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UK needs network of disaster planning offices, say experts

LOCAL AUTHORITIES lack the resources to respond adequately to disasters including terrorist attack and freak weather, emergency planners said this week.

They said Britain must urgently review its disaster planning procedures and develop a regional network of emergency planning offices.

These would operate in the geographical areas corresponding to regional government offices, according to the Emergency Planning Society (EPS).

Regional offices would have a clear remit to co-ordinate emergency services and other bodies involved in disaster response, says the EPS in its report to the government's review of emergency planning (NCE 20 September).

They would be co-ordinated by a national emergency planning agency similar to the United States' Federal Emergency Planning Agency which took control of the response to last month's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

'In England and Wales most incidents are handled at a local level. However with fuel crises, flooding and foot and mouth outbreaks there is a need for coordinated and timely support that covers large geographical areas and requires expert help, ' it says.

Coventry University head of disaster management Les Mosely said the current arrangements left Britain woefully under prepared to respond to a terrorist attack on the scale of that on the World Trade Center. The country's emergency planning budget of £14.7M, which was frozen five years ago, urgently needs boosting, he added.

Current government plans would leave local authority emergency planning in charge.

Legislation would create 'a duty of partnership' on all key agencies to work together in an emergency with local authorities providing 'community leadership'.

INFOPLUS The Emergency Planning Society's response to the government's emergency planning review can be found on www. emergplansoc. org. uk

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