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Preparing yourself and your community for emergencies

The London Resilience Partnership works hard to ensure London is a place safe from the hazards and threats that could impact a city.

By being prepared you can help to look after yourself, your family and your community, leaving emergency responders free to look after those who most need assistance.

Preparing for emergencies - eight simple tips

Many of us will experience minor emergencies throughout our lives – power cuts, the car breaking down, or a burst water pipe. However, some of us may be unfortunate enough to be involved in a major emergency of the type we plan for in London.

By following these simple steps you and your family can be better prepared to cope with both minor inconveniences and more serious emergencies.

  1. Find out what emergencies may affect you – the best place to start is the London Risk Register
  2. Make a household plan. This should contain emergency contact details for your family or the people you live with, as well as details relating to your insurance and utility providers
  3. Know how to safely turn off your electricity, water and gas supplies
  4. Think about how you would look after pets. If you were evacuated from your home some emergency shelters may only be able to take assistance animals.
  5. Pack a ‘grab bag’ of essential items that you may need if you have to leave your home at short notice
  6. Be a good neighbour – consider whether anyone in your local community might require assistance in an emergency. This could include older people and families with young children or pets.
  7. Find out the emergency arrangements at your workplace and children’s school
  8. Learn first aid – this could give you life-saving skills to help your family, friends and others in an emergency

Want more simple steps that you can take? Check out our 30 Ways to Boost Resilience.

Responding to emergencies – go in, stay in, tune in

Make sure you and your family know how to use 999 responsibly.

Your safety is of paramount importance, in the absence of other instruction the best advice is usually to:

  • Go in – Find a place of safety and close doors and windows. In some circumstances the police or local authority may have opened a centre to provide a place of safety if you have no other options.
  • Stay in – Stay inside as long as it is safe to do so. You can use this time to contact your family and friends and make sure they are safe, and confirm that you are safe. Report anyone missing to the police.
  • Tune in – Local radio stations, TV and internet news sources are used by emergency responders to issue specific advice.

There will be times when it is not safe to ‘go in’, for example if there is a fire in the building. In which case follow the instructions of the emergency services. 

Recovering from emergencies

Recovery from a devastating event can be a long and painful process, both for individuals and communities. The information below may be useful in helping you, your family and community through the recovery process.

Immediate actions after an emergency

  • Let your loved ones know you are safe. A telephone hotline (known as Casualty Bureau) may have been opened and will usually be the best way to trace any missing relatives or friends.
  • Stay safe and avoid entering a dangerous area until the emergency services tell you it is safe to do so. It may not be possible to return to your home immediately and you may require temporary accommodation. The best option is to see if you can stay with any friends or relatives. However, your local authority has responsibilities for people made temporarily homeless in an emergency and may open a rest centre or provide alternative accommodation.

Returning home after an emergency

Beware of new dangers – additional hazards may have been created by the incident, for example:

  • If there is debris – check the exterior of the property for cracks, and if any part of the building looks unstable leave immediately. Debris can be dangerous so wear protective clothing and footwear.
  • If you smell gas – open a window if you can and leave the property immediately. Call National Grid (0800 111 999) and remember not to smoke or use any naked flames until you’re sure there is no leaking gas present.
  • If electrical appliances have been wet - turn off the electricity at the fuse box, allow appliances to dry out and have a qualified professional check them before turning them on.
  • If your water is discoloured, cloudy or smells - check with your water supply company before drinking or using water to make baby formula or brush your teeth as it may be contaminated.

Call your insurance provider – take pictures of any damage which has occurred and keep records of repairs and cleaning costs, as this may help your insurance claim.

Stay healthy – recovery work can be exhausting. Make sure you drink plenty of water, eat well and get enough rest. Also be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water especially if in contact with floodwater, which will likely have been contaminated.

Contact the local authority or emergency services if you see any hazards to health and safety, such as damaged power lines, washed out roads, gas leaks, dead animals or chemical releases.

Looking after yourself and others

  1. Look for signs of stress – being involved in an emergency can be mentally and emotionally difficult.
  2. Help others – if you know of friends, family or neighbours who have particular vulnerabilities (either through age, ill health or disability) then consider how you could help them. It might be as simple as contacting their loved ones for them, or ensuring they have food and water.
  3. Pay particular attention to children as they may feel especially insecure, confused and frightened even if they haven’t been directly involved in an emergency. These reactions can become evident sometime after the event.

Longer term recovery issues

Recovering from a major emergency can take many years – you may find it helpful to consider the following aspects of longer term recovery:

  1. Join support groups – these are often set up by people involved in an incident so that they can share their experiences and feelings. They can be a useful way of dealing with stress, and gaining advice on how to deal with practical issues.
  2. Mark anniversaries – whilst they can be a difficult time, you might like to consider how you wish to mark the anniversary of an event, either alone or with other people.
  3. Inquests and trials – as part of the recovery process it is important to understand as much as possible about the incident to prevent it happening again. You may be asked to attend an inquest or a trial. These may seem complicated but you can get lots of advice elsewhere online