Hounslow: Improving Community Resilience in Hounslow

Sponsor: London Borough of Hounslow Hounslow Group Photo
Sponsor Liaison: Fiona Hodge & Twm Palmer
Student Team: Miguel Goulart de Almeida
Shelby McQueston
Ahsan Aadil Nizam Shaikh
Abstract: The London Borough of Hounslow currently has a Community Risk Register (CRR) that is confusing and unappealing to the average citizen. The purpose of this project was to update the CRR and create promotional tools for the Hounslow Resilience Forum (HRF) to use. To do this, we assessed various CRRs across the country and revised the Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR to reflect the best practices of those we analysed. We also created a new community resilience document to educate and inform Hounslow residents about the risks they are most likely to face. Finally, we created a communication plan for the HRF to use to increase awareness about the new community resilience document and emergency preparedness.
Link: Final Report (Hounslow Final Report)
Final Presentation (Final Presentation)
Proposed multi-agency risk register (Multi-agency CRR)
Proposed public risk register (Public CRR[1])

Executive Summary

The London Borough of Hounslow is located in West London and has a population of over 250,000 (London Borough of Hounslow, 2011). Like every nation and region in the world, Hounslow faces potential emergencies from a variety of risks. According to the Hounslow Multi-Agency Community Risk Register (CRR), the borough is most susceptible to risks such as fluvial floods, disease outbreaks (especially influenza pandemics), loss of utilities, and local failure of the electricity network (Contingency Planning Unit, 2015).

In 2004, the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) received Royal Assent from the national government. Parliament created the Act to improve the country’s ability to respond to emergencies in the 21st century. One of the requirements of the Act is for local authorities to create and publish documents assessing risks in their localities. This document is the CRR.

The purpose of a CRR is to communicate to two distinct audiences, authorities and community members. However, because of the differences in knowledge, it can be hard to reach effectively both these audiences using a single document. Hounslow currently has a document that reaches an audience that has background on risk, but does not communicate to the community. Therefore, this project’s goal was to fix the technical and outreach problems with the current Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR with the intent of improving community resilience. To achieve the project goal, we completed three objectives:

1. Determine which elements we should modify in the borough’s multi-agency CRR, and edit the document accordingly.

2. Create a new community resilience document for awareness and warning.

3. Create a communication plan for the Hounslow Resilience Forum to use in combination with the new public document.

The purpose of risk planning is to reduce the impacts of an emergency. Officials measure the effectiveness of risk planning in the amount of damage prevented, number of casualties avoided, and the reduction of recovery time (Schultz, 2008). The Civil Contingencies Act improved the government’s ability to respond to emergencies in the 21st century. The CCA requires the creation and publication of risk assessment documents.

One risk assessment document in the UK is the National Risk Register (NRR) of Civil Emergencies. The NRR guides the creation of CRRs and provides a local framework for local plans, and it mandates the creation of local resilience fora. The Hounslow Resilience Forum (HRF) is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Hounslow CRR. The Hounslow CRR details the possible risks for the community, identifies the lead agencies in charge should these events occur, and describes the plans that have been put in place. However, it does not provide details or plans regarding malicious events, as the CRR is a public document, and this information is confidential. The Hounslow CRR also lacks information for community members to create their own emergency preparedness plans.

Resilience fora devise CRRs based on the NRR framework. However, these entities can make mistakes. Mark Leigh, of the Emergency Planning College, has done work regarding UK CRRs. He identifies mistakes made in these CRRs. Many of these mistakes seem insignificant to a community member with limited knowledge about CRRs, but can be very important to emergency planning and response teams.
One of the objectives of a CRR is to increase public awareness. To accomplish that it is necessary to understand how to communicate risk. The communication process needs to be a two-way process, leading to better decision-making because all parties involved are better informed (Cabinet Office, 2011). The community will know how to prepare themselves and the authorities will know what public perceptions of risk are. It is important to understand the different human dynamics in the community. The way different people form perceptions of risk, how personal beliefs can affect the perception of risk, socio-economic factors that contribute to different responses to risk, and how public trust in the authorities affects accepting advice are all important factors to consider.

To communicate effectively, it is not only necessary to consider the content of the community documents, but also the design. If a document has correct information, but unappealing design, it is unlikely that community members will read that document, negating the purpose of the document. However, excessive design features used inappropriately can cause distractions, making people miss the message entirely.

To accomplish objective 1, we reviewed other CRRs from local resilience fora across England and incorporated their best features into the new, edited version of the Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR. We did this preliminary assessment to decrease the number of CRRs we had to closely analyse afterwards in the secondary assessment. It also highlighted best practices across the country. The analysis consisted of running the CRRs through a checklist composed of “yes” and “no” answers, which we created based on Leigh’s (2013) recommendations and design aspects. We converted “yes” and “no” answers to numerical
values of one and zero respectively. After summing all the answers numerically, we chose the best scoring CRRs. After, we put the best scoring CRRs through Leigh’s assessment tool. This tool rates the CRRs on a scale of zero to 34. Each question in the tool is worth 2 possible points as they can be answered as “yes” (2 points), “to some extent” (1 point), or “no” (zero points). We also put Hounslow’s CRR through the same assessment tool in order to determine its relative position against other CRRs, and to determine which elements were missing from it. The assessment of Hounslow’s CRR allowed us to change incorrect sections, and add missing sections. We also included several images and a map to make the document more visually appealing and easier to use for the Hounslow Resilience Forum.

To complete objective 2, we interviewed Mark Leigh, of the Emergency Planning College. We asked questions regarding the design of CRRs, and most important aspects to include when creating one. After our interview, we started a preliminary design of the community resilience document, following the borough’s branding guidelines. We determined the document should have an introduction, a list of top risks, a map containing the location of risks and infrastructure, explanations for all top risks, and a contact section. We based this determination on the analysis of other resilience fora’s CRRs. These other official CRRs were informative to our community resilience documents, which we intended to be fundamentally different from the official Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR. The top risks we explored on the document were the highest rated risks according to the Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR, and risks selected by our liaisons. Finally, we edited the document according to recommendations of our liaisons, advisors, and members of the community.

To achieve our final objective, we interviewed experts from the National Health Service England (London), Public Health England, the London Resilience Forum, and community members of Hounslow. We conducted these interviews to determine what experts and residents thought to be the best ways of communicating the information contained in the community resilience document. After our interviews, we brainstormed different communication ideas, and discussed their validity with our liaisons and advisors. After our interviews and discussions, we created a communication plan for the HRF to use in combination with the new community resilience document.

Results & Recommendations
For objective 1, we analysed 39 CRRs using the preliminary assessment checklist. The top nine CRRs were, in order from lowest score to highest score, Northumbria, Durham & Darlington, Merseyside, Cumbria, Derby & Derbyshire, Humber, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, and Nottingham & Nottinghamshire. We then rated these CRRs using Leigh’s assessment tool. The average was 18 points of a total of 34. Rating the CRRs gave us strategies for how to correct missing or incorrect information in Hounslow’s CRR. We also scored Hounslow’s current Multi-Agency CRR. It scored 18 points. Based on this assessment, we changed several features of the CRR.

To complement the new Hounslow Multi-Agency CRR, we created a community resilience document. The goal of this document is to educate the public on what to do in case of an emergency, and what the consequences might be of a poor personal preparedness. We also provided further contact information in the document, if people desire to know more about emergency preparedness.

Finally, we created a communication plan to ensure community awareness of our Community Resilience document. We divided the plan into two major categories. The first part of our communication plan was education. We developed an outline for a workshop for schools around Hounslow. The workshop has activities that target students and parents. We focused these activities on educating the community regarding emergencies in Hounslow, what to do in case they happen, and how the location of homes affects susceptibility to different risks. The other part of our communication plan was promotion. We developed plans to create refrigerator magnets containing important contact information, banners publicizing the community resilience document, a display case in the Hounslow Civic Centre to advertise our document, and an article for Hounslow Matters magazine providing details on risk.

Overall, we make three main recommendations. First, we recommend that the Hounslow Resilience Forum replace their current CRR with the new Hounslow multi-agency CRR. Our updated version provides more information for community members and is easier to understand for people with no exposure to risk communication and the HRF should therefore use it. Our second recommendation is that the HRF publish our community resilience document. This document was specifically made to be “public-friendly” and is easier to read with less technical jargon. It also includes information for community members to use during an emergency. Publishing this document would assist in make the Hounslow community better prepared for several risks. Our final recommendation was that the HRF use our communication plan to promote risk awareness and our community resilience document. By going into Hounslow primary schools and using a variety of promotional materials, both in print and online, the HRF can make sure that a more of the population knows about risk, which will decrease causalities and impact during a civil emergency.