Hounslow Community Resilience

Sponsor: London Borough of Hounslow Contingency Planning Unit (CPU)
Sponsor Liaison: Twm Palmer
Student Team: Dana Landry, Kyle Pacheco, Mara Pranter, and Mathew Siu
Abstract: The London Borough of Hounslow faces growing and shifting concerns in the types of
disasters it may face, especially regarding terrorism and pandemics. The purpose of this project was to improve the organizational and community resilience (disaster anticipation, preparation, reduction, and recovery) of the borough to better suit current conditions. We accomplished this by administering surveys across West Hounslow, Central Hounslow, and Chiswick. These surveys assessed the emergency preparedness of Hounslow community members, and their perceived greatest risks to the borough. Based on our survey data and interviews with resilience experts, we developed posters and a recommendation list, offering improvements to the London Borough of Hounslow Contingency Planning Unit’s organizational and community resilience efforts.
Link: In progress

Executive Summary

The London Borough of Hounslow is in the far west side of Greater London, and is governed by Hounslow Council, which contains a department known as the Contingency Planning Unit (CPU), our project sponsor. Alongside our sponsor, we worked towards improving the organizational and community resilience of the borough to better suit current conditions. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, community resilience is defined as:
“the ability of communities (and their members) exposed to disasters, crises and
underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, prepare for, reduce the impact of, cope with and
recover from the effects of shocks and stresses without compromising their long-term prospects.”
Using this definition of community resilience, we studied emergency management procedures, historical displays of community resilience, and existing United Kingdom and regional resilience standards to better understand how to address any future emergencies Hounslow might face. These emergencies, including but not limited to, fires, pandemics, and terrorist incidents, often
leave a community in a weakened state. By having strong community resilience and emergency management plans set, communities will be better at mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from these scenarios.
To reach our goal of improved organizational and community resilience in Hounslow, we developed four objectives. Over the course of this project, we aimed:
1.  To assess the involvement and collaboration of different types of community members with the borough’s community resilience plans.
2. To assess the current organizational and resilience implementations within the Hounslow Borough, and to compare its efforts with other London boroughs and similar municipalities.
3. To determine which elements of organizational and community resilience can be
improved upon within the Hounslow Council, and to develop a document with recommendations for improvements.
4. To develop a resource that brings awareness to community resilience efforts across the community.
In order to complete these objectives, we gathered facts and viewpoints about the borough using surveys and interviews. We administered an anonymous survey to Hounslow residents in three major centers of the borough, including Chiswick, Central Hounslow, and West Hounslow. These surveys consisted of eleven statements where the survey taker could respond with: completely true, somewhat true, neutral, somewhat false, and completely false. The responses we gathered from our community surveys allowed us to identify community traits, strengths and weaknesses alike. These statements covered topics such as passive knowledge (e.g. knowing emergency contacts), proactive preparedness (e.g. stored medical supplies), and community trust of officials. These were followed by five short answer questions asking residents who they would turn to in the event of an emergency, and what they perceived as the
greatest risks to their community.
The responses we gathered revealed gaps that prevent Hounslow residents from being fully prepared in the case of an emergency. For instance, most people agreed that they knew what to do and who to contact in a public emergency, yet also disagreed with the statement that they had an emergency plan in place with those they live with. The difference in these responses highlights that Hounslow residents possess passive knowledge, but do not act on this knowledge to proactively prepare for emergencies. Residents also noted that they were largely aware of their buildings’ emergency evacuation procedures but added that many of their flats do not have functioning smoke detectors or fire extinguishers, another major concern to address.
Terrorism was perceived as being the highest risk to Hounslow residents, although external factors such as heightened media attention may have contributed to its popularity. We also asked residents about their contact preferences for emergency information. Many younger residents preferred social media and the borough website, while older community members preferred posters and verbal communication. Lastly, we found that some residents were unaware of the role Hounslow’s Contingency Planning Unit plays in emergency response, and the roles of Hounslow Council staff.
To measure organizational resilience and collect opinions from Hounslow Council staff, we also conducted an internal survey. This anonymous survey consisted of two “yes or no” questions asking if the staff member felt the organization was resilient, and if they were aware of emergency protocols. From these surveys, we found that 70% of respondents felt the organization was resilient. Through conversation with respondents, those who felt the organization was not resilient often attributed it to budgetary constraints. 85% of respondents were aware of emergency protocols, while many who responded negatively mentioned that they had only been working for Hounslow Council for a short time. These findings indicate that Hounslow Council is a moderately resilient organization from its staff’s perspective.
Finally, we conducted interviews with local experts to better understand their views on community resilience. We interviewed three members of the Hounslow Contingency Planning Unit,the Ealing Emergency Response Team, the Hillingdon Emergency Management Team, and the NHS Specialist to London Resilience. These interviews presented some common responses. First, pandemic flu, not terrorism, was the greatest risk to Hounslow and nearby boroughs. Second, community engagement was deemed greatly important, and an aspect that needs to be improved upon. Many interviewees said that engagement programs are extremely important to community resilience because they allow officials to more efficiently relay information to different groups across the borough. Third, communication and collaboration across agencies was deemed essential to response and resilience efforts, though this may be a difficult goal to achieve. Unlike in the United States, where one large organization handles most emergency response roles (FEMA), United Kingdom emergency response is comprised of several specialized agencies. This means that communication and collaboration with these groups is necessary in almost all response and resilience efforts.
Based on the information gathered from our surveys and interviews, we developed a recommendation list for the Hounslow Contingency Planning Unit to improve community resilience. These recommendations are as follows:
1. Increase transparency and familiarity of the Hounslow Council with community members
through a staff directory on the Hounslow web page, listing the duties of each staff
member and department.
2.Use current events as a means of increasing engagement with the community.
Community members are more likely to engage with initiatives when they are associated
with events receiving public attention.
3. Clarify requirements for emergency protocols with stakeholders (e.g. tenants, Hounslow House staff, landlords, etc.). This includes requiring landlords to show proof of functioning fire alarms and other preventive measures, as well as carrying out frequent emergency drills in all public and residential spaces.
4. Alert community members to emergency information via optional social media and SMS notifications. Keeping this function optional respects the privacy of community members.
5. Increase collaboration with already existing and established groups in the community such as Hounslow Friends of Faith. More collaboration with these groups allows Hounslow officials to have access to resources such as large indoor spaces, additional volunteers, and additional lines of communication with the public for emergency information.
6. Develop a communication campaign to increase public awareness. To accomplish this, we have developed a series of informational posters that highlight possible emergencies. They also contain preventative measures and contact information for specific emergencies such as fires and pandemics.
These recommendations are intended to improve the organizational and community
resilience of Hounslow. However, it’s worth nothing that during our research it was clear that the Hounslow Council and Contingency Planning Unit do an exceptional job in serving their
community and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of their residents.