Technical ReportPDF Available

Understanding Community Resilience from the Perspective of a Population Experienced in Emergencies: Some Insights from Cumbria

  • HD Research


Since 2001 the population of Cumbria has been exposed to a range of emergencies, precipitated by both hazards and threats. The county has experienced its share of higher probability incidents, the common events, which have required anticipatable levels of preparedness and response. However, there have also been a series of low-probability, high-impact events, which have provided severe tests for the county’s population and institutions. These include the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis in 2001, repeated high-magnitude flooding incidents, e.g. 2005 and 2009 and the West Cumbria shootings in 2010. These events have all presented the local responder community with an expanded range of challenges that tested their capability to deliver effective Integrated Emergency Management (IEM). Given the varied nature of the experiences gained by Cumbria’s Local Resilience Forum, Cumbria Resilience (LRF), this paper has been prepared in order to share some key insights, which appear to reflect how the individual and institutional learning distilled from these events has influenced local IEM practice. The focus of the discussion will be on exploring how the management of these events by the LRF and its partners can inform understandings of community resilience from both civil and social protection perspectives.
(Emergency Planning College)
Occasional Papers
New Series
June 2015
Understanding Community
Resilience from the
Perspective of a Population
Experienced in Emergencies:
Some Insights from Cumbria
Hugh Deeming
Research Fellow
Please Note:
This Occasional Paper is a discussion article, written and published in order to stimulate
debate and reflection on key themes of interest to the resilience community. It is part of a
series of papers published by the Emergency Planning College on the Knowledge Centre of
its website and available freely to practitioners and researchers. The opinions and views it
expresses are those of the author. This paper does not constitute formal guidance or
doctrine of any sort, statutory or otherwise, and its contents are not to be regarded as the
expression of government policy or intent.
For further information, including a submissions guide for those who wish to submit a paper
for publication, please contact:
Mark Leigh
Emergency Planning College
T: 01347 825036
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................................. 1
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 2
Definitions ........................................................................................................................................... 2
Supporting research ............................................................................................................................ 4
Community Resilience in Cumbria .......................................................................................................... 4
Frontline Recovery Worker issues (FLRW) .............................................................................................. 8
FLRW Role preparedness .................................................................................................................... 9
Local Authority ‘Community Teams’ as key FLRW ............................................................................ 10
Community Resilience: encouraging Community Emergency Planning (CEP) ...................................... 13
Community Risk Registers and Community Resilience ......................................................................... 15
Conclusion: Cumbria’s Community of [Resilience] Practice ................................................................. 18
References ............................................................................................................................................ 21
The research leading to these findings has received funding from the European Community‘s
Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement n° 283201. The views
expressed and conclusions reached are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the
European Community in any way.
Most importantly, I wish to thank the research participants who kindly offered their time and insight
to the project. Particular gratitude goes to the members of Cumbria County Council’s ‘Community
Team’, whose thoughtful recollections enabled me to clearly understand the need to make their
practice ‘visible’ to others. My thanks also go to David Sheard and Jonathan Burgess of Cumbria
County Council, who contributed to and reviewed the paper from their perspective as Cumbria
Resilience Forum members and who in doing so provided an invaluable sounding board and
moderator for my ideas. Thanks also to reviewers in the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and at the
EPC for helping me clarify my argument. I reiterate that the views expressed in this document are
my own and should not be regarded as reflecting the opinions of the Cumbria LRF membership.
Understanding Community Resilience from the perspective of a population
experienced in emergencies: some insights from Cumbria
Since 2001 the population of Cumbria has been exposed to a range of emergencies, precipitated by
both hazards and threats
. The county has experienced its share of higher probability incidents, the
common events, which have required anticipatable levels of preparedness and response. However,
there have also been a series of low-probability, high-impact events, which have provided severe
tests for the county’s population and institutions. These include the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis
in 2001 (Cumbria Foot and Mouth Disease Inquiry Panel, 2002), repeated high-magnitude flooding
incidents, e.g. 2005 (Environment Agency, 2006) and 2009 (Environment Agency, 2010) and the
West Cumbria shootings in 2010 (Chesterton, 2011). These events have all presented the local
responder community with an expanded range of challenges that tested their capability to deliver
effective Integrated Emergency Management (IEM)
. These events have also occurred at a time of
significant evolution and change in UK civil protection practice. For example, the statutory
requirements for organisations to adopt ‘Responder’ status, to create Local Resilience Forums (LRF)
and for these LRFs to undertake defined duties only arrived with the ascent of the Civil
Contingencies Act in 2004, with the Flood and Water Management Act (with its significant
implications for Local Authorities’ management of flooding) arriving in 2010. The county’s
emergency management institutions have also been increasingly constrained by the pressure that
austerity is placing on the delivery of public services. Given the varied nature of the experiences
gained by Cumbria’s Local Resilience Forum, Cumbria Resilience (henceforth the LRF), this paper has
been prepared in order to share some key insights, which appear to reflect how the individual and
institutional learning distilled from these events has influenced local IEM practice. The focus of the
discussion will be on exploring how the management of these events by the LRF
and its partners can
inform understandings of community resilience from both civil and social protection perspectives.
In order to provide a suitably inclusive context through which to discuss these issues, it is important
to clarify the working definitions that will underpin this commentary. Therefore, for the purposes of
this paper:
Risks faced by the public are summarised into three categories: accidents, natural events (collectively known
as hazards) and malicious attacks (known as threats).
The six phases of IEM: Anticipation, Assessment, Prevention, Preparation, Response, Recovery Management
The author fully understands that the Environment Agency’s community engagement strategy reflects not
only its duties under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), but also represents compliance with Defra’s national
FCERM strategy (Defra, 2011b) and Lead Government Department status for flooding. Environment Agency
personnel have undertaken significant on-going and often challenging participatory engagement in Cumbria,
which has undoubtedly resulted in positive outcomes for many different communities. This paper’s
incorporation of the Environment Agency’s efforts under the umbrella of the LRF as a whole should not be
seen as a failure to recognise this fact.
civil protection refers to the “organisation and measures, under governmental or other
authority, aimed at preventing, abating or otherwise countering the effects of emergencies
for the protection of the civilian population and property(Cabinet Office, 2013)
social protection refers to: ‘the public actions taken in response to levels of vulnerability,
risk and deprivation, which are deemed socially unacceptable within a given polity or
society.’ (Norton et al., 2001: p.7)
This discussion focuses on understanding the relative impacts that a range of emergencies have had
on the population of Cumbria. It is founded on the idea that this population, or sub-sets of such, can
be understood as representative of a community or as a number of often inter-related communities.
Community is of course a contested term (Delanty, 2003, Stacey, 1969, Twigger-Ross et al., 2011),
but for the sake of brevity this discussion should be considered as adopting the four community
defined in the Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience (Cabinet Office, 2011b:
p.12) as they provide a useful typology with which to consider how members of this population
could also be understood as being members of one or several communities at any one time.
Whilst the Cabinet Office has offered its own definition of community resilience, which will be
discussed below, this paper wishes to explore the resilience concept slightly more broadly. For this
reason the discussion moves away from the terminology of the UK civil protection lexicon (Cabinet
Office, 2013) and reflects the characterisation of resilience adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC):
Resilience: The capacity of social, economic, and environmental systems to cope with a
hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain
their essential function, identity, and structure, while also maintaining the capacity for
adaptation, learning, and transformation. (IPCC, 2014: p.5)
This definition is used in preference to that adopted by the UK civil protection lexicon
, because it
better incorporates the understanding that exposure to the “disruptive challenges” presented by
hazards and threats change communities. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is not to review the
multiple conceptualisations of resilience (which is an ongoing project, e.g. Alexander, 2013, de
Bruijne et al., 2010, emBRACE, 2012, Folke, 2006, Gallopin, 2006, Weichselgartner and Kelman,
2014), but to examine Cumbria’s experiences through the application of one particular
understanding of the ‘resilience’ concept. This lens acknowledges that resilience’s association with a
status quo approach (simply ‘maintaining essential function’) may not be entirely optimal, given that
alternative trajectories are open to risk-exposed communities, i.e. adaptation and transformation
(Pelling, 2010)
The four community types defined by the Cabinet Office are: geographical, interest, circumstance and
Resilience: The ability of the community, services, area or infrastructure to detect, prevent, and, if necessary
to withstand, handle and recover from disruptive challenges (Cabinet Office, 2013)
Supporting research
The paper draws on primary research data that was collected as part of a case study within the EU
emBRACE project
. This case study designated the flooding that affected large parts of Cumbria in
November 2009 as a ‘key event’ (Robson, 2005) in need of investigation. The intent being to use this
lens to explore what community resilience ‘looks like’ along the catchment of the River Derwent;
from its source in Borrowdale, through the towns of Keswick and Cockermouth and eventually to its
mouth into the Irish Sea at Workington. During the investigation a total of 65 interviews were
conducted, seven resilience-focussed public meetings were attended and three separate project
workshops were held. Research participants represented a range of interests, from directly flood-
affected residents (rural or town) and members of community groups with interests in community
resilience (40), to representatives of high-level governance institutions within the county (25),
including staff from Category 1 and 2 responder organisations. Qualitative analysis of the
accumulated data resulted in the identification of a range of community-resilience relevant themes,
which inform the structure of this paper.
Principal amongst these emergent themes were: the complexity and community/location specific
nature of ‘community resilience’; the challenging nature of the frontline roles undertaken by some
responder staff after the flood and; the increasingly inclusive nature of the LRF’s approach to IEM.
The paper will discuss these themes in order, first by discussing how resilience can be understood, in
terms of its capacity as a community-driven process through which to reduce vulnerabilities to, and
to mitigate the impacts of, emergencies. It will then discuss the role of a specific group of Category 1
staff (i.e. the County Council employed Community Teams) and the need to understand
how important their professional skillset makes them as Frontline Recovery Workers (FLRW). The
discussion will then move on to examine the LRF’s inclusion of community, business and 3
actors into the IEM process, as well as appraising the rationale that apparently underpins the
contents of the LRF’s Community Risk Register (CRR). A final summary will then argue that it is these
latter factors that are enabling the wider population to become increasingly involved in the co-
development of a range of community resilience outcomes, through an approach that has been
termed a ‘Community of [Resilience] Practice’ (CoRP) (Deeming et al., 2015).
Community Resilience in Cumbria
The UK Civil Protection Lexicon
defines community resilience as:
The emBRACE full case-study report can be downloaded from:
Category 1 Responders are the main organisations involved in most emergencies at a local level, e.g.
emergency services (Police, Fire & Rescue, etc.) along with health sector and local authority partners. Category
2 responders are those organisations involved in some emergencies (e.g. utilities companies and
transportation agencies) (HM Government, 2012a: p.7). In Cumbria both the County and District councils are
categorised as Cat 1 responders.
Communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in
an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services
(Cabinet Office, 2013)
In Cumbria this definition is certainly relevant in terms of how we can understand certain aspects of
the community response that manifested during the 2009 floods. Principally because, its focus on
complementary co-working is clearly illustrated in terms of the inclusiveness of the integrated
response to that event, as the quote below illustrates:
“So we were galvanised and we were prepared and the community was engaged and we had
a difficult job to do but it was a damn sight easier than it could have been because the work
that the Flood Action Group had done made the town very flood-aware. And the work that
the Environment Agency, [Laurie T]
had done in setting up the Flood Action Group and the
publicity that they’ve had locally, you know we’re a community of only about 5,000, but
when someone knocked on the door, whether it was a volunteer, Police Office, Fire-fighter,
Mountain Rescuer and said ‘you’re house is going to flood’; when they got their text
message alert, they’d be all signed up for it, they were very, very flood-aware, the
community, so a lot of property, moveable property was secured and was saved. […] And I
don’t like to have analogies between Keswick and Cockermouth but there was about half a
dozen cars in Keswick got flooded where there’d be 60 cars in Cockermouth were flooded
and that just showed the difference in communities and different exposure they’d had to
flooding over the 4 years earlier,” Interviewee C13
This quotation, from a Cat 1 responder, appears to illustrate just how effective preparedness
measures can be in preventing loss. However, 300 properties were still flooded in Keswick, resulting
in disruption to the lives and livelihoods of affected residents and small businesses for many months
to follow. In the towns downstream, where the sheer magnitude of the flooding simply
overwhelmed existing preparedness measures, the impacts were even more severe, with over 800
properties flooded in Cockermouth (some for the third time in 4 years) and 60 properties flooded
and one life lost in Workington; where significant damage and destruction to major transport
infrastructure also effectively sliced the town in two. These urban flood effects were extreme and
exposed the towns’ populations to significant risks. Given the nature of the intensity of social risk
that these impacts are testament to, it is clearly understandable why the county’s responders and
their resources had been drawn to these locations. The corollary being, however, that given the
limited nature of resources available and the wide area being affected, it was inevitable that some
communities experienced the event without immediate physical support from the emergency
“…it wasn’t my problem; my task was to manage the [particular urban area]. Obviously
globally, you know Gold Command was set up; there was a Strategic Coordinating Centre,
but my experience of the [rural valleys] etc. is that they were all there to fend for
themselves.” Interviewee C13
All research participants and people named in interview by these participants have been anonymised
The circumstances dictated that many rural communities were indeed ‘fending for themselves’,
which at times involved heroic (even if unadvised) behaviour being undertaken by community
C54-1 “[Mike] went over the bridge …
C54-2 “…just before the bridge went in the water
C54-1 “… just before it collapsed, in the tractor. To try and get people on the other side
because it was terrible on the other side and they are used to flooding, they flood if
not every year, every other year their houses would flood but this was a lot worse
than, the houses were going to go you see so it was that bad. And [Mike], one of our
neighbours, on a tractor, he went over, he had the biggest tractor so he went over,
he shouldn’t have done.” Interviewees C54-1 & 2
So, by acknowledging both the urban and rural communities’ roles in the response phase of the 2009
event and the limitations that were placed on the response, where insufficient resources were
available to support all those exposed to flood effects, it could be argued that the Lexicon definition
of community resilience does provide an appropriate yardstick against which to calibrate LRF
aspirations for their wider population’s integration into IEM. However, returning the focus back to
the 300 properties that were still flooded in Keswick, despite that community’s effectiveness in
reducing damage, highlights the importance of understanding that any resilience-building process
needs to be considered as relevant across all IEM phases. In other words, it appears that regardless
of the quality of anticipatory, preparedness and response actions, it is still likely that some
community members will be impacted by high-magnitude events, and will thus need to recover.
This is one lesson that has been learned by Cumbria’s LRF, and which stems back to Cumbria County
Council’s experience of the draw on its services following the 2005 floods.
As has now become common knowledge to those who deal with flooded communities, affected
households and businesses can face a long path to recovery (Tapsell and Tunstall, 2008, Werritty et
al., 2007, Whittle et al., 2010). Also, the trajectory this path takes is rarely straightforward, with the
experience of recovery often being remembered as “worse than the actual event”, with some
people analogising the process to playing a months-long game of ‘snakes and ladders’ (Whittle et al.,
. The principal stresses were recognised by Whittle et al. (Ibid.), as being driven by the need
for the flood affected to negotiate their own recovery, not with the emergency responders who may
have assisted them during the event, but with representatives of a range of new sectors and actors
(e.g. insurers, loss adjusters and builders). These authors referred to this interface, between the
point where people were assisted and the point where they were left to their own devices, as the
‘Recovery Gap’.
Given that the negotiations required to cross the recovery gap are not directly emergency related, it
could be said that recovery will never be a straightforward issue for this or any other LRF. However,
Whittle et al. used this analogy, of recovery constituting a process of repeated progress and
‘retraumatisation’, to develop a physical ‘Flood Snakes and Ladders’ game, which has been played by a range
of policy makers and flood-risk stakeholder groups:
as a local authority and Category 1 responder in 2005 Cumbria County Council did engage with the
challenges that the recovery gap placed on their flooded communities, by developing the
‘Communities Reunited’ partnership project. Where deployed, this initiative provided:
“…practical, ‘hands on’ support [for the flood affected] with a myriad of ongoing demands
that the disaster created: from writing letters to utility services, to seeking clarification of
the nature of financial support from insurance companies, to prioritizing immediate needs
arising from ‘dislocation’ and temporary relocation such as sourcing new school uniforms
and bus routes.” (Convery and Bailey, 2008: p.106)
This support was highly praised by the affected public and was later to serve as a model for the
County Council’s management of the 2009 recovery. In terms of learning, the most important
aspect of this was that the earlier experience allowed for the communities reunited model to be
initiated in 2009 “within three days, rather than the three months that it took in 2005” (Interviewee
C24). Once up and running the community hub facilities set up in the three main towns (e.g. Christ
Church in Cockermouth) provided vital support for those displaced from their homes, or otherwise
struggling with the challenges of recovering. The location of these facilities close to the flood-impact
epicentre was important too (Eyre, 2006), because it meant that Council staff and volunteers were
able to host themed meetings (e.g. about insurance issues) as well as to provide a form of
intelligence service; for those affected, but also for the authorities who needed to be able to react
effectively to any emerging social vulnerability issues. One key factor, which sets this community
support hub concept aside from the usual humanitarian assistance planning conducted by LRFs is the
length of time these facilities were needed. In both 2005 and 2009 the hub centres set up
collaboratively by the council staff and its community-based partners remained open for many
weeks, with each becoming a focal point for the sharing of stories, ideas and contacts:
“…we referred to the soup kitchen which was just down the road, I mean the soup was
dreadful [laughs] we only had it once, but as a meeting place, go round and talk, sit at tables
and talk to people, ‘what are you doing and who?’ somebody said to me ‘oh there’s
somebody really good in Carlisle, I’m having him down to advise on a pump’, I immediately
said ‘right give me his name and phone number’ that was the information”
Interviewee C18
By supporting these community hub facilities, Cumbria’s LRF has exhibited a clear understanding of
the long-term social protection responsibilities (rather than duties), which emerge from emergency
events. The success of these facilities and the value placed in them by the affected population
should, therefore, serve as a clear reminder that current Evacuation and Shelter Guidance (HM
Government, 2014), only provides a basic outline of the sensible contingencies that could be
considered when supporting the hazard-affected or the temporarily displaced. More may need to
be done.
What the evidence described above confirms is that the LRF’s interest in community resilience can
be encapsulated in an approach that simply recognises the population’s sometimes very effective
and assistive role in emergency response. However, perhaps a better understanding to reinforce
would be that emergencies reveal complex vulnerabilities within communities, which response
capabilities alone will never completely alleviate.
Hazard and threat related vulnerabilities can be differentiated in terms of their triggers, i.e. they can
be categorised as event or consequence related (Nigg and Miller, 1994). From the discussion above
we can see that emergencies, such as high-magnitude floods, can create direct threats to life (event),
but that impacts can also emerge over the long term as people struggle to recover in the face of
stresses that are further exacerbated by ‘recovery gap’ effects (consequence). For example,
consequence vulnerabilities could include the susceptibility to exhaustion experienced by flood-
affected householders needing to work, whilst also caring for family members and managing the
recovery process, whilst at the same time living in cramped temporary accommodation; or simply
the strain that results from dealing with bad builders:
“The first time [in 2005] we were out of the house for 51 weeks altogether, we were closed
for 51 weeks. And we had a builder from Manchester and he would just come one day and
he’d say ‘see you tomorrow’ and then we wouldn’t see him for 3 weeks. So this last time [in
2009] we had a local builder, he was somebody that used to be a neighbour I used to work
with his wife, his cousin worked for the family firm, mates with [my husband], we thought it
was all going to be alright. It was awful.”
Interviewee C15
It is evident that Cumbria LRF’s accumulation of emergency management experience has revealed to
its members the importance of understanding the concept of vulnerability as both event and
consequence related. This has allowed them to develop numerous contingencies, in terms of
effective civil protection during response, but also in terms of exercising wider social protection
capabilities in the medium to long term. This has been achieved through the traditional planning,
training and exercising regime encompassed within modern IEM practice, but also, partially, through
realising the capabilities of and enabling a set of employees and partners who have not traditionally
been associated with emergency management structures.
Frontline Recovery Worker issues (FLRW)
Cumbria’s recovery from the 2009 flood event was achieved through an undoubtedly successful and
supportive collaboration between formal responders, businesses and business associations, 3
sector organisations, the faith community and the wider geographical community (Cumbria
Resilience, 2011, Riding, 2011). The response itself provided a clear validation of the importance of
planning a multi-agency approach to flood incident management (CCS, 2008) and to the value of IEM
more generally. Although the death of Police Constable Bill Barker on the Northside Bridge in
Workington proved to be the event’s pre-eminent tragedy, the fact that more lives were not lost
during the event is in no small part testament to the planning, training, exercising of the County’s
responder agencies and to the resourcefulness of the communities and community groups they
worked with. As the county moved from response into recovery the principal actors changed, from
the ‘Blue-light’ services, to those more geared and equipped to engage with the issues of
‘vulnerability, risk and deprivation’ (i.e. the social protection considerations), which the impact of a
major emergency can inflict on those affected. This section singles out a particular category of
Frontline Recovery Worker (FLRW) for discussion. This should not be seen as devaluing the efforts of
the countless others who ‘leaned in’ to the recovery work. It is done explicitly to highlight to LRFs,
and to Local Authorities in particular, the importance of enabling potentially key staff to participate
within their integrated emergency management processes.
Before focussing on specific staff, however, it is important to define what is meant by the term
Frontline Recovery Worker (FLRW).
FLRW Role preparedness
In their study of the often arduous and traumatic roles undertaken by seconded and reassigned staff
during the 2001 Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) crisis in Cumbria, Convery et al. (2008) identified the
fact that when it comes to dealing with emergencies the frontline often emerges in unexpected
places(p.114). By this they meant that seconded and reassigned staff exposed to the abnormal
working conditions that can be experienced in a ‘disaster zone’ can encounter significant stresses
and feel psychological strain, which they would not expect to be confronted with during their normal
employment routines. The principal point being that in emergencies, frontline workers may not
always have had the training or situational exposure sufficient to prepare them for their emergency
This is not to say that emergency situations cannot have an impact on fully trained ‘Blue light’
workers too (North and Hong, 2000)
, it is simply highlighting the fact that LRFs, particularly, should
be sensitive to the fact that their members may need to deploy potentially untrained and
unprepared staff to frontline duties and that they need to plan their human resourcing processes
accordingly. Guidance on the care of and the consideration of frontline worker issues does form a
sub-section within the most recent iteration of the non-statutory guidance document Emergency
Response and Recovery (ERR) (HM Government, 2013). Therefore, it may seem unreasonable to
suggest that LRFs lack an understanding of these issues. For example, the research endorses the
recommendation related to the importance of proactively enhancing the preparedness of managers:
“Agencies to ensure they look after the physical and psychosocial welfare of staff and
volunteers managers should be trained in what to look out for in both the short and longer
term.” (Ibid., p.131: emphasis added)
This consideration of the longer term effects on staff is an improvement on the previous ERR focus
on just “rescuers and response workers” (HM Government, 2012b: p.174). It implicitly introduces
the idea that LRF members should integrate FLRW welfare provisions into their own business
continuity arrangements, and could also encourage them to prompt 3
sector, business and
community collaborators to do the same. What the Cumbria research has shown, however, is that
there still remains a challenge to how LRFs recognise who actually constitutes a Frontline Recovery
Whittle et al. (2010) identified four types of Frontline Recovery Worker that were evident in relation
to the Hull flood recovery in 2007:
1. Permanent and temporary staff whose jobs were created specifically to deal with the issue
of flood recovery. In Hull these included staff employed on the City Council’s Flood Advice
Psychological strain resulting from emergency roles has been referred to as a normal response to abnormal
2. Those whose pre-existing job roles were extended to deal with flooding issues. The best
example of this in Hull was the work of the City Council’s Community Wardens.
3. “Traditional” intermediary roles, e.g. the work of the loss adjusters and the Citizen’s Advice
4. Informal work that was carried out in a voluntary capacity by community groups across the
Many of those involved in these types of expanding, extending or emergent work roles (Brouillette
and Quarantelli, 1971) found the experience to be very positive, with perceived rewards including
CVs enhanced with new skills and feelings of purposefulness that came with helping people in need
(see also: Solnit, 2009). For those in Hull who held the dual roles of recovery worker and also of
, the experience of working for others allowed them to put their own hardships into
perspective, and also to empathise with those they were dealing with. However, these people also
experienced considerable role-related stress. To consider these positive and negative experiences
we will now turn our attention to a particular group of FLRWs whose own mixed experiences
emerged into the light during the emBRACE research.
Local Authority ‘Community Teams’ as key FLRW
One group of ‘Type 2 FLRWs (i.e. extension of existing roles) in Cumbria are of particular interest to
this discussion. These are the members of Cumbria County Council’s Area Support Team, or
‘Community Team’. As a community based, public-facing branch of the County Council the area
teams are a small group of individuals who are specialists in community engagement and community
development. Following the 2009 flood these individuals found themselves at the forefront of
recovery work (as they have elsewhere: Easthope, 2012, Twigger-Ross et al., 2011)
. Deeming et al.
(2015) reflect on these individuals’ FLRW situation and synthesise their key role experiences. As in
Hull these included positive effects in terms of…
…feeling personally empowered, by the perceived success of their brokering/enabling role
…feeling positive about feeling part of a community that was perceived to have come back
stronger, more capable and more connected from the experience.
These positive experiences were, however, also balanced by the more challenging memories of role
The unanticipated nature of the new FLRW role that emerged from the event, i.e. it required
much more than the ‘day job’
The variety of the brokerage activity that these staff were involved in
The length of time the activity continued after “all the other organisations left”
The sheer intensity of the work (never feeling ‘off duty’ for months)
The pressure this intense work placed on the workers’ home life
‘Floodee’ was a phrase coined in Keswick to describe those who had been flooded. It was regarded as
preferable and more empowering than the often applied terms, flood ‘victim’ or flood ‘survivor’
Easthope (2012) describes the adaptive practice of a council ‘neighbourhood management’ team involved in
the recovery of Toll Bar, a village flooded in 2007. Twigger-Ross et al. (2011) highlight the success of an
emergency-planning and ‘neighbourhood management’ team community-resilience building collaboration,
which was triggered by the 2007 storm-surge near miss in Great Yarmouth.
During the recovery, these staff laboured at the frontline to coordinate the contribution of the
statutory, 3
Sector, business and community sectors into a coherent recovery process.
“Our role was to coordinate the uncoordinatable” Interviewee C36
Unfortunately, and as an additional stress, this was a role that was not always felt to be appreciated:
C38 “…crime, or properly probably fear of crime, was a big thing. So we worked with the
Police and we had smart water tagging for property and that eased some of that.
Q So [they] set up a Recovery Coordinating Group?
C38 Yeah and the idea was that that fed in, up the structure; that didn’t work as well as it
could have done. Information went up; information didn’t come down very well. So
that was quite difficult. It was very much a respond to what comes up on the
ground rather than a proactive planning. “How do we cope with this?”
Interviewee C38
Regardless of this perceived separation from top-down planning processes, it could be said that,
these officers’ networking skills were vital in operationalising the LRF Strategic Recovery Group’s
(SRG) vision of recovery. Also despite this apparent disconnect, the fact is that these specialist staff
were effectively engaged in delivering recovery from “the perspective of community development”,
which is quite ironic, given that this is an approach that has always been recommended in guidance
for LRFs (Cabinet Office, 2011a: p.60). From the perspective of those staff we interviewed, this
apparent disconnect is profession-related and due to a ‘community-development’ skillset being
founded in both, 1) the capacity of these individuals to operate largely autonomously, and 2) on
their ability to connect people with resources (social, physical, etc.) without seeming to be the ones
doing it (Pitchford, 2008), i.e. they are in effect highly trained social-network facilitators (Gilchrist,
2003), or what Wenger (2000) terms ‘brokers’. In community of practice theory ‘brokerage skills’
are particularly highly valued in the development of effective working relationships (Wenger et al.,
2002), but because of the nature of their role the networking effect achieved by these people is
often overlooked, even though the outcomes of their interventions are often quantifiable (e.g. the
effective delivery of services to vulnerable community members by volunteer providers).
Perhaps surprisingly, an interesting analogy to this type of working is presented by the US Coast
Guard and its response to Hurricane Katrina (Ripley, 2005). After the storm struck the Gulf Coast in
2005, the US Coast Guard were praised for their contribution to the response effort (US Senate,
2006). Later analysis of this success revealed that the Coast Guard (unlike most other US Federal
Agencies) operated a degree of ‘control slack’ (Schulman, 1993), which provided individuals and
crews scope to operate through “a principle of on-scene initiative” and without the usual constraint
of top-down structures of coordination or decision-making:
“Even though the Coast Guard is chronically underfunded and poorly equipped, it performs
well during crises because it “trusts itself”; lower-level personnel are empowered to act on
the basis of their own situation assessments and do not have to seek clearance from
superior officials, making for a decentralised, rapid, and flexible response” (Tierney, 2014:
What appears to have occurred after the 2009 floods in Cumbria was that the County Council’s area-
support officers were able to take advantage of both, the ‘control slack’ in their team’s management
system, and their own brokering’ skills to produce innovative recovery outcomes for their
communities. Perhaps also surprising it that during this current phase of austerity this type of
‘control slack’ is something that is being increasingly desired by Cumbria County Council in terms of
how its Community Teams and other services operate. The ethos being that if officers are trusted to
act with greater autonomy (relying on their skillsets and judgement, rather than via top-down
instructions), it offers administrative savings:
“…we’ve now got the hard bit of actually stopping our services, changing the way we do it.
And so, quite rightly, senior management has introduced this change-management
programme to actually focus on how we empower our staff. And it’s how we get away from
this top-down culture […] it’s having that ability to say to the crew of a boat, there you go,
I’m going to step out of the boat and I’m going to meet you around the other side of the
lake. Get yourselves there. And let the natural leaders or the group work it out together”
Interviewee C24
What the Cumbria Area Teams’ experience of their role in flood recovery reinforces, therefore, is the
need for LRF members who are developing recovery plans to understand who the people with these
brokering community development and/or community engagement responsibilities and skillsets are
in their organisation and also which teams operate with potentially exploitable levels of control
slack. From there, these staff should be actively engaged in anticipating and planning for how their
skills might be usefully integrated into emergency and recovery plans. As an example: in response to
the learning that occurred following the 2009 flood recovery, the role profile of Cumbria County
Council’s Area Team officers was amended to explicitly include emergency related duties. What this
has done is to formalise the acknowledgement within Cumbria County Council (as a Cat 1 responder)
of its obligation to sensitise, train and provide welfare contingencies for its community-engaged staff
in case a future emergency should again extend their normal work practices. Importantly, however,
it also places an onus on those staff to seek out information about emergencies for themselves and
thus acts to prepare them in advance for the possible challenges. Such two-way preparation
promises to both reduce the risk of staff becoming overburdened by future emergency role
extension (Phillips, 2009) and also offers an opportunity to embed and normalise civil-protection
thinking into the day-to-day delivery of a wider range of community-focussed services than before
(Notcutt and Davis, 2014). Broadening the advocacy of civil-protection thinking across all the
community-engaging staff employed by LRF-member organisations may also result in additional
resilience benefits. These might involve such staff devising new and innovative approaches to the
increasingly problematic task of identifying vulnerable households rapidly during and after
emergencies (Mellor, 2014). Again an example from Cumbria involves an area-team officer being
instrumental in tasking and coordinating the Cockermouth ‘Street Angels’, a group of volunteers
who patrolled the town’s flood-affected areas offering food and support and reporting back any
concerns they had (e.g. suspected secondary health impacts), to the council staff.
Community Resilience: encouraging Community Emergency Planning (CEP)
In its guidance on building community resilience The Scottish Government (2013) recently proposed
one key recommendation as being to “develop and implement support with communities - creating
local activism is key to long-term success”[emphasis added].
Referring back to Keswick Flood Action Group’s preparedness for the 2009 flood, it is clear that some
communities were more prepared than others for the flood’s impact. Following the 2005 event
Flood Action Groups (FAG) had emerged in Keswick, Cockermouth and other towns, with this activity
being principally supported by the Environment Agency (Defra, 2011b) its LRF partners and the 3
Sector organisation The National Flood Forum (NFF, 2008). Even though, initially, the Cockermouth
group’s membership was representative of a small area called ‘The Goat’, rather than the wider
town, this group had actively petitioned for greater flood protection, as had the group in Keswick.
Unfortunately, neither scheme was delivered before the 2009 event. When that flood inundated the
whole of Cockermouth’s commercial centre, as well as The Goat, the FAG very quickly expanded and
in collaboration with a reinvigorated Chamber of Trade commenced to advocate for better flood
protection. With the assistance of a council-employed Flood Recovery Coordinator and many other
agencies, this partnership was also able to use the recovery as “an opportunity” to reinvigorate the
town’s commercial status (Brignall, 2014). This activity included the group advocating for the council
tax precept and 1% business rate rise, which eventually raised over £100,000 from the town’s
residential and business communities, with this community contribution representing an early
example of successful Partnership Funding (Defra, 2011a). Once the £4.5M required had been
raised, work began on the town’s new structural defence and surface-water drainage system.
Interestingly, what the participatory nature of the deliberations over flood defence aspirations
delivered, were not just walls and drains, but a wider acknowledgement that those defence
measures could never protect the town against an event of similar magnitude to that experienced in
“We didn’t build the walls to keep the water out so much as we built them to keep the
insurance in” Interviewee C28
In Keswick too, and Workington (where there is insufficient economic justification for a major flood
scheme), this acknowledgement that residual risks remain has been important in enabling the LRF
and its partners to facilitate the consideration and delivery of numerous non-structural as well as
structural measures within communities’ risk mitigation solutions. Importantly, this is not to say
that there have been no heated arguments and frustrations expressed over whether particular
communities are receiving sufficient understanding and support from the authorities, there have
been and these frictions continue. However, the point here is that the flood events have catalysed
an important degree of engagement with and acceptance of flood risk that many other hazard-
exposed communities lack (Birkholz et al., 2014).
Since 2009 the Cumbria LRF has been working closely with community, 3
sector and business
groups to foster this greater engagement with flood planning across Cumbria. Further enabled by
Lottery funding, Cumbria Council for Volunteers (CCVS) and ACTion for Communities in Cumbria
(ACT) have worked with support from the LRF to develop a 10-step Community Emergency Planning
template that has been adopted by a range of communities across the county (ACT, 2012):
“…that was something that the [Cumbria Resilience Forum] whole-heartedly supported and
said, I remember we spent a whole afternoon on it, the work that [ACT] did was first class in
my view, in terms of tapping into local people, providing them with the tool kit. Because I
think that’s often the problem, people speak about business continuity and emergency plans
and things and it sort of scares people off, they think it has to be some kind of fancy, formal
technical product and it doesn’t. It’s just very simple.
Interviewee C10
Activities related to this planning process have included a number of community workshops, which
have brought CEP groups and their 3
-sector facilitators together with a range of Cat 1 and 2
Responders in order to achieve a greater understanding of capabilities, roles and responsibilities.
These events have also served as a forum through which to showcase individual CEPs and to
encourage greater take up by other communities.
An important aspect of this planning process is that it encourages groups to become formally
constituted, which opens the opportunity for the groups to then draw additional funds and
resources. Since the arrival of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) and its duty for Local
Authorities (as Lead Local Flood Authorities: LLFA) to investigate all floods this too has provided
opportunities for Council staff to engage the flood-affected and flood-exposed public with the 10-
Step planning process:
“…so the way that works is that our Community Teams work with the Flood Authority staff,
[the Council LLFA Officer]'s team. We put on drop-in sessions, information gathering
meetings, so as then the community can share their own experiences: what happened, what
level was the water, where was the water? so as then [name] can create an informed report.
And then as part of that we’re able, through the 10 Step Plan, to say to communities ‘well
have you thought about your own personal household resilience, not just flooding but other
issues as well?’ And we’re finding that a number of communities are then taking up that
challenge,” [emphasis added] Interviewee C24
This post-event approach is complemented by a push to engage more communities with the 10-step
plan through other community-based initiatives, such as Neighbourhood Planning and the Lake
District National Park Authority’s ‘Whole Valley Planning’ initiative. It has been suggested, however,
that the most effective take up is usually amongst communities who have been flooded already,
which is a clearly recognisable phenomenon detailed at length in the risk perception literature (e.g.
Grothmann and Reusswig, 2006, Steinführer et al., 2010). So, with the CEP process gaining
momentum in getting communities to engage with their flood hazards, the LRF has now realised that
this process could be developed in order to encompass the planning of community-based
contingencies for a wider range of risks. Accordingly, at the recent LRF-convened Building
Community Resilience now and for the future conference
a CEP validation exercise was
Subsequently complemented with a ‘Plan for Smaller Communities’:
October 2014 at The Stoneybeck Inn, Nr. Penrith.
conducted. During the exercise delegates were asked to assess a number of prepared CEPs,
focussing not solely on the plans’ appropriateness in relation to mitigating flood risks, but in terms of
how they might be used in other risk situations. Whilst all the plans were validated (with
certification), there was a general consensus that their current format made many of the plans more
specifically flood, rather than all-hazards, relevant
. As well as the validation exercise, the delegates
also received an introduction to the Cumbria’s public-facing Community Risk Register (CRR), which is
the next topic for discussion.
Community Risk Registers and Community Resilience
As part of their risk assessment duty, the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) requires Category 1
responders to publish all or part
of their risk assessments and to share these assessments with the
LRF partners, the public, neighbouring LRFs and others
where necessary. This duty is met through
the publication of the LRF’s Community Risk Register (CRR). The CRR “provides an agreed position on
the risks affecting a local area and on the planning and resourcing priorities required to prepare for
those risks(Cabinet Offfice, 2012: p.7). CRR publication also offers LRFs the opportunity to give part
effect to their duty to maintain public awareness and arrangements to warn and inform and advise
the public on issues of risk (HM Government, 2012a).
The statutory process underpinning the development of CRRs is clearly defined within the guidance
documents Emergency Preparedness (Ibid.) and Local Risk Management Guidance (LRMG).
However, whilst it bears no such statutory authority, Leigh (2012) has also proposed an assessment
methodology for the completed CRR itself. This he proposes should be used by LRFs to assess the
utility of their Community Risk Registers as instruments for risk communication. He suggests that
applying the methodology allows emergency planners to identify whether their CRR coheres to the
“reflexive-sociological” model of risk communication, or to the “deficit”-orientated model. The
deficit model is generally understood as describing risk communication processes that privilege
objective ‘expert’ accounts of risk, which are described through the use of technical methods. In the
deficit model lay interpretations are disregarded, despite the fact that they may be based on
complex, situated (indigenous), understandings of local risk contexts that are opaque to reductionist
technical approaches (e.g. Wynne, 1996: gives an example of Cumbrian hill farmers' vernacular
knowledge of sheep grazing patterns correctly contradicting scientific estimates of how the animals
would be affected by radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl explosion). Sociological models,
by contrast, interpret risk as a social construction and privilege neither expert nor lay views, but
work on the assumption that both may be equally valid and are, therefore, open for deliberation.
Leigh’s contention is that if LRFs are to comply with the spirit (as well as the letter) of the Civil
Contingencies Act, then their CRR should bear reflexive-sociological model characteristics.
Accordingly, from a community resilience perspective, the Cumbria CRR is interesting.
This is something that was not particularly surprising given the ‘activist’ nature of many of these groups (i.e.
they were set up specifically by residents whose communities had been flooded and who had used the CEP
process as a mechanism through which to advocate for increased flood mitigation, rather than simply because
they considered planning for how they would respond to future events to be a good idea).
Where sensitive information is concerned, LRFs might also develop a more detailed Community Risk
Assessment (CRA) for internal use.
For example, the Department for Communities and Local Government Resilience and Emergencies Division
In 2014 Cumbria’s Category 1 responders complied with their duties by publishing the LRF’s latest-
version CRR as two documents: the 4-page register and a booklet entitled Community Risk Register
for Cumbria (Cumbria Resilience Forum, 2014)
. Whilst complying completely with statutory
provisions, this 22-page document could also be said to comply with many of the more subjective
objectives outlined by Leigh (2012). It briefly describes the role of the LRF and explains the structure
and purpose of the statutorily-defined risk assessment process in non-technical language. It also
explains that the CRR focusses on hazards and not threats, although, considering the County’s recent
direct experience of the consequences of malice (i.e. the West Cumbria shootings: Chesterton,
it is a little hard to understand why this is not better justified. Thinking more deeply, this
local-experience factor relates to Leigh’s (2012) second objective for CRRs and to one of the 5
questions related to that objective that LRFs should ask themselves when assessing them:
Objective 2: Determine the extent to which each register is explicitly contextualised, giving a
clear and informed sense of its relevance to the local community
Q.9: Does [the CRR] provide information about local history of emergencies?
(Ibid. p.33)
Cumbria’s CRR does provide outline contextualising detail for the CRR’s ‘top-four’ risks
, including
acknowledgement of the County’s recent experience of both the ‘combination of risks’ and ‘inland
flooding’. However, as an independent observer, it is my opinion that an opportunity has been
missed, to engage the register’s important, even if secondary, audience (i.e. the public) more
effectively. In many respects Cumbria is unique in the UK, because over the course of the last 15
years, its population has experienced a significant range of high-consequence hazards (e.g. FMD, the
shootings, floods and other extreme weather). These events (and other more ‘routine’
) have had significant effects in both testing and increasing the resilience of the
communities involved. Therefore, whilst it is understood that the risk assessment duty conferred on
the Category 1 responders is relatively scientific and necessarily forward looking (i.e. in IEM terms,
anticipatory), it could also be suggested that sole adherence to these prescribed assessment
methodologies, which are relatively blind to locally-specific lived experiences (e.g. indigenous
knowledge of the effects of FMD in 2001), appear to make the process a more exclusive and
‘esoteric’ exercise [to adopt Leigh’s terminology]. Whereas, acknowledging a population’s lived
experience and using that experience as a basis from which to explore the potential for both
renascent and unfamiliar risks offers the opportunity to create trust and to develop more open,
19 Accessed
NB. I acknowledge that the West Cumbria shootings fell into something of a grey area between hazard and
threat, i.e. these incidents do not mobilise counter-terrorism resources in the same way as Marauding
Terrorist Firearms Attacks (MTFA). However, due to the way hazards and threats are differentiated in public-
facing documents, the malicious nature of this incident could be confused by those outside the civil protection
community as bearing the characteristics of a threat.
Cumbria’s top-4 assessed risks: Combination of Risks; Influenza Type Disease; Inland Flooding; Severe
Volcanic Activity (Health)
Many of the emBRACE research participants mentioned the significant effect on the local community of a
road traffic collision that occurred near Keswick in May 2010, in which two local teenagers travelling in a
school bus were killed (as was the collision’s accountable driver). Many felt the grief and shock of this event
had a cumulative effect on the population still coming to terms with the floods of 7 months previously. The
West Cumbria shootings then occurred June 2010, one month later.
trusting and participatory risk assessment and risk treatment processes (Wachinger and Renn, 2010).
This is not to suggest that every emergency or major incident declared needs to be listed and
dwelled upon (which is one reading of Leigh’s question 9). It is simply arguing that, from a
community resilience perspective, the CRR appears to offer an opportunity through which to publicly
affirm that the county’s current state of resilience, and the way the LRF looks into the future, is not
solely based on centrally devised planning assumptions, but is clearly informed by the communal
(and often extremely localised) experience of and subsequent reflections on these events. In effect,
there is a balance to be struck, between concerns that reflection-based planning constitutes
‘preparing for the last disaster’ (Clarke, 2005) and accepting that lived experiences can act as a
catalyst for resilience-building.
This is the interesting point, because the two key and apparently innovative aspects of Cumbria LRF’s
approach to publication that do exhibit a clear desire to be more inclusive, are the LRF’s
categorisation of ‘Hazard 0’ (‘combination of risks’) as representing the highest risk in the register,
and its inclusion of the ‘common consequences’ section
. The ‘Hazard 0or ‘combination of risks’
category sitting in the top place in the register undoubtedly reflects a pragmatic acknowledgement
of the reality of emergency events generally (Menoni et al., 2011) and is also a mark of lessons
learned from the LRF’s experience of past events specifically; where risks have rapidly enchained to
create greater impact. For instance the description in the CRR booklet gives a hint of the county’s
actual experience of the manifestation of enchained risks, which were a consequence of the flood
magnitude in both 2005 and 2009:
For instance flooding is a key risk Cumbria, but one of the risks which is often linked is
utilities loss; such as water, gas or electricity. Reinstating these utilities will be made more
difficult by the flooding incident and the impact escalates.
Cumbria Resilience Forum (2014: p.13)
This experience clearly supports the LRF’s common consequences approach, which is further
justified quite diplomatically by the LRF, as an important means through which to achieve
efficiencies in civil-protection delivery “in a time of austerity” (Ibid., p.6). Notwithstanding this,
‘common consequences’ have been used as a planning tool in National Resilience Planning
Assumptions (NRPA) for some time. The presumption must be, therefore, that the approach has
already been identified, by the Cabinet Office, as a potentially useful driver for capability
development. However, regardless of its inclusion in these guidance documents the approach has
not appeared to percolate down into local risk assessment practice, until this apparently first
adoption by Cumbria LRF.
So, a common consequences approach appears to offer Cumbria LRF genuine efficiency and
capability improvements. This is easily understandable, but an additional point is not made explicit
in the LRF’s CRR booklet. This is that although the five common consequences featured in the
public-facing CRR booklet are implicitly hazard related, the formula used by the LRF to calculate
them actually includes data for both hazards and threats. Accordingly, by encouraging community
emergency planning (CEP) groups to develop their local contingencies around common
Both of the approaches to developing these variables appear to be derived from the classified National Risk
Assessment (NRA) and Local Risk Management Guidance LRMG) processes; but this appears to the only LRF
that discusses both in its public CRR.
consequences (as the LRF is now doing at its community events), this LRF is seeking to increase these
communities’ resilience against both hazard risks (whose risk assessment process is mostly open for
public view) and threat risks (the planning for which is conducted essentially in-camera). In other
words, this LRF understands that communities that are aware of the potential for certain
consequences to imminently materialise are more able to plan, prepare, respond and recover more
effectively, regardless of the impact causation (Levac et al., 2012).
Conclusion: Cumbria’s Community of [Resilience] Practice
Over the past 15 years Cumbria LRF’s membership has been called on to provide support for a
population that has been exposed to an intensely challenging range of low-probability, high-impact
hazards. This paper has concentrated on an exploration of how particular communities within the
county experienced the effects of major flooding in 2009. However, the analysis suggests that many
of the insights gained from this investigation reflect knowledge accrued through the negotiation of
repeated challenges, rather than as a result of that single event. The findings suggest that
community resilience is inherent across place and interest communities, from the hill-farm
communities in the fells to the riverside dwellers in Workington. Their resilience is not, however,
solely defined by how they planned for and responded to each event at its onset. It is equally
defined by their capacity to recover, whilst experiencing stresses and pressures that may not be
directly associated with hazards at all, but with very human in/competencies and the complex
bureaucracies that have emerged to form the recovery gap.
Some LRF personnel have needed to adapt their own skills and resources to deliver long-term
assistance in the reduction of these revealed consequence vulnerabilities (a role that more
comfortably sits under the label of social, rather than civil protection). Accordingly, the support
needs of Frontline Recovery Workers involved in this high-pressure work have been highlighted. As
too has been the importance of understanding that some LRF personnel, whose normal practice
effectively embeds them in communities, may have the capacity to deliver innovative resilience
outcomes that lie beyond the normal LRF remit, but which are still appreciated (and needed) by
communities facing these recovery challenges.
Cumbria’s LRF has also been instrumental in enabling the development of a community emergency
planning framework (the 10-step plan), which, with the assistance of 3
sector partners, is being
adopted by an increasing number of flood-exposed communities across the county. However, the
LRF has identified that this planning process also has potential in preparing groups for hazards other
than flooding. Accordingly, they are attempting to engage communities with a wider range of risks
for which planning for the mitigation of ‘common consequences’ is clearly possible. This is being
done through the medium of inclusive planning workshops and conferences, where community
groups are engaging directly with responders and their associates in order to share ideas and
validate plans. The LRF is also, correctly, using the Community Risk Register (CRR) as an effective
instrument for risk communication (Leigh, 2012): this paper has highlighted ways in which this goal
could perhaps be better achieved.
Cumbria has experienced significant impacts, yet its population retains a powerful will to maintain its
essential structures and functions. The LRF membership is supporting this aspiration through an
inclusive approach to engagement and participation. It should always be remembered, however,
that whilst the benefits of effective participatory risk management processes are accrued by the
whole population, there will only ever be direct engagement and grass-roots leadership in these
processes from a relatively small number of committed activists. Therefore, it is also important to
acknowledge that expectations related to these community members’ long-term engagement with,
what is effectively IEM’s bureaucracy (i.e. planning, training and exercising), may be unsustainable
for some; especially the directly hazard affected:
“…we tried very hard to get some ‘floodees’, which is a nice expression the Keswick group
used, actual flood victims and we were only successful in getting one from the village to
come in as a floodee on to the [CEP] group at that time. But for her it proved far too much;
she was so traumatised by it and the work which had to do with her house she had to step
back eventually so we didn’t even have somebody who was a flood victim.”
Interviewee C03
Even where the directly hazard affected and exposed have been involved, this can also come at
significant perceived personal cost:
“Maybe we did all the bouncing back and we thrived afterwards but the toll that it’s taken
on us has been phenomenal over the last few years” Interviewee C15
Or, the reasons for continued engagement may fade once an individual’s principal issue of concern
has been dealt with to some level of personal satisfaction (Pitchford, 2008), e.g. once a flood wall is
built, or once the energy needed for such activism otherwise diminishes:
C57 “…what happened was, in February, no because I still took time off then, so by
summer 2011 I’d given up.
Q Just so frustrated?
C57 Yeah, and when they started about me like making an Emergency Plan to cover
pandemic flu, you name it, and I thought, ‘hang on a minute, you’re getting paid to
do this’.” Interviewee C57
What these quotations reveal is that there are many reasons why the ultimate responsibility for risk
mitigation at community scale will always fall to the statutory agencies. Engaged individuals and
groups can voluntarily assist themselves and others, but ultimately it is the regulatory framework
and doctrine that underpins civil protection practice and capabilities, which must ensure the
[hopefully] effective delivery of IEM (Handmer and Dovers, 2007). What the discussion above has
suggested, however, is that Cumbria LRF’s example (a work in progress) does illustrate what can be
achieved through the committed development of a community of [resilience] practice (Wenger et al.,
2002: clause added)
if interested community members are trusted and treated as partners in these
Wenger et al. describe a community of practice as “…groups of people who share a concern, a set of
problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by
interacting on an on-going basis” (Wenger et al., 2002: p.4)
Finally to return to the definition of resilience that underpins this discussion. I shall leave it to one of
the research participants to assess where Cumbria sits on the spectrum of resilience-adaptation-
transformation (at least in relation to one of the county’s ‘Top-4’ risks):
“I don’t know at which point you get to that point of saying actually we have bent out of
shape so much that there is no more elasticity; we have to change things’. And that’s not the
same as returning to a normality. What we’re talking about is there is fundamental
transformation and I don’t think we’re there yet with flooding in Cumbria, because it’s easier
to build, to do the King Canute thing of trying to hold things back, rather than move great
chunks of [our towns].” Interviewee C47
ACT 2012. Be Prepared! 10-steps to complete your Community Emergency Plan. Penrith, UK: ACTion
with Communities in Cumbria, assisted by Eden Gate Consulting.
ALEXANDER, D. 2013. Resilience and disaster risk reduction: an etymological journey. Natural
Hazards and Earth System Sciences, Discussion, 1257-1284.
BIRKHOLZ, S., MURO, M., JEFFREY, P. & SMITH, H. M. 2014. Rethinking the relationship between
flood risk perception and flood management. Science of the Total Environment 478, 12-20.
BRIGNALL, M. 2014. After the Flood: time to rebuild shattered lives. The Guardian, Saturday 22nd
February 2014, p.40.
BROUILLETTE, J. R. & QUARANTELLI, E. L. 1971. Types of Patterned Variation in Bureaucratic
Adaptations to Organizational Stress*. Sociological Inquiry, 41, 39-46.
CABINET OFFFICE 2012. Chapter 4 Local responder risk assessment duty: Revision to Emergency
Preparedness. London: Cabinet Office, Civil Contingencies Act Enhancement Programme.
CABINET OFFICE 2011a. The role of Local Resilience Forums: A reference document. London: Cabinet
CABINET OFFICE 2011b. Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience. London: HMG.
CABINET OFFICE 2013. Civil Protection Lexicon: A developing single point of reference for UK Civil
Protection terminology (Version 2.1.1). London: Cabinet Office.
CCS 2008. Developing a Multi-Agency Flood Plan (MAFP): Guidance for Local Resilience Forums and
Emergency Planners.: Civil Contingencies Secretariat, DEFRA, Environment Agency.
CHESTERTON, S. 2011. Operation Bridge: Peer review into the response of Cumbria Constabulary
following the actions of Derrick Bird on 2nd June 2010. West Mercia Police.
CLARKE, L. 2005. Worst-case thinking: An idea whose time has come. Natural Hazards Observer XXIX.
CONVERY, I. & BAILEY, C. 2008. After the Flood: the health and social consequences of the 2005
Carlisle flood event. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 1, 100-109.
CONVERY, I., MORT, M., BAXTER, J. & BAILEY, C. 2008. Animal disease and human trauma: Emotional
geographies of disaster, Basingstoke, UK., Palgrave Macmillan.
Inquiry Report. Carlisle, UK: Cumbria FMD Task Force in association with Cumbria County
CUMBRIA RESILIENCE 2011. Cumbria Floods November 2009 Learning From Experience: Recovery
Phase Debrief Report. Carlisle: Cumbria County Council.
CUMBRIA RESILIENCE FORUM 2014. Community Risk Register for Cumbria. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK:
Cumbria Resilience Forum.
DE BRUIJNE, M., BOIN, A. & VAN EETEN, M. 2010. Resilience: Exploring the Concept and its
Meanings. In: COMFORT, L. K., BOIN, A. & DEMCHAK, C. C. (eds.) Designing Resilience:
Preparing for Extreme Events. University of Pittsburgh Press.
DEEMING, H., DAVIS, B., FORDHAM, M. & TAYLOR, R. 2015. emBRACE WP5 Case Study Report:
Floods in Northern England. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK: Northumbria University for the
emBRACE Project
DEFRA 2011a. Flood and Coastal Resilience Partnership Funding. London: Department for Food and
Rural Affairs.
DEFRA 2011b. Understanding the risks, empowering communities, building resilience: the national
flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England. London: Defra.
DELANTY, G. 2003. Community, London, Routledge.
EASTHOPE, L. 2012. Technologies of Recovery: Plans and Situated Realities after Disaster. PhD Thesis,
Lancaster University, UK.
EMBRACE 2012. Deliverable 1.1: Work Package 1 - Early Discussion and Gap Analysis on Resilience.
EU FP7 emBRACE Consortium.
ENVIRONMENT AGENCY 2006. Cumbria Floods Technical Report: Factual report on meteorology,
hydrology and impacts of January 2005 flooding in Cumbria Bristol: Environment Agency.
ENVIRONMENT AGENCY 2010. Cumbria 2009 Floods: Lessons Identified Report. Bristol: Environment
EYRE, A. 2006. Literature and Best Practice Review and Assessment: Identifying People’s Needs in
Major Emergencies and Best Practice in Humanitarian Response. Report commissioned by
the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
FOLKE, C. 2006. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for socialecological systems analyses.
Global Environmental Change, 16, 253-267.
GALLOPIN, G. C. 2006. Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Global
Environmental Change, 16, 293-303.
GILCHRIST, A. 2003. The Well-Connected Community: A networking approach to community
development, Bristol, UK, The Policy Press.
GROTHMANN, T. & REUSSWIG, F. 2006. People at Risk of Flooding: Why some residents take
precautionary action while others do not Natural Hazards 38, 101-120.
HANDMER, J. & DOVERS, S. R. 2007. Handbook of Disaster and Emergency Policies and Institutions,
London, Earthscan.
HM GOVERNMENT 2012a. Emergency Preparedness: Guidance on Part 1 of the Civil Contingencies
Act 2004 Her Majesty's Government, Cabinet Office.
HM GOVERNMENT 2012b. Emergency Response and Recovery: Non-statutory guidance to
complement Emergency Preparedness (4th Edn.). London: HM Government.
HM GOVERNMENT 2013. Emergency Response and Recovery: Non-statutory guidance to
complement Emergency Preparedness (5th Edn.). London: HM Government.
HM GOVERNMENT 2014. Evacuation and Shelter Guidance: Non-statutory guidance to complement
Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Response & Recovery, Her Majesty's Government,
Cabinet Office.
IPCC 2014. Summary for policymakers. In: FIELD, C. B., V.R. BARROS, D.J. DOKKEN, K.J. MACH, M.D.
Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects.
Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK and New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.
LEIGH, M. 2012. Communicating with the Public About Risk: Making Community Risk Registers Work.
Easingwold, UK: Emergency Planning College.
LEVAC, J., TOAL-SULLIVAN, D. & O`SULLIVAN, T. 2012. Household Emergency Preparedness: A
Literature Review. Journal of Community Health, 37, 725-733.
MELLOR, D. 2014. Planning for the Needs of Vulnerable Adults in Emergencies. Easingwold, UK.:
Emergency Planning College.
MENONI, S., WALKER, G. & DEEMING, H. 2011. Introduction To Sustainable Risk Mitigation For A
More Resilient Europe. Inside Risk: a strategy for sustainable risk mitigation. Springer Verlag.
NFF. 2008. The National Flood Forum (Home page) [Online]. Available: [Accessed Accessed 19/06/08.
NIGG, J. M. & MILLER, K. 1994. Event and Consequence Vulnerability: Effects on the Disaster
Recovery Process. University of Delaware, Disaster Research Center.
NORTH, C. & HONG, B. A. 2000. Project CREST: a new model for mental health intervention after a
community disaster. American Journal of Public Health, 90, 1057-1058.
NORTON, A., CONWAY, T. & FOSTER, M. 2001. Social Protection Concepts and Approaches:
Implications for Policy and Practice in International Development. London: Overseas
Development Institute.
NOTCUTT, H. & DAVIS, J. 2014. Community resilience work in Great Yarmouth: a neighbourhood and
community development approach. Practice Insights, Winter 2014, 12-14.
PELLING, M. 2010. Adaptation to Climate Change: from Resilience to Transformation, London,
PHILLIPS, B. D. 2009. Disaster Recovery, London, CRC Press.
PITCHFORD, M. 2008. Making Spaces for Community Development, Bristol, UK, Policy Press.
RIDING, K. 2011. The role of the third sector in helping communities in Cumbria recover from the
November 2009 floods. Penrith, UK: Cumbria Voluntary Services.
RIPLEY, A. 2005. How The Coast Guard Gets It Right: Where did those orange helicopters come from,
anyway? The story of the little agency that could Time Magazine. New York.
ROBSON, C. 2005. Real World Research 2nd Edn, Oxford, UK, Blackwell.
SCHULMAN, P. R. 1993. The Negotiated Order of Organizational Reliability. Administration and
Society, 25, 353-372.
SOLNIT, R. 2009. A Paradise Built in Hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster, New
York, Viking Books.
STACEY, M. 1969. The Myth of Community Studies. The British Journal of Sociology, 20, 134-147.
Local Communities At Risk from Flooding: Social Vulnerability, Resilience and
Recommendations for Flood Risk Management in Europe. In: WALLINGFORD, H. (ed.)
FLOODsite. Centre of Environmental Research, a member of Dresden Flood Research Center
TAPSELL, S. M. & TUNSTALL, S. M. 2008. "I wish I'd never heard of Banbury": The relationship
between 'place' and the health impacts from flooding. Health & Place, 14, 133-154.
THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT. 2013. Building Community Resilience: Scottish Guidance on
Community Resilience [Online]. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government. Available: [Accessed 12/03/2015.
TIERNEY, K. 2014. The Social Roots of Risk: producing disasters, promoting resilience, Stanford, CA,
Stanford Business Books.
Community Resilience Research: UK Case Studies, Lessons and Recommendations report to
the Cabinet Office and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. London: Collingwood
Environmental Planning Ltd.
US SENATE 2006. Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared. Washington, DC: Report of the
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
WACHINGER, G. & RENN, O. 2010. Risk Perception and Natural Hazards. DIALOGIK Non-Profit
Institute for Communication and Cooperative Research, Stuttgart.
WEICHSELGARTNER, J. & KELMAN, I. 2014. Geographies of resilience: Challenges and opportunities
of a descriptive concept. Progress in Human Geography, 1-19.
WENGER, E. 2000. Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7, 225-246.
WENGER, E., MCDERMOTT, R. & SNYDER, W. R. 2002. Cultivating Communities of Practice, Boston,
MA., Harvard Business School Press.
WERRITTY, A., HOUSTON, D., BALL, T., TAVENDALE, A. & BLACK, A. 2007. Living With Risk: The Social
Impacts Of Flooding In Scotland. Defra 42nd Flood and Coastal Management Conference,
July 2007. York.
WATSON, N. 2010. After the Rain learning the lessons from flood recovery in Hull, final
project report for "Flood, Vulnerability and Urban Resilience: a real-time study of local
recovery following the floods of June 2007 in Hull" Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University.
WYNNE, B. 1996. May the sheep safely graze? A reflexive view of the expert-lay knowledge divide.
In: LASH, S., SZERSZYNSKI, B. & WYNNE, B. (eds.) Risk, Environment and Modernity: Towards
a new ecology. London: Sage.
... An important outcome of this small team's experiences was that response and recovery roles were subsequently integrated formally into the officers' employment profiles. This point illustrated the learning that had been achieved by the LRF supporter community, particularly in relation to understanding the importance of their staff's brokering roles during recovery and the associated need for them, as an employer and facilitator of both civil-and social-protective outcomes, to pre-emptively support and resource these staff in anticipation of future emergencies (Deeming 2015). ...
This chapter discusses emBRACE case study research that was undertaken in Cumbria, a county in the north west of England. It explores the concept of community disaster resilience (CDR), as it was operationalised by a diverse population residing alongside a short, 47 km length of predominantly rural river catchment. Accordingly, the emBRACE typology of community types was adopted so that particular social groupings could be distinguished between communities of geography; interest, circumstance, supporters/practice, and identity. The emBRACE investigation was initially based on the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA), an acknowledged method through which to investigate inter‐ and intra‐CDR in a wider context of social equity, sustainability, and capacity. The chapter describes the rural farming and rural village communities and those in the three main case study towns: Keswick, Cockermouth, and Workington.
Technical Report
Full-text available
During the first week of December 2015, Cumbria was subjected to its third extreme flood event in a decade. Despite this recent experience, the impact of Storm Desmond on the county was unparalleled in many respects: i.e. in terms of record rainfall and river flows, the number of properties flooded and flood affected and also in terms of the pressure that dealing with those impacts placed on all organisations with a role in response and recovery. In effect, Cumbria, its institutions and its communities were faced with recovering from a disaster. Given the scale of the event, the Cumbria Local Resilience Forum partners activated a coordinated response effort on Saturday 5th December that drew resources from across the country. This acute phase response has already been subjected to a review process, which generated 82 recommendations. Even as people were still being rescued from their homes, Cumbria’s resilience partners began planning for the recovery challenge; this is a clear illustration of good practice. Partnership groups to support recovery were established within the first few days. Once the response phase had been concluded, formal responsibility for the coordination of recovery activities across the four affected districts transitioned to the Strategic Recovery Coordination Group (SRCG) chaired by Cumbria County Council. This transition occurred on Thursday 10th December. The SRCG and its sub-groups then acted as a central hub to oversee recovery activities, securing additional capabilities and capacities where necessary and always endeavouring to meet the group’s principal objective: “Working with local communities to restore Cumbria to normality” The nine SRCG sub-groups each focused on the coordination of a set of clearly defined, but also inevitably cross-cutting, work streams: Financial & Legal; Infrastructure; Business & Economy; Health & Welfare; Schools & Learning; Environment; Housing; Communities, and; Communications. This review focused on investigating the activities of the SRCG and its sub-groups for a period of more a year and a half following the storm. This long timeline allowed for a greater understanding to be developed of both the initial efforts to restore and reconstruct following such a major event (e.g. bridge repairs) and the longer-term persistent challenges that have affected Cumbria’s impacted communities (e.g. householders’ negotiations with insurers and builders).
Full-text available
This paper examines the development over historical time of the meaning and uses of the term resilience. The objective is to deepen our understanding of how the term came to be adopted in disaster risk reduction and resolve some of the conflicts and controversies that have arisen when it has been used. The paper traces the development of resilience through the sciences, humanities, and legal and political spheres. It considers how mechanics passed the word to ecology and psychology, and how from there it was adopted by social research and sustainability science. As other authors have noted, as a concept, resilience involves some potentially serious conflicts or contradictions, for example between stability and dynamism, or between dynamic equilibrium (homeostasis) and evolution. Moreover, although the resilience concept works quite well within the confines of general systems theory, in situations in which a systems formulation inhibits rather than fosters explanation, a different interpretation of the term is warranted. This may be the case for disaster risk reduction, which involves transformation rather than preservation of the "state of the system". The article concludes that the modern conception of resilience derives benefit from a rich history of meanings and applications, but that it is dangerous – or at least potentially disappointing – to read to much into the term as a model and a paradigm.
Full-text available
Time and again, disastrous floods threaten regions and the people living there, their belongings and the basis of their existence. In the past decades, major floods occurred in many countries across the world. It would appear that just as measures of technical defence (i. e. dikes, walls etc.) had been elevated, greater material losses also incurred. Our research is based on the assumption that flood hazard mitigation as well as a sustainable and participative development of floodplains is only feasible when the perspective of the people living in flood-prone areas, their risk perceptions and behaviour are known, taken into consideration and accepted. The brochure summarises the main findings of sociological and geographical research on the perceptions and actual behaviour of the people at flood risk, about appropriate, accepted and possible flood mitigation measures from a bottom-up perspective as well as people’s vulnerability and resilience to flooding. On that basis, it formulates recommendations for flood risk management with people and communities at risk. The research was part of Europe’s largest flood-related research project ever: the Integrated Project FLOODsite (2004–2009) funded by the European Commission’s in 6th Framework Programme. FLOODsite brought together scientists and stakeholders from a wide range of research, administration, policy and economic bodies. Its efforts covered the physical, environmental, ecological and socio-economic dimensions of flooding. More than 250 people from 37 partner organisations in 13 European countries contributed to this project. They conducted case studies on a number of pilot sites, among them the Elbe, Tisza, Adige, Scheldt, Thames and Ebro river catchments as well as the German Bight (for a summary: Samuels et al. 2008).
In disaster science, policy and practice, the transition of resilience from a descriptive concept to a normative agenda provides challenges and opportunities. This paper argues that both are needed to increase resilience. We briefly outline the concept and several recent international resilience-building efforts to elucidate critical questions and less-discussed issues. We highlight the need to move resilience thinking forward by emphasizing structural social-political processes, acknowledging and acting on differences between ecosystems and societies, and looking beyond the quantitative streamlining of resilience into one index. Instead of imposing a technical-reductionist framework, we suggest a starting basis of integrating different knowledge types and experiences to generate scientifically reliable, context-appropriate and socially robust resilience-building activities.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt. Learning how to live with these impacts is a priority for human development. In this context, it is too easy to see adaptation as a narrowly defensive task - protecting core assets or functions from the risks of climate change. A more profound engagement, which sees climate change risks as a product and driver of social as well as natural systems, and their interaction, is called for. Adaptation to Climate Change argues that, without care, adaptive actions can deny the deeper political and cultural roots that call for significant change in social and political relations if human vulnerability to climate change associated risk is to be reduced. This book presents a framework for making sense of the range of choices facing humanity, structured around resilience (stability), transition (incremental social change and the exercising of existing rights) and transformation (new rights claims and changes in political regimes). The resilience-transition-transformation framework is supported by three detailed case study chapters. These also illustrate the diversity of contexts where adaption is unfolding, from organizations to urban governance and the national polity. This text is the first comprehensive analysis of the social dimensions to climate change adaptation. Clearly written in an engaging style, it provides detailed theoretical and empirical chapters and serves as an invaluable reference for undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in climate change, geography and development studies.
Since the publication of the first edition of “The well-connected community” there has been a growing recognition in practice and policy of how networks contribute to the vitality of community life and civil society. Government policy has increasingly emphasised the need to involve communities in decision making, while social capital is increasingly associated with health, low levels of crime, educational achievement and a strong ‘sense of community’. “The well-connected community” aims to strengthen and extend informal networks, support partnership working across boundaries and promote social cohesion. It explores the concept of ‘community’ in relation to patterns of interaction, social identity and mutual influence, advocating a new model of community development that promotes networking as a skilled and strategic intervention and providing recommendations for good networking practice. This fully updated second edition includes new ideas drawn from recent research on social capital and the policy context for community practice, reflecting the increasing emphasis on community engagement and empowerment. Recent case studies and examples have been added throughout. “The well-connected community” is aimed at practitioners, trainers, policy makers and managers working with communities or responsible for community participation strategies, both in the UK and internationally. Academics will also find it a useful source for teaching and research.
Although flood risk perceptions and their concomitant motivations for behaviour have long been recognised as significant features of community resilience in the face of flooding events, there has, for some time now, been a poorly appreciated fissure in the accompanying literature. Specifically, rationalist and constructivist paradigms in the broader domain of risk perception provide different (though not always conflicting) contexts for interpreting evidence and developing theory. This contribution reviews the major constructs that have been applied to understanding flood risk perceptions and contextualises these within broader conceptual developments around risk perception theory and contemporary thinking around flood risk management. We argue that there is a need to re-examine and re-invigorate flood risk perception research, in a manner that is comprehensively underpinned by more constructivist thinking around flood risk management as well as by developments in broader risk perception research. We draw attention to an historical over-emphasis on the cognitive perceptions of those at risk to the detriment of a richer understanding of a wider range of flood risk perceptions such as those of policy-makers or of tax-payers who live outside flood affected areas as well as the linkages between these perspectives and protective measures such as state-supported flood insurance schemes. Conclusions challenge existing understandings of the relationship between risk perception and flood management, particularly where the latter relates to communication strategies and the extent to which those at risk from flooding feel responsible for taking protective actions.