What is Emergency Planning?

What is Emergency Planning?

Many of us plan for emergencies in our lives in one way or another.

Central government, local authorities, emergency services, businesses and other organisations also plan for emergencies, but on a much larger scale.

Typically this focusses on the biggest threats relevant for the current period in history, whether that is war, civil unrest, pandemics or environmental disasters.


Emergency Planning has been around since the 1940s when the focus was on wartime planning, such as air raid warnings and bomb shelters.  

The end of the Cold War and a number of civil emergencies in the 1980s (Lockerbie, Piper Alpha, Hillsborough) changed the emphasis for emergency planning to planning for peacetime emergencies.

More recent and local examples are the floods that have affected Moray several times and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency Planning in the 21st Century 

Several serious events at the start of the millennium, and the rising threat of Terrorism led the UK Government to carry out a review of the emergency planning arrangements.

This resulted in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (UK wide) and that is supported in Scotland by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013.

Contingency Planning (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013

This legislation  places clear roles and responsibilities on those organisations with a role in preparing and responding to emergencies.  Local Responders are divided into two categories, Category One and Category Two Responders, depending on the extent of their involvement in civil protection work.

Category One Responders must co-operate to prepare and respond to emergencies.  In Grampian, these duties are carried out by:

  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Scottish Ambulance Service
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • The Moray Council, Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council
  • Grampian NHS
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Category Two Responders are required to co-operate with Category 1 responders. In Grampian these are:

  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Utility companies
  • Transport infrastructure companies

The Act has two parts. Part one focuses on local arrangements, part two focuses on emergency powers for Government.

These emergency powers establish a framework for the use of special legislative measures that might be necessary to deal with the effects of the most serious emergencies – those which may affect the whole of the UK.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw both the Scottish and UK Governments pass new laws to help tackle the outbreak.

Definition of an Emergency

The Act defines an emergency as:

  • An event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare;
  • An event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment; or
  • War, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to security.

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