Disaster planning falling short, says university

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EMERGENCY responses to disasters caused by flash flooding, severe winter weather or terrorism could be hampered by a lack of know-how, according to research by Sheffield University experts.

Each year Britain experiences on average 11 major incidents which need a co-ordinated response from bodies such as the NHS, police and fire services.

Interest in the subject has grown considerably in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings and the UK today is seen as a world leader in emergency planning, response and recovery.

But analysts from the university’s School of Health and Related Research have found managers still have plenty to learn.

Their study has identified several key priority areas for further research including how health sector managers plan, respond to, and learn from emergencies.

The Sheffield team examined more than 1,600 publications on the topic of emergency and disaster management from around the world.

In addition 17 experts in the field were interviewed, including senior level managers from a variety of UK agencies involved in emergency planning, preparedness and response, as well as the military and academics.

Senior tutor Dr Andrew Lee said: “The study found there is a limited knowledge-base from the UK and a considerable proportion of the literature is from North America.

“Much of the literature is not robust and there are concerns that findings from North American studies cannot be easily extrapolated to the UK setting.

“We don’t have evidence on the best ways to engage communities in order to make them more resilient to disasters.

“Worryingly, there are also gaps in how lessons learnt from previous disasters are embedded by organisations and individuals involved in emergency management.”