Yesterday, Kit Malthouse MP, Lead Minister for Resilience and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, revealed additional steps to strengthen the UK’s resilience during a visit to the Met Office (Monday 15 August).
Minister Malthouse visited the Met Office in Exeter to observe how their forecasting expertise contributes to government planning to combat severe weather and how the agency collaborated with the government and other partners to provide ample warning and safety advice to the public during the recent extreme heat.
The Minister announced the start of a new public emergency text alert system for the United Kingdom, as well as reforms to the Cabinet Office’s emergency planning and response unit, the Civil Contingencies Secretariat.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Kit Malthouse MP, said inside the Operations Centre of the Met Office:
“To make sure that government continues to offer the best possible prevention and protection against threats, we are shaking up how we prepare for and respond to emergencies, strengthening the effective resilience capability we already have in place.
“We will launch a new public emergency alerts system in the Autumn which will focus on extreme weather, revolutionising our ability to ‘warn and inform’ people who are in significant and immediate danger. These alerts will be sent direct to people’s mobiles giving details of the emergency – such as local flooding – explaining what to do and how to seek help.
“Our vital COBR unit – which leads the government’s response to acute domestic and international emergencies – will be bolstered by a dedicated team helping to future-proof us from harm. This National Resilience Framework Team will take a deeper look at our approach to risk and how we mitigate it and help us take huge leaps forward in terms of collecting, analysing and using live data.”
Ian Cameron, Director of Markets at the Met Office, commented:
“The right messaging helps people take action to stay safe. It is clear that we are seeing an increase in the number of extreme weather events in the UK and overseas. Just this summer we have seen temperatures in the UK exceed 40C for the first time on record, followed closely by the heatwave which ended earlier this week. Communicating effectively is imperative so we can warn and alert people, ensuring they are aware and have more time to take action and look after themselves, their friends and family.”
Minister Malthouse spoke with a variety of Met Office employees to learn more about their work, from the Meteorologists who lead on weather forecasts to the Space Weather Operations team, which is one of only three space weather prediction centres in the world and monitors potentially disruptive solar activity for government and industry.
The emergency alerts system, which will concentrate on situations such as harsh weather and notify the public when there is a danger to life, will be implemented in the fall after a public education campaign. The free message will include information on the disaster, such as local floods or wildfires, what to do and how to seek assistance, and will deliver critical messages to over 85 percent of mobile phones in impacted areas.
Changes to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat – the Cabinet Office’s emergency planning and response team – will result in a COBR Unit continuing to lead the government’s response to acute emergencies, and a separate team dedicated to strengthening the United Kingdom’s underlying resilience driving forward work on longer term planning. This National Resilience Framework Team inside the Planning and Analysis Secretariat will investigate the government’s approach to risk and how it is mitigated, in addition to gathering and analysing real-time data to enhance future emergency responses.