Communities urged to agree CRP

WITH climate change predicted to accelerate over the next 20 years, Borders communities have been urged to sign up to a resilience plan to deal with emergencies.

The scheme - put together by Scottish Borders Council - aims to enable townsfolk and villagers to respond themselves to potentially disastrous scenarios such as severe weather.

Already ten Borders communities, including Yetholm which has previously been hit by severe flooding, have signed up to the initiative.

Others are likely to follow, with flooding affecting Earlston, Jedburgh and Peebles in recent months.

The resilience programme is in line with David Cameron’s Big Society policy idea and the Prime Minister has already been presented with the plan.

SBC’s emergency planning officer Jim Fraser, who helped introduce the scheme, spoke to Galashiels Community Council this month in an effort to persuade the town to join.

He said: “We put together the plan after the winters of 2009 and 2010 when the Borders experienced particularly severe weather.

“Our debrief thought we could engage with the communities much better.

“This plan has become the benchmark for the UK and has been discussed in the Scottish Parliament.

“Indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, even took it to show the cabinet including David Cameron.”

Mr Fraser said the framework was prompted by an elderly man in his 80s who was unable to get his wife to hospital for kidney dialysis treatment due to bad weather.

“He asked for help and we provided it but it took six hours for our guys to get there and by then the appointment had been missed,” added the former senior fireman.

“They were both upset and we felt people such as this elderly couple could be better helped by a community plan.”

The CRP includes a series of measures to combat emergency incidents, with community members who sign up asked to carry out tasks such as clearing snow from the pathways of vulnerable people, placing sandbags in flood risk areas or putting flood gates in position, and providing hot meals in town or village halls.

A risk assessment is also drawn up to help volunteers assist utility failure, fire, loss of communication and missing person searches.

Mr Fraser said: “We have access to five day forecasts rather than two days which you get on TV.

“If they have a long term forecast, people can buy two pints of milk rather than one, or two loaves of bread.

“We can warn about incidents such as metal thefts which have occurred in the area.”

He added: “We also have to consider that the national grid system is quite old and in 2010 it nearly tripped on three occasions.

“We are told it takes 28 days for residents in rural areas to be reconnected should this happen in the future. This is where the community resilience plan can help.”

Mr Fraser explained that if Galashiels CC agreed to kickstart the initiative in the town, a public meeting would be held, followed by a questionnaire and finally the plan being developed.

He added: “You would need around 200 people in Galashiels to make it work. Less than that, and you would be relying on the same people all the time.

“It may well be that initially we target a specific area of Galashiels which has a high percentage of vulnerable people.”

Community council chairman Ian Purvis added: “Obviously it is a great scheme but it might be too big to implement for this winter.”

But fellow community councillor Murray Dickson replied: “A disaster can happen at anytime, we don’t necessarily have to have this done this winter. But we have to get started.”

Mr Fraser agreed, adding: “If you look at Stow and Fountainhall, both have suffered bad flooding this summer.”

Meanwhile, SBC’s environment and infrastructure committee have approved a grant of £20,000 to set up a protection scheme for Jedburgh following August’s flash floods.

A blocked culvert on Skip Running Burn has been blamed for incident which damaged 50 homes and businesses.