Council staff to help deal with disasters
COUNCIL workers are to be trained up to man emergency control bases in the event of a town being hit by a major disaster.
Newcastle Borough Council is discussing the plans, which would swing into action to deal with emergencies such as train or plane crashes, flooding or flu pandemics.
Council officials have stressed the chances of such traumatic episodes occurring in the area are always slim.
But the 'civil contingency plans' are being drawn up as a back-up, to help guard against emergencies that could involve casualties or people forced to flee their homes.
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The project was discussed at a meeting of the council's staffing committee this week.
It would involve recruiting a team of volunteers from different council departments, who could be deployed to key roles if disaster strikes. Posts would include staff to man temporary accommodation and rest centres, emergency control centre assistants and people tasked with recording vital information about the incident.
It would build on the council's role as a 'category one responder', which means it has a similar status in civil emergencies to the police, fire and ambulance services.
Neale Clifton, executive director for regeneration and development, said: "The blue light services deal with the immediate response, and the local authority, generally speaking, provides support to that and deals with the recovery.
"If, for example, there was a serious train crash or an aircraft landed on the West Coast Main Line, there might be injuries or fatalities.
"If I get a call at 3am on a Saturday, we have procedures in place to roll out an emergency plan.
"We might receive information that we need accommodation for 28 people. They may have minor injuries, but they have to be fed and watered and have accommodation overnight."
The plans would not necessarily affect frontline staff and their duties.
But the council wants to train up workers who could switch to the emergency roles if necessary.
They would receive at least the same level of pay as their normal wages and could potentialy earn more.
Enhanced pay would be offered for staff asked to work weekends, nights or bank holidays in the event of a disaster.
Mr Clifton said the local authority had not needed to implement a civil contingency plan in the last 20 years.
But he said the idea has returned to the fore after incidents of flooding and several major accidents in other parts of Staffordshire.
He added: "We are on a flight path for Manchester Airport and on the West Coast Main Line.
"In the Stafford area, there have been two train crashes – at Colwich and Rickerscote – which impacted on residents."
Commitee members have backed the training plans and the terms and conditions of pay.
Councillor Sandra Hambleton, committee chairman, said: "This is to do with the case if, heaven forbid, we do have a civil emergency and officers are requested to do certain jobs."