animal keepers and the economy. We all have a shared interest in a rapid and effective response. This limits the potential spread of disease and ensures that those parts of the UK that can show they are free from disease can be recognised at the earliest opportunity.

In the event of an exotic notifiable disease outbreak in animals, there will be a coordinated approach to disease control and eradication, with close working between each country’s administration, operational partners and stakeholders.

Each country in the UK produces its own contingency plan that sets out the structures and systems used to coordinate an effective response within its own jurisdiction. Coordination between administrations is crucial to effective and early disease control, and to enable disease-free status to be recovered without delay.

In Great Britain, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Scottish Government and Welsh Government – takes the operational lead in preparing for, and controlling, outbreaks and incidents of exotic notifiable diseases of animals. In Northern Ireland, this role is undertaken by its Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Each country in the UK publishes a contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases of animals (see below). This sets out the roles, responsibilities, systems and structures in place to respond to disease and highlight important work undertaken to prevent disease incursion and prepare for emergencies.

If disease does occur in the UK, the relevant administrations of each country will act swiftly and decisively to:

  • protect the health and safety of the public and those directly involved in controlling the outbreak
  • eradicate the disease and regain disease-free status
  • minimise the burden on the taxpayer and public, as well as the economic impact of the outbreak on industry

For further information see:

Generic plans

The UK approach to contingency planning is mainly consequence-based. Generic planning considers common consequences of the different risks that are faced – for example, high numbers of casualties and fatalities, or disruption to transport and utilities. See National Resilience Planning Assumptions.

Generic plans are supplemented by specific plans for those risks that merit it, such as an influenza pandemic or wide-area flooding. This approach gives a degree of insurance for unanticipated events. It is also proportionate, with more resource-intensive, risk-based planning reserved only for the risks of most concern.

Generic plans may be developed by individual organisations or jointly – for example, by the LRF.


LRFs should include the following in generic plans:

  • aim of the plan
  • trigger for activation, including alert and standby procedures
  • activation procedures
  • identification and generic roles of emergency command team
  • identification and generic roles of emergency support staff
  • location of the emergency control centre from which the emergency will be managed
  • generic roles of all parts of the organisation in relation to the emergency
  • the generic arrangements for other responders
  • stand-down procedures
  • annex: contact details for key personnel
  • annex: reference to Community Risk Register and other relevant information
  • annex: plan validation (exercise) schedule and training schedule

For further information see Cabinet Office guidance on generic plans.

Products that assist LRF planning

The LRF planning process is assisted by the following products:

Strategic Policing Requirement

The Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) highlights five identified strategic threats that require a national police response.

The areas relating to civil contingencies are defined in the SPR as civil emergencies.

Civil emergencies have been defined as a Tier One risk in the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) requiring an aggregated response across force boundaries. The National Policing Requirement (NPR) sets out how police forces will counter the threats identified in the SPR.

For further information see Home Office full text of SPR (2015).

National Policing Requirement

The NPR is the service’s response to the SPR. The national response should be able to demonstrate contribution, capacity and capability to discharge the requirement, together with consistency and connectivity between forces. This allows interoperability between forces and other emergency services – for further information, see APP on mobilisation.

Police and crime commissioners and chief constables must satisfy themselves that they:

  • understand their respective roles on preparing for and tackling shared threats, risk and harm
  • agree, in collaboration with other forces or partners where appropriate, the contribution that is expected of them
  • have the capacity and capability to meet that expectation, taking the remit and contribution of other bodies (particularly national agencies) properly into account, with responsibilities in the areas set out in the SPR

The police service should have a clear understanding of the location and availability of specialist policing assets in order to maintain the capability at very short notice to mobilise and conduct mutual support across boundaries. Where mobilisation or coordination of assets is required, these capabilities should be tested. See also civil contingencies page on mobilisation.

NPR and civil emergencies

Chapter 4 of the NPR is dedicated to national requirements for civil emergencies. It makes clear that police forces should be in a position to contribute to:

  • police supports units (PSUs)
  • basic deployment units (BDUs)
  • chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response
  • disaster victim identification (DVI)
  • casualty bureau resources
  • appropriate command structures

Through the LRF mechanism, forces and their partners assess the risk of emergencies that are occurring in order to inform the Community Risk Register.

Each LRF will have arrangements in place to deal with civil emergencies commensurate with their reasonable worst-case scenario, based on the National Resilience Planning Assumptions (NRPAs).

For further information see the full text of the NPR (2012).

National Resilience Planning Assumptions

The government strategy is to prepare for consequences that are common to most risk scenarios – for example, a large number of casualties and fatalities, major disruption to transport, or significant loss of energy.

The common consequences of emergencies and their maximum plausible scale, duration and magnitude are defined in the NRPAs.

Planning assumptions inform the work of the cross-government National Resilience Capabilities Programme. This programme coordinates work to build and maintain capability to respond to the common consequences of emergencies.

NRPAs are shared with Category 1 responders. Police forces use planning assumptions in the NPR when detailing the response required to counter the SPR threats. LRF members should use NRPAs to inform local-level planning. See also generic plans.

Business continuity planning

Business continuity planning helps police forces understand the relative priority of functions if their ability to maintain day-to-day operations has been compromised.

The starting point for business continuity plans is that normal business cannot be achieved in extraordinary circumstances. It is, therefore, important that resources can be deployed and reallocated to critical functions. Business continuity plans list the minimum resources and staffing levels required to fulfil only those functions.

Plans should consider the IT, equipment, building and human resources required to deliver identified critical functions for each department. The risk and resilience of each force is different and must be evaluated locally.

Category 1 responders produce local business continuity plans. LRFs need to be aware of these plans and support business continuity management activities.

For further information see British standard ISO 22301.


To ensure sustainable business continuity plans:

  • arrangements should assume the worst-case scenario from whatever cause
  • each force should undertake a review to identify and prioritise its critical functions and calculate how they would be provided over a prolonged period of time
  • reviews should include identifying which non-critical functions will become critical with the passage of time


This is an example of identified critical functions (source: South Yorkshire Police).

1. To maintain effective communications with the public.

2. To answer all 999 calls.

3. To provide an appropriate response to immediate and priority incidents.

4. Maintain the ability to deal with:

  • major, critical and emergency incidents
  • serious crime
  • firearms incidents
  • serious public order
  • fatal and serious road traffic collisions

5. To provide custody facilities and associated criminal justice and administration functions.

6. To deal effectively with all matters that have an impact on:

  • community cohesion
  • credibility and force reputation

7. To provide effective command and control of incidents.

8. Maintain a cadre of personnel with specialist knowledge, such as:

  • firearms officers
  • critical incident commanders

Critical functions are likely to be similar in all forces. Support departments should identify which functions are required to support the delivery of critical functions.


  • Identify the necessary elements of each capability, for example:
    • staff
    • equipment
    • building resources
  • Consider their sustainability over multiple and increasing periods of time, for example:
    • one to 24 hours
    • one day to one week
    • one week to one month
    • beyond one month
  • Consider the cause of the disruption or nature of the incident.
  • Plan for disruption to essential services, for example:
    • communications
    • electricity
    • fuel supply
  • Plan for a loss of staff, possibly due to disease.
  • Plans should be realistic.
  • Plans should be scalable and able to cope with a reducing availability of resources.

For further information see Cabinet Office guidance on business continuity.

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