Civil Contingencies Act deadline looming for UK local authorities
Get free weekly news by e-mailThe majority of the requirements of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA) are now in force in the UK . However, one major outstanding deadline is rapidly approaching: from 15th May 2006 local authorities have a duty to provide business continuity advice to organisations in their area.
Following the UK fuel crisis and the severe flooding in the autumn and winter of 2000 and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, the Deputy Prime Minister announced a review of emergency planning arrangements. The review included a public consultation exercise which reinforced the government’s conclusion that existing legislation no longer provided an adequate framework for modern civil protection efforts and that new legislation was needed. The end result of this process was the Civil Contingencies Bill which was introduced to Parliament on 7th January 2004 and which received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004 .
The Civil Contingencies Act consists of two substantive parts:
Part 1: focuses on local arrangements for civil protection, establishing a statutory framework of roles and responsibilities for local responders.
Part 2: focuses on emergency powers, establishing a modern framework for the use of special legislative measures that might be necessary to deal with the effects of the most serious emergencies.
The bulk of the duties imposed by the Civil Contingencies Act fall upon organisations and bodies defined by the Act as ‘Category 1’ responders.
Category 1 responders are those organisations at the core of emergency response (e.g. emergency services, local authorities). Under the Act they are required to:
* Assess the risk of emergencies occurring and use this to inform contingency planning;
* Put in place emergency plans;
* Put in place business continuity management arrangements;
* Put in place arrangements to make information available to the public about civil protection matters and maintain arrangements to warn, inform and advise the public in the event of an emergency;
* Share information with other local responders to enhance co-ordination;
* Co-operate with other local responders to enhance co-ordination and efficiency; and
* Provide advice and assistance to businesses and voluntary organisations about business continuity management.
The last item of the list applies to local authorities only and the deadline to have provisions in place to meet the requirements of this duty is 15th May 2006 .
LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND BUSINESS CONTINUITY: THE CCA REQUIREMENTS
The Cabinet Office has provided Continuity Central with the following notes with regards to the business continuity responsibilities of local authorities under the Act:
Internal business continuity planning
* For responders to help others, they first have to be able to keep themselves going in the face of a disruption.
* The Act requires Category 1 responders to put in place business continuity plans to ensure that they are able to continue to exercise their functions in the face of an emergency.
* Category 1 responders are also required to have in place a procedure for invoking the plan, a programme of exercises to ensure that they are effective; and a training regime to ensure that key staff will be able to perform the tasks expected of them in the event of an emergency.
* Category 1 responders have always done a degree of business continuity planning – the Act puts this work on a more systematic footing.
* The good practice guidance in Emergency Preparedness builds on established standards and doctrine in this area and was developed in close collaboration with prominent practitioners.
What the Act requires:
* Local responders are required to put plans in place to ensure that they are able to exercise their functions in the event of an emergency.
* For local responders to help others in their civil protection work, they first need to keep their own emergency response going. But they also need to be able to keep their normal functions going if the impact of the emergency on the community is to be kept to a minimum.
* In practice this means putting in place robust business continuity plans which can deal with the range of risks faced and testing them regularly.
Local responders need to:
* Establish a procedure for determining that an emergency has occurred;
* Carry out exercises to ensure that plans are effective (i.e. validation); and
* Ensure that appropriate staff receive sufficient training to be able to implement the plan.
If local responders rely on third parties to help deliver their critical functions they will need to assure themselves that they will be able to deliver on the day. Therefore contracts must be robust to ensure that third parties are able to continue to deliver their services during an emergency.
PROVIDING BUSINESS CONTINUITY ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE
The guidance document ‘Emergency Preparedness’, summarises what local authorities will be expected to have achieved by 15th May. This is as follows:
• Local authorities must provide general advice and assistance to the business and voluntary sector communities at large; may provide specific advice and assistance to individual organisations; and may give advice and assistance to individual businesses in relation to the engagement of business continuity consultants.
• Local authorities may charge for advice and assistance provided on request, on a cost-recovery basis.
• Not all voluntary organisations would want –or benefit from – business continuity advice. A local authority may therefore define its own voluntary sector audience, targeting efforts where they will add most value.
• Local authorities should have regard to relevant Community Risk Registers (CRRs) when developing an advice and assistance programme.
• Local authorities may enter into collaborative arrangements with other Category 1 and 2 responders in fulfilling their duties.
• Local authorities within a Local Resilience Forum (LRF) area are required to co-operate with each other in performing their duties; other Category 1 and 2 responders within a Local Resilience Forum are required to co-operate with local authorities.
• Local authorities are required to have regard to the BCM advice and assistance provided by other Category 1 and 2 responders to business and voluntary organisations in their areas.
• Local authorities should consider how to use the arrangements for multi-agency co-operation established by the Act to ensure BCM advice and assistance programmes are co-ordinated and effective.
(See http://www.ukresilience.info/ccact/eppd ... hap_08.pdf
for more details.)
As can be clearly seen from the above there is scope for local authorities to take a variety of approaches to the duty to provide business continuity advice and assistance. Local authorities can decide to undertake the bare minimum by simply addressing the ‘musts’ rather than the ‘mays’ contained in the government’s guidance document. Or they can take a best practice route and provide a wide-ranging business continuity advice service to organisations in their area. Time and budgetary constraints may well be the factors which determine which approach is taken.