top of page


Improving Extreme Weather Preparedness and Resilience: Emergency Planning Through a 'Whole-of-Society' Approach – PART 2

The second half of this event was equally informative regarding preparing and responding to extreme risk. This portion of the event focused on the need to move upstream of risk and consider the whole society approach in a broader context for extreme weather events.

The second panel session, Getting it Right – Building Stronger Resilience Frameworks, featured Sian Jones, Director of Value for Money Cross Government, National Audit Office (NAO), Mfon Akpan, Lead, Financial and Risk Management Hub, National Audit Office (NAO), and Bethan Morgan, Director of Civil Contingencies, Staffordshire Civil Contingencies Unit.

Resilience to Extreme Weather: Recommendations from the National Audit Office


During the first half of the session, Sian Jones and Mfon Akpan presented the recommendations outlined in the National Audit Office's recent report Government Resilience to Extreme Weather. The report highlights the complex and dynamic nature of extreme weather resilience, which involves a multitude of stakeholders with varying roles, functions, capabilities, and levels of engagement. The report mainly targets the Cabinet Office and the lead government departments responsible for risk management.

The report assesses the government's risk management and resilience approach, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. Although positive changes have been made, the report concludes that the entire system requires significant strengthening, particularly in data management and coordination between departments. The government's definition of resilience focuses on civil contingencies risks, including acute events like flooding or terrorism and chronic risks such as climate change. Extreme weather is identified as a significant risk.

Still, a lack of understanding of the most extreme risks and impacts leads to difficulties forecasting events such as heat waves and surface water flooding.

The report concludes that the government's response to extreme weather is limited, with inadequate investment in infrastructure such as roads and data centres not designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. The report recommends using both ‘most likely’ and ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’ together to plan for emergencies. The report emphasises that the government does not clearly understand how much it spends on resilience and does not use an assessment of national risks to inform national investment in resilience. This, for them, is the priority for action.

Our speakers note that Increased investment in resilience could benefit the private sector, but climate resilience standards lack consistency across industries, hampering investment. The report recommends creating a dedicated response arrangement for extreme weather and implementing a programme of rigorous stress testing to assure future response arrangements and capabilities.

A Strategic Approach to Resilience in Staffordshire


During the second half of the session, Bethan Morgan from the Staffordshire Civil Contingencies Unit talked about the strategic framework they have implemented to enhance resilience across the LRF Partnership. The focus is on prioritising local risk management and resilience and building a structure within partnerships for preparedness, response, and recovery. The discussion covered investment in planning driven by risk, response by design, a generic vs specialist response, stakeholders, structures and resources, and VCS engagement in the whole-of-society approach.

Bethan stressed that more emphasis should be placed on planning and post-incident recovery instead of just responding and recovering and stressed the importance of building resilience and relationships early through a collaborative framework of shared principles. The Civil Contingencies Act and supporting guidance allow forums to use a variety of approaches to achieve the same outcomes for preparedness, response, and recovery. Bethan highlighted the need to be sympathetic and empathetic to the partnership's individual organisational and stakeholder requirements. She also discussed the importance of considering the most likely and worst-case scenarios and engaging with the community to drive societal resilience. Bethan also gave us insight into their system of local tactical and community flood plans that require individual enhanced management practices and how all plans work together in an interlocking tiered structure for response.

Bethan presented a case study on Staffordshire’s' DLUHC innovation projects. The projects were designed to enhance the capacity and capability of the voluntary community sector (VCS) and its role in enhancing societal resilience. The projects were carried out in partnership with a gateway organisation in the local area. The organisation collaborated with VCS experts to co-design their arrangements and implemented a broker at the TCG level to match services between the statutory organisations and the VCS capabilities. They used weather risk as a relatable and transferable risk to begin conversations at the local level. As a result, VCS has taken on a broader leadership role in developing an autonomous capacity and capability that contributes to broader societal resilience, operating beyond the boundaries of just emergency response by engaging in prevention and preparedness. 


Driving everyday preparedness through a ‘Whole-of-Society’ approach


Our third-panel session of the day featured guest speakers Agostinho Sousa, Lead, Extreme Events and Health Protection (EEHP) Team, UK Health Security Agency; Sam Samwell, Senior Emergency Response Officer North East, British Red Cross; and Jon Vangorph, Head of Partnerships, VCS Emergencies Partnership.

UKHSA’s Approach to Extreme Weather


Agostinho Sousa presented an extensive overview of the UK Health Security Agency's (UKHSA) actions to mitigate and respond to severe weather events. The UKHSA has developed an Extreme Weather Preparedness Plan that focuses on safeguarding public health from the adverse impacts of severe and extreme weather. The plan involves new models, activities, hazards, and supporting evidence documents. An equity review of the framework and its monitoring report was also conducted. The OECD policy framework is the foundation for policy coherence, targeting different strategic components of the UKHSA's plan and work program. Supporting guidance and plans with objectives, activities, and indicators for each hazard have been created for heat, flood, and drought. The plan was co-produced with partners, and emergency alerts for heat and cold health alerts are used to drive preparedness. Health alerts have been translated into over 11 languages and British sign language to increase accessibility in risk communications since their introduction in the summer of 2023.

Additionally, the UKHSA has collaborated with partners to improve the risk assessment process and emergency planning to mitigate hot and cold risks. They identified the need for a disaggregated approach to extreme weather with single hazard assessments required for distinctive hazards such as heat and cold. They also produced an evidence review for warm spaces requested by LRFs, synthesising this evidence to guide the creation of warm spaces.

The organisation is dedicated to continuous improvement through monitoring and reporting, with data insights shared through annual reporting mechanisms based on a robust set of input and output-based indicators to monitor progress towards actions. Agostinho reflected on the summer 2023 heatwave and wildfires, noting that if we want to prepare for fewer or no-notice events in light of increasing extreme weather events, we need capabilities that can be activated on demand for unprecedented events. This requires good relationships and trust.

Heat is no longer an unprecedented black swan event; it is now an annual event we should be prepared for, supported by recommendations in other major reports on climate change. Remarking that weather plans can't compensate for the built environment, such as housing policy, urban land-use policy, and urban fabric of grey-to-green infrastructure ratio. Broader strategic mitigation and preparedness are required. Asking how we become more Mediterranean in our development and land use to adapt to our changing climate.

Introducing the Voluntary Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP)


Following this, Jon Vangorph provided a brief overview of the Voluntary Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP). This program was created to fill the gap and drive strategic third-sector coordination. The organisation formally responded to COVID-19, supported LRF gaps, and matched local capabilities and needs. In 2022, the focus shifted to preparedness, prevention, and broader societal resilience. Over 290 partners were involved, and the organisation engages with over 500 organisations annually. The VCSEP aims to be the network of networks that fosters inclusive and compassionate outcomes for local communities. The focus is on capabilities building, trusted connections, and actionable insights that support preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

The VCSEP provides several channels and products through which they deliver their work. These include national network calls on various themes and topics with national experts, such as the one scheduled for tomorrow with the EA on flooding with guest speakers from partner organisations. The organisation also offers partner activity bulletins, training, and peer-to-peer learning to build capacity, knowledge, and skills. Local improvement projects are aligned with local LRF and VCS everyday needs, risks, and skills or capabilities gaps. The organisation also offers a Slack communication channel and Emergency 101's online modules for foundation learning and collaboration.

The VCSEP brings several benefits to preparedness for extreme weather and broader risks and emergencies. These include capabilities such as knowledge, assets, skills, and experience, which guide better-directed alignment. The organisation also connects groups, sectors, and community networks, providing a source of trusted communication that gives access to all communities.

Additionally, the organisation provides insight through stories, data, and analysis from the community, which gives better intelligence to inform decision-making.

Jon remarks that there is a strategic need to invest in the VCSEP locally and nationally. Several levers can be used to engage and invest in the sector, not just capacity roles and resources, which are known to work, with exemplary cases like Cumbria.

British Red Cross – Building, Preparing, and Responding to Extreme Weather in the UK

The final panellist was Sam Samwell from the British Red Cross, who reflected on his organisation’s role in societal resilience and reflections on emergency response, recovery and preparing for future emergencies. Sam first remarked on the disconnect in language and terminology; the public doesn’t know what an LRF or a Risk Register is, and in fact, many don’t know the British Red Cross operates domestically or believe they are first aid responders. Illustrating the fundamental need to ensure a whole-of-society approach brings the public into the conversation more effectively and significantly raises public awareness of risk and resilience to ensure everyone has that shared understanding of risk to prepare and respond appropriately.

Sam presented an effective diagram that explains the concept of strategic risk management. The diagram, called 'BRC: strategic insights,' was from an internal report he received permission to share. It demonstrates the BRC framework for risk and resilience, which is driven by a consequence-based approach. The diagram visualises the consequences of risks on a scale of increasing severity, from first-order to third-order consequences. This approach emphasises the impacts on lives, livelihoods, places, and spaces and can be applied to any scenario, regardless of origin.

Sam suggests that this people-centred approach can significantly benefit emergency management decision-making, as it offers a common consequence-based approach to capacity and capability building. Additionally, he highlights the importance of local knowledge and involvement in planning and arrangements. Sam believes that the whole of society, including those living and working in the LRF services, should be considered in local planning and arrangements. Following this, Sam introduced and showcased a pilot innovation project called ‘VIPER’ vulnerability indicators for properties in response. This uses property-level data to identify people at risk, not individuals. This enables responses to be targeted to vulnerable people in a crisis. This national-leading capability was first developed in Cumbria and is now being rolled out and piloted in Northumbria, Durham, Darlington, and Cleveland.



Given the diversity of voices within a community, coordinating efforts nationally and locally can be complex. VCSEP is crucial in facilitating collaboration across sectors, starting with prevention and preparedness and extending to response and recovery. To ensure adequate representation at the LRF level, funding and resource support must be upscaled.

It's essential to be transparent about the challenges, limitations, and concurrent risks and acknowledge the burnout experienced and human impact across our sector. Collaboration with partners can help to share capability and capacity, streamline processes, and find innovative solutions to resource efficiency. We all have a shared responsibility for risk and resilience as a nation.

One of the leading themes of this event was the use of an all-hazard consequence-based approach to support decision-making in the face of complex risk and uncertainty. However, I wonder to what extent hazard interactions are factored into decision-making to ensure that risk is not misunderstood or underestimated and interventions and responses do not create new risks.

Although we have flagship capabilities, gaps still need to be addressed. With diminishing resources and increasing risk and uncertainty, it's impossible to prevent everything, but we can prepare for the impacts by ensuring our readiness in terms of capacity and capability. Extreme weather is one of the most complex and dynamic risks we face on our national risk register, rapidly escalating due to climate change and increasing exposure to development practices. The sense of urgency and the desire for collective action has never been more apparent. 


bottom of page