When fire broke out on an industrial estate in Ingleton on Friday (10 March), nearby residents needed to be evacuated from their homes and an emergency centre set up to accommodate them.
While emergency services dealt with the fire at an MOT test centre, Ingleton parish council implemented an emergency plan it had drawn up with support from North Yorkshire Council County, ensuring 36 people who needed to leave their homes were safely looked after.
Parish clerk Alison Hack attended the community centre to prepare for the evacuees while parish councillor John Emsley called in support from other councillors. Ingleton has had a community emergency plan for a couple of years. This was its first use, and it rolled out smoothly.
The evacuees were given shelter and food, and bedding was on hand had it been needed. Volunteers from the County Council's major incident response team also attended. People were allowed back to their homes at about midnight, several hours after the fire started.
"Our plan is based on the template from the County Council's resilience and emergencies team," said John. "We have kept it simple. If you make it complicated, things can go wrong.
"I would say that communities need something like this. You need to have a plan and make it as simple as you can. You need a calling system to bring people in to help. You need someone to give guidance and reassure people affected by the emergency that someone is looking after them."
John is happy to talk to any parish council that wants to hear what Ingleton has done and how.
The County Council's resilience and emergencies team can support any community that wants to draw up an emergency plan. It can provide a template that can easily be adapted to the specific needs of any community.
Councillor Carl Les, leader of the County Council and Executive Member for Emergency Planning, said: "People naturally already help each other in times of need, but experience shows that communities that are prepared cope better during an emergency. The emergency services will prioritise those in greatest need, so communities may need to rely on their own resources to minimise the impact on local residents before the emergency services arrive. As a parish councillor myself, I applaud Cllr Emsley's offer to help other parish councils."
A community emergency plan will identify volunteers, short-term refuges for people displaced from their homes, useful local equipment, vulnerable people in need of support and useful contacts.
Anyone interested in a plan for their community should contact the parish or town council to check whether work is under way before contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or 01609 532246.