I applied to do my placement at the Civil Contingencies and Resilience Unit (CCRU), at the Greater Manchester Police Headquarters. Immediately, this placement jumped out to me as exactly where I wanted to go with my future career, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
The CCRU prepare Greater Manchester for potential hazards and emergencies. This could be anything from making sure people are more aware of the symptoms of a stroke, to mobilising a response team to floods. They do this by engaging with the relevant businesses, actors, local councils and emergency response units to ensure that Greater Manchester is ready to respond to any potential emergency. Another important aspect of preparing for emergency is generating resilience within individuals themselves. This is done by communicating these potential hazards to the general public and giving them knowledge on how they can better prepare and respond.
Helping with public engagement was my main task with the unit. I elected to make content to raise general awareness of the problem of power cuts and the possibility of more wide-scale power outages that could be potentially severe in the future. I had heard about a power cut in Lancaster in 2015 and an incident where students had used the only electricity in the city at a hospital to charge their electrical devices, running on a backup generator. Coming from an era where power cuts were uncommon and not knowing what to do without internet access, I realised there was a time gap between younger generations and those used to frequent power cuts.
This inspired me to create an image that could be distributed on social media, that young people could save to their phone, with all the relevant information in the event of a major power cut. This idea was produced and then converted into an additional leaflet form which could be spread on ‘999 day’, an emergency services community engagement day held every year at the Trafford Centre.
The tasks allowed me to learn the biggest insight I would take away from this experience: the communication of sensitive issues. Most people have other things to worry about in their lives, and would therefore struggle to absorb potentially stressful information forced on them. People are less likely to take in information if it causes internal panic. Instead, engaging with the public through fun, yet informative, days such as ‘999 day’, where they have chosen to be there, is thought to be the most effective way of public interaction.
When planning for emergencies in a modern and diverse city, it is important to consider how everyone in that city may have their own independent issues. As important as emergency preparedness is, it’s not worth forcing down people’s throats. This concept is a reminder of the wider importance of empathy and communication in everyday life. It shows that we must be responsible about our own responsibilities, and although something may be important to us – such as preparing for a hazard – it may not be as important to others until the water is rising outside their door. Communicating effectively, in a light-hearted way that considers everyone’s own personal struggles, is a concept that can be applied to all forms of living.