Emergency Planning in Staffordshire

The first meeting of the Civic Society year is always a difficult one. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. On the 23rd March, 1995, the Society turned out in full to hear a talk by Ken Jones, the County Emergency Planning Officer and his colleague, William. It was an highly professional and informative presentation, admired by all those who were present. We have all heard of Aberfan, Bhopal, Lockerbie, Kings Cross, Hillsborough, "The Marchioness" sinking - major tragedies with a great loss of life. What we hear about less is those tragedies closer to home. After all tragedies occur which do not involve a great loss of life and do not attract the media but to the families involved they are still devastating experiences.

The County Emergency Planning Office is a unit within the County Fire and Rescue service. Its officers are on call 24 hours a day. When incidents occur they are alerted. They provide blankets, food and shelter for those who are made homeless; they call in JCBs to remove obstacles on the motorway; they take away charred bodies from air crashes. Few people know that such a service exists; but last year the officers were called out 112 times between 5pm and 8am in the County.

In Staffordshire we have generally been lucky with regard to major incidents; but we did have IRA incidents at Lichfield City station and at Milford. We tend to forget these and there is a danger that we may become complacent. How many people realise that the sky above Cannock Chase is a stacking zone for aircraft using Birmingham International Airport?

Those of us who attended the meeting were comforted by the knowledge that the County Emergency Planning Unit exists. We were brought to a staggering halt when we were reminded that disasters do occur and that they can happen on our patch.

Mike Tole
March 1995