Parish councils across West Sussex are being encouraged to practise dealing with emergencies in the wake of flooding earlier this year.
Torrential rain in June this year caused the River Arun in Horsham to burst its banks, animals were stranded in high waters and at one point the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service received more than 1,000 calls in 24 hours.
Amid severe flooding in the north of the UK and early snow in the South West, speakers at a recent meeting of the Sussex Resilience Forum attended by West Sussex councillors and officers, shared ways of being prepared for such catastrophes.
Emergency services, councils and utility companies have a duty to respond to disasters such as flooding, landslides, bombings and rail crashes, but Teresa Gittins from Action in Rural Sussex explained how important it was for communities to help in practical ways.
Talk of landslides and train crashes can make bleak conversation, but if they happen they can devastate a community. Community Resilience Plans outline the procedures councils will follow in such a crisis. They list contact details for key people and rescue organisations, the key holders for building which could be used as shelters and addresses of disabled or elderly people who may need more help.
Parishes were advised to put practised Community Resilience Plans in place to help deal with a variety of crises and Ms Gittins urged them to work with neighbouring councils to make their plans work.
She said: “There is an awful lot of resources in the community. There is often a meeting place and people in the community can involve businesses.
“One thing I want to emphasise is that the community knows where vulnerable people are; the old, lone parents, those with disabilities who need help in emergencies and you are best placed to know where they are.”
She said parish plans should be a directory of key people to contact as well as people with specific equipment such as chain saws, snow ploughs and shovels.
Sylvia Verrinder from Angmering Parish Council then shared her experience of preparing a thorough parish plan including risks if there were crashes on the A27, A280 and A259 which box in the parish. She has also assessed the risk of the sea, which is only two miles away, as well as threats of the River Arun flooding.
Angmering had not had the chance to try out their resilience plan, but Milland Parish Council, on the Sussex-Hampshire border shared how they found theirs essential when gritting lorries were not able to get to the village.
By publicising their plan around the village, working with farmers to distribute salt, the main road through the parish was clear compared with a neighbouring village which was snowed in.
For more information about Action in Rural Sussex go to www.ruralsussex.org.uk or call 01273 473422.