Civil emergencies


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 a local resilience forum (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.

LRF deliverables

The LRF should deliver:

  • the compilation of agreed risk profiles for the area, through a Community Risk Register
  • a systematic, planned and coordinated approach to encourage Category 1 responders, according to their functions, to address all aspects of policy in relation to:
    • risk
    • planning for emergencies
    • planning for business continuity management
    • publishing information about risk assessments and plans
    • arrangements to warn and inform the public
  • other aspects of civil protection duty, including promoting business continuity management by local authorities
  • support for the preparation (by all or some of its members) of multi-agency plans and other documents, including protocols and agreements
  • support for the coordination of multi-agency exercises and other training events.
Community Risk Register

The Community Risk Register (CRR) is produced by Category 1 responders through the LRF.

The CRR 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 CRR.

The CRR 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 which 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 CRR and draw up specific plans for responding to those risks. Examples include:

  • terrorism
  • transport accidents
  • flooding
  • chemical spills
  • nuclear accidents.
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, for example, 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 CRR and other relevant information
  • annex: plan validation (exercise) schedule and training schedule.

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.

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 properly into account the remit and contribution of other bodies (particularly national agencies) 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)
  • 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 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).

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 National Resilience Planning Assumptions (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.

National Risk Assessment and National Risk Register

The National Risk Assessment (NRA) is the process and product government uses to assess the likelihood and impact of major civil emergencies that the UK could face over the next five years. These include natural and accidental risks (hazards) and malicious risks (threats).

Together with local risk assessment guidance, the NRA helps LRF members develop local risk assessments. The public version of this document is the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

The NRA is produced every two years, and draws on the best available evidence and advice from subject-matter experts. The NRA is classified as OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE (covering SECRET) and is commonly held by the police on behalf of the LRF.

LRF members with a business need to view the document can access an OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE version of it via the ResilienceDirect™ portal.

National Security Risk Assessment

The National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) is designed to compare, assess and prioritise all major disruptive risks to the UK’s national security. The NSRA builds on the five-year NRA by extending the approach to 20 years and covering all national security risks, including those from overseas. The risks are weighted and categorised into three tiers by likelihood to occur and potential impact.

The NSRA defines civil emergencies as a Tier One risk requiring an aggregated response to incidents across police force boundaries. Some risks identified by the NSRA as Tier One, for example, a large-scale cyber incident, could also be a civil emergency due to the consequences on national infrastructure of such an attack.

The NSRA should inform local risk assessments and vice versa.

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.


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 which 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, for example:

  • 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/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.

Page last accessed 23 September 2020