To be published as HC 484-i

House of COMMONS



Scottish Affairs Committee

Power Outages in the West of Scotland

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Jane Fowler

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 84



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 25 June 2013

Members present:

Mr Alan Reid (Chair)

Jim McGovern

Graeme Morrice

Lindsay Roy


In the absence of the Chairman, Mr Reid was called to the Chair

Examination of Witness

Witness: Jane Fowler, Head of Improvement and HR, Argyll and Bute Council, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Jane, thank you very much for coming again to help us out. After all the storms of last year we had hoped that you would not have to come back quite so quickly, but Argyll and Bute was hit yet again so thank you very much for coming. Would you start off by introducing yourself and saying what your role is on Argyll and Bute council in terms of responding to bad weather?

Jane Fowler: My name is Jane Fowler. I am the head of improvement and HR for Argyll and Bute council. I work in the chief executive’s unit and work directly to the chief executive. My service includes HR, health and safety, communications, corporate planning and learning and development.

Within our health and safety section we have a civil contingencies unit. I am the senior responsible officer for making sure that we have a planned and prepared response to emergency situations in light of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. I have a management responsibility in that respect.

Q2 Chair: What are the council’s responsibilities during emergencies caused by severe weather of the kind we had last March?

Jane Fowler: The council has a responsibility as a category 1 responder to work in the emergency phase in support of the police, who would normally lead the emergency phase of any kind of situation. Our number one responsibility is obviously to preserve life. We have a role in supporting the warn and inform element-communications to the public in the event of any type of emergency, whether it is severe weather, some kind of pandemic flu outbreak or whatever the situation is-in that we have a responsibility to warn and inform.

We also have a responsibility in relation to care for people-i.e. to make sure that we have sufficient resource, working alongside our colleagues in the NHS, to ensure that people have shelter and food in the event of an emergency that impacts on the normal way of life.

Once the emergency phase of an incident is completed, the local authority then has a responsibility to take on the recovery role. There is a formal handover from the police to the local authority that is signed off. The local authority assumes responsibility for ensuring a return to normality as quickly as possible following an incident.

Q3 Chair: Could you describe to us what exactly happened in Kintyre last March?

Jane Fowler: Certainly. We had a situation where there was really quite an unusual weather pattern. It started to snow very early on Friday morning, 22 March. That snow fell over a fairly isolated area of north Kintyre and also the island of Arran and Islay. The snow was accompanied by very strong gale-force winds, and we started the snow treatment as we would normally, getting the gritters out, very early on the Friday morning. It started to become apparent that it was becoming quite a difficult situation when the snow began to accumulate over that period of the Friday. Then the power began to go off in different areas on that Friday afternoon.

In recognising that there was a fairly unusual situation emerging, the council contacted the police and essentially called the incident round about lunchtime on the Friday. That pattern of weather sat on top of a fairly limited geographical area for a prolonged period of time. It did not move north, south, east or west but sat there and dropped enormous volumes of snow on a very small geographical area. The snow was compounded and drifted by the very strong gale-force winds.

The calling of the incident on the Friday around lunchtime meant that we put into place fairly quickly a tactical multi-agency command and response unit to start dealing with the emergency and to try and gauge what the impact was likely to be, how long it may last and what we should be doing to deal with the emergency situation.

Q4 Chair: How many households were without power?

Jane Fowler: I can’t tell you that exactly. On Islay, there is a population of around 2,200. The population in Campbeltown is about 2,300. Then there are other scattered communities through Kintyre, Carradale, Clachan, Skipness and Tayinloan, all of whom have several hundred households. We are probably talking in total about 5,000 households.

Q5 Chair: How long was it until the final house was connected up?

Jane Fowler: The final house was connected the following Thursday. Pretty much everybody was back on power by the Wednesday. That would be round about 26 or 27 March.

Q6 Chair: You said the problem started on the Friday. How long was it until the first house was connected back up?

Jane Fowler: Some houses were connected back up to generators. We concentrated on supporting Scottish and Southern Energy to access south Kintyre. We sent a map through to you. If you look at it, you will see the Kintyre peninsula. The north end of the Kintyre peninsula, around Clachan, was where the majority of the snow fell. It is trunked as far as Kennacraig. There is essentially a single north-south road in and out of Kintyre, which is the A83. That road was blocked round about Clachan.

Our priority was both to try to free up and open the road, to allow SSE engineers access to see what the impact on the power was, and to open the road or look for alternative arrangements that we could put in place to transport SSE engineers so that they could identify the extent of the damage that was causing the power outages throughout Kintyre.

Q7 Chair: What additional problems were caused to small villages in remote areas?

Jane Fowler: There are a number of issues. If people are without power for any prolonged period of time, it affects a number of things. First, it affects our communications systems. Most people are reliant on telephones that require a charge from the wall. Most people have walkabout phones. If the power goes off, then fairly quickly the telephone loses charge and therefore you are out of communication. Most people rely on radios and television for the news. Those rely on electricity. People rely on the internet for communication as well. That, again, is reliant on electricity. Mobile phone masts were also affected, either because they had been damaged by the weather or because the power was out to them and their batteries ran out.

There are other issues. In some small communities people are reliant on electricity to generate pumps. All of the general household things that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis like heating, lighting and cooking are not available. We have very little mains gas throughout Argyll and Bute. If people have bottled gas then they may use that for heating, but most people are reliant on electricity as their main power source.

Q8 Chair: How did the council prioritise, given the very difficult situation?

Jane Fowler: The priority was to work very closely with Scottish and Southern Energy to get their engineers into a position where they could ascertain the actual impact on the grid and on their network of wires, towers, cables and poles. Our priority was to transport essential staff from where they were in mid-Argyll, because everybody could get to the Lochgilphead area to the north of Clachan. We had to prioritise getting them down into Kintyre.

The priority was, first, to try and open the road; and secondly, when it became apparent that this was a very difficult thing to try and achieve, with the volume of snow that was there, the continual blowing of the wind causing drifting of the snow back to the area that had been cleared and with the conditions not letting up at all, we had to look at what alternatives there might be for transporting the Scottish and Southern engineers with generators and some foodstuffs down to south Kintyre. That is why on the Saturday, realising that it was going to be very difficult to get the road open quickly, we spoke to Caledonian MacBrayne to arrange for SSE to charter a ferry to sail from Kennacraig-which you will see on the map is in the north-west of the Kintyre peninsula-down the west coast, round the south of the Mull of Kintyre and into Campbeltown. That was arranged on the Saturday and it sailed on the Saturday afternoon. It arrived about midnight.

Q9 Jim McGovern: Thank you, Jane, for coming along. I remember the last time you were here; you were very helpful. What did the council learn from last year, given the bad weather, and how did that influence forward planning for this year?

Jane Fowler: We learned a lot from the last time. There were a couple of very critical lessons that we learned. First, it is really important to build a good working relationship with partners of the likes of the utility companies during a time of calm. We worked hard to build those relationships in what I suppose you might call peace time, so that when it came to any potential emergency situation in the future those relationships were already strong.

We recognised that the last time we had not had good co-ordination with Scottish and Southern Energy was in terms of the location of their food vans. That was something for which we all got criticised. We did not have particularly good communication with Scottish and Southern Energy the previous time in relation to contacting vulnerable people and making sure we were absolutely clear about who was contacting and being in touch with whom. Both of these things were quickly dealt with and put in place this time around, just because those relationships had been built over the past year.

Q10 Chair: Did the Data Protection Act cause you any difficulties this time? I know that last year Scottish Power said that it caused some difficulties because, although the councils had lists of vulnerable people, it apparently meant that they could not be passed on to power companies.

Jane Fowler: This time we established early on a care for people group, which was led by the council’s social work department and the NHS. That was based at a hospital in Campbeltown. The information from Scottish and Southern Energy about their self-referred vulnerable people was passed to that group. In the emergency situation there was not a problem about sharing that information. It may have been slightly more difficult for social work to give details about clients to the power company, but we did not need to do that because the council and the NHS were leading it.

We have a statutory responsibility to ensure care for people. During that weekend, we worked out a hierarchy of managing and prioritising who were the most vulnerable so that they were dealt with first. We then had a cascade down from that. The next time around we will take that forward and use that hierarchy and process of prioritisation. So relationships were important.

Q11 Jim McGovern: Is there an acceptance that there is going to be a next time around?

Jane Fowler: We always have to prepare for there potentially being a next time. The last time it was wind; this time it was drifting snow.

Q12 Jim McGovern: But you sound quite certain that there is going to be a next time.

Jane Fowler: I think there may be; yes, there will be. It may be because the road is blocked. It may not necessarily be because the power has gone off. We need to be prepared for any kind of eventuality, in terms of our civil contingencies planning, to make sure that we discharge our responsibilities in relation to care for people as best we possibly can in partnership with the NHS. We have the templates in place now that we will definitely use in future.

Q13 Jim McGovern: I live in Dundee, and I imagine, in that context, Dundee city council and Tayside NHS will have a plan for any eventuality. Obviously, they hope for the best but prepare for the worst. How does your council compare with other councils around Scotland?

Jane Fowler: We all have a duty to prepare emergency plans. We all have a duty to make sure that we exercise the officers and everybody who is going to be involved in that on a regular basis. We all have people within our councils who are trained to make sure that we discharge our duties appropriately in the event of an emergency.

From the point of view of our council we have done the training and we have put plans in place, but we have a very dispersed geography. Having the people in the right place who have had the training at the right time is something that we are not always able to do. If you are in a city situation-somewhere like Dundee-most people will be fairly central to that city. It is quite easy geographically for people to get together and co-ordinate their response to an emergency. If you think about Argyll and Bute, the emergency might happen on the island of Islay or the island of Tiree. It might happen in Helensburgh, and we may be in Lochgilphead and the A83 might be blocked with a landslide, as it was in Kintyre. Most of the senior officers of the council are based in Lochgilphead, which is at the north end of Kintyre, and the road was blocked so we could not physically get down to Campbeltown. We were reliant upon people within that local area, drawing on their knowledge, understanding and planning. We have not trained absolutely everybody in the council, but we have made them aware of what the situations may be. We have planned for further training and rehearsed situations that might arise to enable people to respond. We are prepared. We have also had some quite challenging incidents to deal with that were real and that maybe other councils have not had to deal with.

Q14 Jim McGovern: I am not particularly in favour of league tables, but the question I was asking was how you compare with other councils throughout Scotland.

Jane Fowler: That is a difficult question because it depends on the criteria. Resilience in Scotland is broken into a number of different areas that did mirror the police force areas, but, as you know, we have moved to a single police force in Scotland. The Strathclyde Emergencies Co-ordination Group that covers all local authorities in Strathclyde-

Q15 Jim McGovern: I am thinking particularly about power cuts-outages. How do you compare with other councils in how you deal with that?

Jane Fowler: I think we deal pretty well with it because we have quite a lot of experience of it. There is not a league table that says we are better or worse than anybody else.

Q16 Jim McGovern: But, when you say you have a lot of experience of it, is that to be taken to mean, "We are the worst. We have more experience than anybody else"?

Jane Fowler: I do not think it means that we are the worst in responding to it. It might mean that the power has gone off on a couple of fairly recent occasions and has had a big impact on the communities that it affected. The feedback we got from the Strathclyde Emergencies Co-ordination Group was that, as a council and a partnership, we responded very well, according to how they would expect a model council to respond on a model response to be taken forward. We established early; we worked together with partners; we got out the message as best we could; and we worked with the providers to try and prioritise where the power should come on again first.

Q17 Jim McGovern: How does your local council deal with the most vulnerable people who are most likely to be hit hard by outages or power cuts, call them what you will?

Jane Fowler: Establishing a care for people group means that the NHS and social workers get together. They prioritise, so the NHS will have lists of the people that would be visited on a regular basis in their homes. It may be by the community nursing staff or the local community health workers. Social work management also have lists of who gets home care on a daily basis. They will know their prioritised lists of vulnerable clients.

We get together with the NHS and the social work management to identify who the most vulnerable are. We make sure that they are safe first of all, so we will mobilise a prioritisation of visits by the trained staff to go out and about, supported if necessary by the police in four-wheel drives to get to a remote community where they know somebody will need or expect a visit. They would move anybody who is at serious risk from their home into the hospital, if that was deemed the most appropriate thing to do to protect them. We had a very small number of people who were moved for their own safety into the hospital.

The other places that are affected are the care homes. We have quite a few care homes that are managed by external agencies. We have to make sure that people in those care homes are being looked after as well. We have a responsibility to make sure that they are prioritised for getting generator power in order to get their heating back on. That is quite a sensitive relationship because the care homes are owned by private contractors, but we have a responsibility to make sure these people are safe.

There is a list of prioritisation that is agreed on by the NHS and social work to make sure that the most vulnerable are prioritised. We would then work down through a hierarchy to make sure that everybody who needs to be seen is seen and that they are informed about what is happening. If there is an emergency evacuation required, we would make sure that happens.

Q18 Jim McGovern: You mentioned the NHS in that co-ordination, which is an obvious one. You mentioned the police as well. Would it include BT and telecommunications-telephone organisations?

Jane Fowler: Yes. The care for people group would essentially be the NHS and the social work staff, plus the voluntary sector. They are enormously helpful and have a really important role in caring for people in that kind of community resilience and community response. We have the care for people team. The agencies, organisations or companies like BT or the mobile phone providers would come in at that tactical, management level. We would try to identify from them what the damage to their network is and what they are doing to repair or tackle it. We would then prioritise supporting them to make sure they could get access to it.

For example, if a mobile phone mast had come down and they needed to get somebody across a field or down a track that had not previously been cleared, then a decision would be taken at that tactical management level to say, "We have prioritised the snowplough or the snow blower to go down this road, and then it is going to go up here to enable the SSE guy to get to the mast that he knows he has to get to. After we have done that, we will go to this place and then make sure that this other track is cleared to enable the BT or the mobile phone mast person to get there to fix that." There is a constant prioritisation of where the activity should take place to make sure that we can restore normality as quickly as we can and tackle the issues and sort the things that need to be sorted.

Q19 Chair: Does the council have a supply of small back-up generators for the likes of elderly care homes? If it does not, who does?

Jane Fowler: Following the last incident, we identified that there were a small number of critical locations for the council that required back-up generation. We agreed a contract with a company to provide us with those generators in the event of an emergency. It was a kind of call-off contract. We prioritised those.

The hospitals have their own back-up generation. That is what we would do. We would make sure that anybody really vulnerable would get in there. We do not have a supply of generators that would go to care homes. However, that process of prioritisation was at the tactical level saying, "Where is the priority location for the generators from Scottish and Southern Energy to go to? This care home over here really needs to have a generator taken to it." Our job was to clear the road and get access for Scottish and Southern Energy. That access meant that generators could be transported into Kintyre and then plugged in at the most vulnerable locations.

Q20 Chair: But until the ferry arrived in the early hours of the Sunday morning were there any back-up generators locally that were able to go to the care homes, or did they just have to wait for that ferry to come in?

Jane Fowler: We were not aware of any generators that could be mobilised to go to the care homes at that point. Another learning exercise out of this is making sure that the companies running the private care home residences have their own resilience plan. If the power goes off, they have a duty to their clients. That is something we need to push forward as well.

Q21 Jim McGovern: I think Jane has possibly covered this, but, if an emergency hits one area, do the resources put to that area mean it is detrimental to another area?

Jane Fowler: That is a really interesting question because the resources that were required over what was a fairly small geographical area during this particular weather episode were significant. We were borrowing snow blowers from the north of Scotland. If they had been taken from the north of Scotland down to Kintyre, they would not have been available if another weather system had come in and hit the north of Scotland. We would have had to get them taken back up again. Over the whole of Scotland, if there had been a weather incident that covered a bigger geographical area for a long period of time, it would have been very difficult to identify the resources that we needed.

Q22 Jim McGovern: Does that mean that the resources are possibly insufficient?

Jane Fowler: It is very difficult to say. We had the 30-year storm in January 2012. We had another 60-year storm, because nobody had seen snow like that in Kintyre since 1963. That is not 60 years ago-maybe 50 years ago. Do you spend your resources on planning for the 60 or 30-year event, or do you spend your resources on what it is you need over the next five to 10 years? It becomes a judgment of how the public sector manages those resources.

Certainly, from Argyll and Bute council’s point of view, we have made a decision that we will be putting together a business case to look at both the purchase of four-wheel drive vehicles for each of our four administrative areas and also a snow blower so that we have got one, which is there and ready to use immediately. That will be on the basis of a business case and weighing up the risk.

Q23 Jim McGovern: Is that sufficient, or would you need to say, "Right, we will phone Aberdeen, Inverness or whoever and get them to give us some help here"?

Jane Fowler: We would probably do that anyway, but it would depend on the scale of the incident. We are all signed up to an agreement of mutual aid. If an emergency hits one area, it is incumbent on everybody else to help out as required and depending on what they are going through as well at the same time. It just depends upon the nature of the incident. We may go through the business planning process and get a snow blower and we might not need it, but it could probably be used for other things in the meantime. Then it may happen that we have a snow incident, a storm, that covers a wider area than we had to deal with recently and we could do with that one plus another, because part of the snow is in Kintyre and some of the other snow is up north of Oban. It really depends on the incident.

Q24 Jim McGovern: I appreciate that you are obviously here to speak about your area, but God forbid if something happened that was Scotland-wide. Can we then assume there are just not enough resources there?

Jane Fowler: I do not know if we could assume that or not. One of the issues we had was that the snow drifts were about 7 metres high, which is about 20-odd feet. When you shovel the snow, it has to go somewhere. The snow ploughs have an angle. So when you shovel the snow, it goes into the side of the road. If you have a 7-metre snow drift, the snow can’t go into the 7-metre snow drift. You have to be able to take the snow away. We quickly discovered that the snow ploughs that we had and the council’s resources weren’t able to deal with it. Our head of roads and director of development and infrastructure spoke to local contractors and got earth-moving equipment from some of the big contractors round about that were shovelling and digging up the snow as they would be shovelling and digging mud, rocks, aggregate or whatever in their day-to-day work. They tipped that into lorries and then dumped the snow down on the beach. We had to take the snow several miles to get it away from the site.

Rather than saying we needed specialist equipment, the roads guys said, "Let’s think a wee bit laterally here. What are we dealing with? We are dealing with big heavy volumes of stuff. How would we normally move this kind of thing? Let’s use the resources we have elsewhere for this particular task." If you look at it in that context, then there is lots of equipment designed for lots of different things across Scotland. If people think inventively, then they can use that and apply it to a specific situation with which they are dealing.

Q25 Chair: If you had had different equipment, do you think the road could have been opened sooner?

Jane Fowler: I don’t think so. We had a round-the-clock shift of people working on clearing the road. It quickly became apparent that, as soon as they cleared it, the snow drifted and blew back in again behind the vehicles that were clearing it. It also became apparent, as I said earlier, that the vehicles being used to clear the road were not able to deal with the volume of snow that was there. We had to start thinking about how best to tackle that.

Combined with that, we had wind. We had gale-force easterly winds blowing the snow on to the power lines. It was then freezing and the weight of the frozen snow brought the power lines down. We had a health and safety situation. You can’t send people with diggers down a road where there are live power cables that have blown across the road because they have come down with the weight of the snow. We had to prioritise getting the road clear with ensuring health and safety and not endangering the lives of the people driving the gritters, snow ploughs, snow blowers and other machinery. There was a process of clearing as far as we could, and, as soon as there was any kind of hazard identified such as a potentially live power cable, then you got the Scottish and Southern Energy people in. We got the engineers to come straight behind the snow ploughs and snow-clearing equipment to assess what the risk was of going any further.

We did our best to prioritise clearing that road, but the conditions were absolutely horrendous. We could not endanger life. That is one of the things to remember throughout this whole incident. It was very severe weather but nobody lost their life.

Q26 Chair: That is definitely true. I can verify that people were working in appalling conditions. Has the equipment been invented that would have allowed you to open the road in less than the three days that it took?

Jane Fowler: I don’t think so. The road was opened on the Saturday night, but it was open only to convoy and emergency vehicles. The first convoy vehicles that went through were four-wheel drive vehicles. We got critical Scottish and Southern Energy staff through. I think the police were part of the convoy as well. We prioritised getting people through in the convoy but we had to keep working on the road. As the convoy went through, it was snowing and filling in the road behind. There had to be a clear-up operation behind and a clear-up operation in front. That is one of the difficulties the public saw and where maybe we could have done better in our communications message. They would hear that the road was open and wonder why they were not allowed to go on the road. We had to make sure that the road was safe for vehicles to go on. There is quite a difference between going through a single-track cleared piece of carriageway that has quite a lot of snow on it, and it is still snowing, if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and you are used to driving in those conditions, and taking a family car and driving back up the road because you don’t want to be in Campbeltown any longer.

We did not want to endanger anybody’s life. Our number one priority was to save life, to preserve life and not to endanger anybody. We had to wait until we were sure that the road was clear and could be maintained clear before we could open it and make a public announcement that the road was open for the public.

Q27 Chair: You said that the council was lent equipment from other authorities. If that equipment had been in location in Kintyre at the time that the problem happened, would you have been able to get it cleared then and stop all this snow building up?

Jane Fowler: There is a limit to the number of vehicles that you can have operating on a particular road at a period of time and the people you have working on it and managing the co-ordination of that. If we had had more vehicles there earlier on, perhaps we could have come at it from the north end a little quicker, but that would not have made any difference to the fact that there were live power cables over the road. They still had to be made safe before anything else could happen at that point. Because the conditions were bad and continued to be bad, I think it was highly unlikely that it would have been possible to clear that particular road and make it open to the public any quicker than actually happened. It would perhaps have been a matter of hours but it certainly would not have been a matter of days.

Q28 Chair: What conclusions did the council come to as a result of its investigation into the road clearing about equipment for the future?

Jane Fowler: We have not had an investigation into the road clearing. We had a hot debrief after the incident on the following Thursday, where we captured everybody’s comments. We have put that into a report that went to the senior management team. We have decided that we will go forward with a business case approach, looking to have four-wheel drive vehicles, one in each of the four administrative areas. We will also look at whether or not there is an appropriate business case for purchasing a snow blower, and then we would have that ready on site for any future incident. Perhaps that is the one thing that may have helped a little.

Q29 Chair: What benefit would the snow blower have had?

Jane Fowler: It would not have been such a slow process to plough the snow, gather the snow, dig it up and then take it away again. The snow blower cuts through that. It sucks the snow and then blows it out. It comes out at a higher level so that it can stack up at the side of the road, although it is still challenging if the drifts are 20 feet high.

Q30 Chair: That is what I was thinking. Would it be able to blow it high enough to get over these drifts?

Jane Fowler: I don’t know if they can turn it backwards and then it blows into a trailer that holds it at the back. It is more efficient at being able to go through areas. There were only some areas where you had the very steep snow banks on either side; in other areas you would have been able to use it.

Q31 Chair: So the council is looking at a business case for buying one.

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q32 Chair: Eventually it was decided to charter the ferry and get the Scottish and Southern generators down to Campbeltown that way. You have said that the problem started on the Friday morning, but it was late on the Saturday before the ferry was chartered. Why did it take so long to take that decision? Why was the decision not taken earlier?

Jane Fowler: The snow started being cleared so we had the gritters and the normal snow ploughs out from early on the Friday morning, around 6 o’clock or maybe a bit earlier. We were going through the normal thinking, "It’s snow. We will get the ploughs out, clear the snow, grit the roads and plan the treatment for the next six to 12 hours, and then plan the treatment for the next 12 to 14 hours, depending on the information that comes in through the weather forecasts." It was becoming apparent by the Friday night that it was not just a normal snow incident-that the weather was worsening. The snow was getting deeper and it was going to be a real challenge to clear the road.

The decision to charter the ferry was taken over Friday night and Saturday morning. That was an option. The discussions then took place on the Saturday morning with Caledonian MacBrayne, who then had to find a crew to take the ferry to Kennacraig where it could then be loaded up. You then had to have the process of marshalling all the priority vehicles that needed to go down, who were the priority people, what were the priority generators, how much could be put on the vessel and then send it off. The skipper of the vessel also had to decide if it was safe to sail. We had gale-force easterly winds and conditions were not good. There has to be a judgment about how safe it is to put to sea in those conditions, and all of those things take a bit of time.

From having called the incident on the Friday lunchtime to having a ferry ready to sail by 3 o’clock on the Saturday afternoon-and it is not a normal ferry route that Caledonian MacBrayne sail-I do not think there was an undue delay. From understanding on the Friday night that it was a very unusual situation to getting that ferry sailing on the Saturday afternoon was not too long.

Q33 Chair: You are right that it is not a normal route and I have every sympathy for the people on board that ferry sailing round the Mull of Kintyre straight into an easterly gale. One thing that a lot of people have put to me, though, is that a much more direct sea route to Campbeltown would have been from Ardrossan. Why was it not possible to use the Arran ferry to take the equipment from Ardrossan to Campbeltown? Those would have been relatively sheltered waters compared with sailing through the North channel.

Jane Fowler: The ferry was needed for Arran, which was suffering very similar conditions to Kintyre. They had had a lot of snow. They were served by a power pylon on Kintyre. Arran was out of power with snow and they had to keep the ferry for servicing Arran. They did not have the capacity to take that ferry from Ardrossan across to Campbeltown. It would have had to sail from Ardrossan to Campbeltown in bad weather and then all the way round the Mull of Kintyre and all the way up to Kennacraig to pick up the Scottish and Southern people, unless they had gone all the way from Lochgilphead back round to Ardrossan.

Q34 Chair: But Scottish and Southern were bringing in people from all over the country. Surely it would have been easier for them to get to Ardrossan than Kennacraig.

Jane Fowler: There were two separate issues. One was dealing with the issues in Arran and the other with issues in Kintyre. The logistical decision by SSE was to co-ordinate the Kintyre response from the Lochgilphead area, where the council and NHS headquarters are-that is where the incident was being managed from-and then get the access down through the A83. At the time, it looked as though it would be reasonably straightforward. We were taking two approaches to this access down to Kintyre. One was to continue to try and get the road open, and the other was, "What is our alternative? We have a ferry terminal at Kennacraig; we can get to Kennacraig. Let’s take it round that way."

Q35 Chair: You said that you were looking at the business case for having a snow blower. If this was a trunk road, would the facilities available to a trunk road operating company have included the snow-blowing equipment that would have got the road open quickly?

Jane Fowler: As you say, the road is not trunked past Kennacraig so it is the council’s responsibility south of Kennacraig. The council had already got support from Transport Scotland in the form of snow blowers and other snow-moving equipment. That responsibility for delivering and supplying mutual aid applies to the Scottish Government, to Transport Scotland and, therefore, to the contractors dealing with the trunk roads. The fact that it was a trunk road would not have made a difference to the availability of the equipment in this particular instance because we were provided with that support in any case.

Q36 Chair: If you had had the snow blower there at the very beginning, could that have prevented the problem from happening in the first place?

Jane Fowler: It would not have prevented the problem. It may have made a slight difference to being able to tackle some of the snow moving. Even if the road was trunked, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the snow blower was located near Lochgilphead anyway. If it belonged to Transport Scotland, it could have been anywhere in Scotland and probably most likely to be somewhere where they get snow like that more often.

Q37 Graeme Morrice: I want to touch on the issue of the power outages and the performance of the power companies. Could you quantify the particular impact that the power cuts had on local residents and local businesses?

Jane Fowler: From the point of view of local residents, obviously if you are without power and it is your main source of heating, then you are without heat for a fairly prolonged period of time in bad weather. The temperatures were fairly low, with a cold wind. You have people who are necessarily unable to heat their homes unless they have a coal or wood-burning fire, which not many houses have. They are unable to be in contact with other people through the normal communication channels that they would tend to use. They are unable to cook hot meals or have hot drinks. All of the everyday life things that you rely on fall away all of a sudden because you don’t have electricity.

I mentioned the last time I was here that the cashpoints don’t work if there is no electricity, so people can’t get cash. The electric doors of shops don’t work so people have to find a way round getting into the shops. The whole fabric of life that people rely on on a day-to-day basis begins to disappear.

People are prepared for that for a few hours. Once it stretches beyond a few hours into six to 10 hours, people start to get a little bit anxious and disgruntled. When it goes on for a day or two or three or four, then you can’t have a shower or a bath, you haven’t necessarily had a hot meal and can’t have a cup of tea unless you have your camping stove or whatever else. It does have a big impact on people. People who previously may not have been vulnerable can become vulnerable through just getting colder. Their houses begin to lose heat over that period of time fairly rapidly. It becomes quite uncomfortable.

One of the things that we have worked on quite hard over the past year, and are continuing to work on, is a programme of community resilience. There are community emergency plans. We have prepared a guide to helping your community to prepare an emergency plan. We have a section on the website supporting people. We have been going out and speaking to community councils so that people know within their community that, if something happens, if the power goes out, they can go to the community hall or wherever it is and there will be a community approach to providing a bit of support.

Q38 Graeme Morrice: I was going to ask about that. In particular, you mention about going out to community councils. You wouldn’t just have the local authority, public agencies and emergency services, but community groups and organisations engaged in assisting those who are particularly vulnerable with regard to this problem.

Jane Fowler: Absolutely. One of our communities in Southend, right at the very southern tip of Kintyre, had not prepared their community plan but had been thinking about it. They mobilised themselves fairly quickly to support people who were not able to get out and about to make sure they got their prescriptions. Somebody who could get into town went to the hospital or chemist, got the prescriptions, took them back and made sure that people living by themselves, maybe the elderly, were being looked after and had things that they needed. People were going round knocking on the doors. That is something that we are really keen to promote. Over half of the community councils in Argyll and Bute have now either completed or are in the process of preparing an emergency plan.

The council put a budget together at the last budget meeting in February. They put a fund together to support community resilience. We got a bit of support from the Scottish Government. As well as managing the generators and putting them in place for our key buildings, we have put together community packs. It is a big bag that has 100 foil blankets in it, a couple of wind-up radios, a loudhailer, wind-up torches and medical equipment. All of those would go to the named community contact or be held in the village hall. It is some kit that is there in the event of emergencies.

Q39 Graeme Morrice: Presumably you record a lot of information in terms of the impact that the weather can have on local residents and indeed the cost to businesses. What kind of information do you therefore collate?

Jane Fowler: We don’t have information on the assessment of the amount of loss incurred to businesses. It was in the run-up to the Easter weekend so Kintyre had a lot of tourist business. Kintyre is quite famous for golf, and quite a lot of people go to visit the distillery. It is a dramatic landscape. A lot of visitors cancelled their bookings because they were not sure if the power was going to be on by that Easter weekend. That did have an impact on the businesses. I can’t say most, but some businesses did get compensation through their insurance for that loss of business. It is always a process that the businesses have to go through to prove they have made losses.

Q40 Graeme Morrice: Can you quantify that information? If businesses have gone through their insurers, is that information that is to hand?

Jane Fowler: We have not collated it.

Q41 Graeme Morrice: But presumably it is there if one wanted to ascertain that information.

Jane Fowler: It could be.

Q42 Graeme Morrice: I was trying to get a handle on the financial impact this has had. Have the power companies involved in this crisis generally been quite co-operative?

Jane Fowler: Absolutely. We worked very early on with Scottish and Southern Energy to make sure that we had shared weather alerts if they were mobilising their staff on the basis of weather information or forecasts that we had not picked up on. One of the issues we did have with this incident was that it was a yellow alert. There have been quite a few of those over the winter. We were not expecting it to be as bad as it was. However, Scottish and Southern Energy worked very closely with us all the way through in terms of our supporting them to prioritise access to areas they needed to get to, but also for community liaison and community support. They sent a couple of their community liaison officers down to co-ordinate the allocation of the hot food vans. They were located throughout Kintyre to provide hot foot and drinks for people throughout the area.

We worked very closely all the way through with all the agencies, but with Scottish and Southern Energy in particular.

Q43 Graeme Morrice: Even outwith a crisis period, do you find that they are generally co-operative in terms of planning in the likely event of adverse weather occurring again?

Jane Fowler: Yes. In that planning and preparation phase in Bute at the late end of last year, there was an event. Scottish and Southern Energy’s community liaison people came down and said, "Here are examples of the types of things that we can provide for communities to help resilience." There were wind-up torches and a few different kinds of things. They were very keen to be involved in supporting us through that community resilience planning process. At the strategic level-that is relationships between their senior management and that sort of hierarchy through the organisation-we made links with the council.

Q44 Graeme Morrice: Do you engage them through the community planning process?

Jane Fowler: We don’t engage Scottish and Southern Energy through community planning, but that is quite an interesting question.

Q45 Graeme Morrice: Is that a consideration because of this particular problem that you have with the weather?

Jane Fowler: It may well be. We are reviewing our community plan to put together the single outcome agreement at the moment.

Q46 Graeme Morrice: There is a good suggestion from Westminster for you. Do you feel that the energy companies are doing enough when you have a weather crisis?

Jane Fowler: I absolutely could not fault the effort that the Scottish and Southern engineers put in to try and get the power back on. The conditions were atrocious, and they were out and about in all weathers doing extremely long shifts, just making sure there was a round-the-clock approach to getting the power back on and making sure that the generators were in the right priority places to support the most vulnerable people. They absolutely worked their socks off.

Q47 Graeme Morrice: In the long term, do you think they are doing enough to make the distribution network resilient enough for future occasions?

Jane Fowler: That is a very difficult question to answer. Technically, I do not know; I can’t answer it. From the point of view of this particular incident, the snow was very heavy and very concentrated over a prolonged period of time. It was accompanied by very low temperatures and high winds. When you see the images of the pylons that were crumpled by it, I don’t know what could be done to prevent that unless you completely redesign the system and don’t have it above ground. The damage to the pylons was just astounding. From the point of view of their doing enough, I think they certainly did as much as they possibly could have to get everything fixed once the damage had occurred. The storm and the damage that it caused were highly unusual.

Q48 Graeme Morrice: Do you think that is something that you need to look at? You have suggested maybe cables going underground, but there would be a substantial capital cost to that and you need to look at whether that could financially stack up in terms of the benefits. Do you think they should at least be open-minded about looking to the future in the event of something similar happening again and that they may need to do something with their infrastructure?

Jane Fowler: That is probably a question for Scottish and Southern Energy. They will have a cost-benefit analysis of how much it actually cost them to respond to this particular incident-it must have been fairly substantial, but I don’t know what that is-to see whether or not there is an alternative mechanism.

Graeme Morrice: It is food for thought.

Q49 Chair: Is it possible or has any effort been made to establish the cost to the local community?

Jane Fowler: Not to the local community, as far as I know. From the point of view of the council, we looked to see what the additional cost incurred by the council was. It was not enough to trigger a claim under the Bellwin scheme. It was mostly around the additional cost of providing catering. We opened the school kitchens and provided catering to areas where there was no power and people needed hot food and drink.

We also incurred additional costs for people working out of hours. There were some overtime costs and additional payments to employees. There was not a significant enough additional cost to the council to trigger Bellwin.

Q50 Chair: You were talking about the business case for the snow blower. Will you tell us how you go about establishing that business case if you don’t have any estimate for what the cost of the incident was to the community?

Jane Fowler: We would look to see how efficient our response was and there is also a time cost in it from the point of efficiency. You asked earlier whether it would have been quicker if we had had the snow blower on site at the very beginning. It may have been a little bit quicker; so there would be a view taken in terms of resilience. Yes, we got the snow blower there as quickly as we possibly could, but, had the situation arisen where the snow blower was not available to us, what then would have been the impact of not having a snow blower because it was perhaps working on a motorway that served a lot more people? Our priority would be way down the list in terms of a Scotland-wide response. If we were physically unable to clear the road because we didn’t have a snow blower and it had taken another four days, what impact would that have had? Would we potentially be looking at a loss of life? Would we be looking at a much more detrimental impact on the economy and the communities? From that point of view, it may not be a direct cost-benefit analysis but saying, "On the balance of probability, if this were to happen again, how would we respond and how would this improve our response?" If you look at it in that wider context, perhaps it would give us a better toolkit for being more resilient in the future.

Q51 Chair: How long did it take to get the snow blower in this case?

Jane Fowler: The snow blower arrived on either the Saturday or the Sunday.

Q52 Chair: If there are any answers you don’t know, you could take a note and drop us an e-mail on that. If the council had had its own snow blower, even if it had been at the far end of the council’s area, that would have taken about two hours to get there as opposed to the next day.

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q53 Chair: Has the council had a snow blower in the past, or is it something that it has never had?

Jane Fowler: I don’t know but I will find out.

Q54 Chair: You mentioned hot food in the villages. Whose responsibility is that? Is that yours or the power companies’ responsibility?

Jane Fowler: We have a responsibility to provide shelter and well-being. We have a responsibility to set up rest centres where there would be a community hub, if required, where people could get access to information. That is part of our warn and inform role. We would also provide hot food and drink.

Scottish and Southern Energy provide those vehicles-the burger vans, as we call them-where there is an incident and there is no power. They make food and hot drinks freely available not only to the communities but also to their own staff. It is a welfare provision for their own staff as well.

Q55 Chair: I get the impression that all of the plans are based on the assumption that the power company can get to the incident, but of course the problem was exacerbated here by the fact that it was about 48 hours after the incident started before the power company could get there. Are there any lessons that we need to learn about having emergency generators based in remote parts of the country in case they get cut off like this?

Jane Fowler: It is something that we need to think about. In terms of community resilience, it may be that, if community groups decide that it would be quite useful for them to have a generator near their local village hall, or if there is a farm nearby that has a generator that could potentially be lent to the village hall for a period of time to provide hot food and drink, that is something that improves our resilience overall. It does not necessarily need to be co-ordinated by the council or the emergency services because there is that community ability to deal with it themselves.

The provision of generators around an area like Argyll and Bute potentially becomes quite expensive. You are trying to surmise where you might need the generator in the event of a power outage for a particular length of time. The best assessment we could come up with is to look at those key buildings in and around Argyll and Bute in each of the main towns to make sure that those are powered up, and then use that as best we can when we have got that running and we have power to those areas and buildings. I think it would be too expensive to say, "Let’s have a generator for every single community hall in Argyll and Bute," because there are so many, but there are alternative ways of looking at it.

Q56 Chair: Where does responsibility lie there? The power companies have a responsibility to get the power on. Should they be paying for back-up generators in each community in case the power goes off?

Jane Fowler: I don’t know. When the incident happens, they do their best to come in and provide generators.

Q57 Chair: But I get the impression that all their plans are based on the assumption that they can get there, which obviously they could not in this case. Because it was the first time, as you said, in 50 years that there had been circumstances like this, everybody was feeling their way. Eventually they did manage to get there. We are interviewing the power companies next week, so hopefully lessons have been learned.

Turning now to compensation, have you had any feedback from residents or businesses about their views on the compensation scheme?

Jane Fowler: The compensation is obviously administered by the energy company. I know it depends upon which grid you are on and whether you are on the high-voltage grid or the other grid and what length of time you are off power for. I also know that some businesses felt that there was a detrimental impact to them during that period, and they have had discussions with Scottish and Southern Energy. With any kind of compensation scheme, there will be some people who are quite happy and some people who are not happy, depending on what the impact on them was and what their response was to it. The elected members have had communication from some people around compensation, but we have passed that to the energy company to deal with.

Q58 Chair: Have businesses been able to claim through their insurance company for losses incurred?

Jane Fowler: Yes. Businesses have definitely been able to claim on their insurance for losses incurred. Obviously, it depends on what their insurance policy is and what they have to provide to prove that loss of business. Certainly, all the businesses that have been in touch with us have gone through a process of trying to establish where they would get compensation from and going down the route of making sure they got compensation. As with everything, some businesses will just go ahead and say, "Okay, this is the situation I am in. I will just get in touch with my insurer." Others will come to us and then go to Scottish and Southern Energy and respond in a slightly different way.

Q59 Chair: Have you had any feedback of rising premiums as a result of people putting in claims? Is there any evidence that insurance companies are deciding that Kintyre is now a riskier area?

Jane Fowler: I have not seen any evidence of that and I am not aware of any evidence of that being submitted to the council.

Q60 Lindsay Roy: You have mentioned community emergency planning. What key things have the council done in terms of its own emergency planning?

Jane Fowler: First, we have overhauled all our emergency planning arrangements. We have created an emergency planning handbook for all senior officers so that they have fold-out roles and responsibilities. Anybody can pick it up, see their job title and what they are supposed to do in the event of an incident.

Q61 Lindsay Roy: Was that a big job?

Jane Fowler: Not really. It was not a big job; it was just a job that needed to be really focused.

Q62 Lindsay Roy: It was all co-ordinated.

Jane Fowler: Yes. It was led by the community resilience team, with the director of development and infrastructure taking a lead on that because he is responsible for roads and accessibility. We now have a set of standard agendas that we use for all our meetings. They are available to the senior team. We have a more comprehensive rota for our civil contingencies team. We are establishing a tactical rota at head of service and director level. They already have a rota in place for the executive directors to support the chief executive. At my level, which is the next tier down in the organisation, we have a series of key personnel who will be available at particular times for responding to an emergency.

We have also put together a more comprehensive plan of training for our senior managers and also for our loggists, to make sure that we have people who are very clear about what their role is in recording an incident. We are also looking at our video and telephone conferencing system. We were based in Lochgilphead during the incident. The police were in Dumbarton. We had Scottish and Southern Energy joining from Perth in some cases, and we were trying to get people in from Kintyre. At times, we had quite a lot of people trying to phone into one phone conference at a tactical level. We were trying to get key information and make tactical decisions.

It is quite difficult to manage a phone conference with that number of people. Getting people dialled in to begin with, making sure they can hear one another and making sure they don’t talk over the top of one another is quite an art. We have put together a protocol of how to manage a conference like that so that we get the best use of the time that we have available. We have done simple things like that.

In terms of community resilience, as I said, we have put together the guidance pack. We have gone out and done a series of road shows with communities to encourage them to take up local and community resilience. We have also put in more landlines. In the council headquarters we have more plug-in-the-wall phones so that if our council system goes down-which it shouldn’t-we have the option of using a normal, old-fashioned "pick it up and speak to somebody" phone.

Q63 Lindsay Roy: Would it be fair to say that this is about extending personal responsibility?

Jane Fowler: I think it is about understanding what people’s individual roles are and making sure that they are ready to take on those roles in the event of an emergency.

Q64 Lindsay Roy: Are you satisfied that the system is robust and comprehensive?

Jane Fowler: I think our system is robust. I don’t think you can say absolutely that everything is completely comprehensive. We have had two fairly significant incidents over the past two years and we have learned a lot from each incident. Each time something happens, you review and tighten up your procedures, and make amendments and adjustments so that the next time you are ready to roll with it.

Q65 Lindsay Roy: Would you summarise how the ability to communicate during bad weather has improved? You have mentioned video conferencing. Are there other ways?

Jane Fowler: There are other ways. Video and telephone conferencing are really good from a management point of view. We have also put together a Facebook page. We have a website. We hadn’t had a Facebook page in the past, but we had one for the storm. We have a four-star website. In an area like Argyll and Bute, people rely on having a website to get information about the council. Following the last bad weather we established a service disruption page, and that was viewed fairly significantly over the period of the bad weather. We then added in the Facebook page to it called "Weathering the Storm." It meant that, although the people who didn’t have power couldn’t access it, people nearby, who could get a signal on their mobile phone or had a plug-in-the-wall phone, could get information from people outside the area who could access the Facebook page.

That became a two-way communication with people posting on the Facebook page saying, "I am worried about so-and-so who lives in this particular area. We haven’t been able to get in touch. Can you check they are all right?" We put up information saying, "You can get hot food here," or, "Go down to this hall and you will be able to get this," or, "This road is now open and the gritters are working here." We were able to update it with information. Throughout the period over the Friday to the Tuesday, if you count every hit, tweet, re-tweet and viewing of the Facebook page, we had over a million and a half views of different bits of council electronic communication. That was really significant. It was people in Argyll and wider Scotland. People were getting in touch with us and it worked very well. We would definitely use that again.

Q66 Lindsay Roy: That is a back-up if the power system goes down. What about those who don’t have Facebook and social media?

Jane Fowler: That is the area where we really rely quite heavily on community resilience, and that is where I think we could have done a lot better this time. We could have used better the people out and about on the ground. This is what we will try and do in the future. We should be giving those clearing the roads using gritters or snow ploughs, the community nursing staff and the social care workers going out and speaking to people, messages of information to take with them. They would be fairly simple messages such as, "This is where you can get information or hot food and drinks; this is when the road is going to be open," if you know when the road is going to be open, or, "This is where there is power and this is where you can get gas for your stove." We have to be much better at that really simple communication via word of mouth and also putting posters up telling people.

Q67 Lindsay Roy: Are you pursuing that now?

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q68 Lindsay Roy: In terms of electricity distribution equipment, is there a link between you and the distributors? Is there a contact to indicate what is ongoing and what the priority areas are by way of maintenance and improvement?

Jane Fowler: Do you mean on a day-to-day basis?

Lindsay Roy: Yes.

Jane Fowler: There is a working relationship between our director of roads and infrastructure services and the senior management at Scottish and Southern Energy. They are aware of what the plans are for improvements or works that are going to be carried out in a strategic way.

Q69 Lindsay Roy: Are there checks on the most vulnerable areas-the high areas where there are likely to be strong winds? Is that an area of priority for joint working?

Jane Fowler: It would be where the council has a role in it. Where the council has a role in managing or maintaining a road that is near to an area where they want to do work, there would then be a conversation there. Quite a lot of the maintenance of the network will be in places that are outwith the council’s jurisdiction. It is only where the two would cross over that there would be a day-to-day operational relationship.

Q70 Lindsay Roy: Are there joint meetings to prioritise that?

Jane Fowler: Not necessarily to prioritise that. Certainly when SSE are identifying vulnerable areas, they would have a conversation with us if it was somewhere that had had problems in the past. Islay has had significant problems.

Q71 Lindsay Roy: To all intents and purposes there is a dialogue about it.

Jane Fowler: There is a dialogue, yes.

Q72 Chair: It must have been very difficult to communicate without being able to use the internet at all. You mentioned posters, loudhailers and things like that. If you had been able to use mobile phone signals, do you think that would have made a significant improvement?

Jane Fowler: It would have made life a lot easier even to be able to send text messages. Sometimes you can get a text message through when you can’t get a call through. Being able to text some of the people that we knew were out and about-the people driving diggers and snow ploughs who worked enormously long hours-to try and keep things moving and ticking over would have helped and even to be able to contact our social work and health board officers who were co-ordinating in Campbeltown hospital. We had one phone line in the Campbeltown hospital, which was then augmented to two, and another in the Burnett Building, which was our main building in Campbeltown. It was really challenging when you are relying just on a fixed landline. It is very difficult to maintain communication with people. If we had had a more resilient mobile phone network, that would have helped a lot.

Q73 Chair: Presumably that would also have allowed people to access the internet from handheld devices because people could have charged them from their vehicles if they did not have access to a mobile phone signal to access the internet.

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q74 Chair: How badly disrupted was the mobile phone network?

Jane Fowler: Mobile phones were out for a period of time in Lochgilphead. I cannot remember exactly how long that was for. They were out in Kintyre for quite a long time. We were still struggling to get in touch with people on the Tuesday. On the Tuesday, the engineer got down to Campbeltown and did the work to the mobile phone mast.

Q75 Chair: What was the problem? Was it lack of power?

Jane Fowler: I don’t know what the problem was. I think there was some damage to the mast but I am not entirely sure.

Q76 Jim McGovern: Jane, I probably know the answer to this, but does the council keep records of any power cuts-outages?

Jane Fowler: We have records of power outages that have an impact and mean that we need to put a response in place. For example, if the power goes off and we need to do something, we record that. Our civil contingencies team is alerted if the power goes off for shorter periods of time in other places, but that might not trigger a response at a higher level. We are notified by the power companies if there is a power cut.

Q77 Jim McGovern: If it turns into an emergency situation, I presume you do keep a record.

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q78 Jim McGovern: How are the records used?

Jane Fowler: The records are for us to be able to improve our planning in the future. If we recognise that a particular area has been vulnerable or we know the type of weather situation that means the power might be off for a prolonged period of time, then we use that to inform how we would respond in the future. It is about learning and planning for the future more than anything else.

Q79 Jim McGovern: Are smaller power cuts that might not be regarded as an emergency still recorded somewhere?

Jane Fowler: Yes. They are recorded by the civil contingencies team.

Q80 Jim McGovern: What does that mean?

Jane Fowler: That means the emergency planning team. There are two officers.

Q81 Jim McGovern: That is more understandable for me. That information is obviously used for forward planning.

Jane Fowler: Yes.

Q82 Jim McGovern: I think I have the last question. What our other Chair-not Alan but Mr Davidson-usually says is, "Do you have any answers for questions that we have not yet asked you?" You have probably heard that before.

Jane Fowler: I think it is really important to emphasise that, when this situation arises, there is nothing that works better than already having had strong relationships with your partners, so you can mobilise those really quickly. Every incident like this provides an opportunity for you to learn and improve your response the next time around. Those are absolutely critical things, from our point of view, in managing any kind of emergency. We would apply it to any emergency that arises.

As we move forward and the public sector becomes much tighter in terms of the resources that we have available, the importance of community resilience planning is absolutely crucial. You don’t know what is going to happen, and people are so dependent on electricity and food being available and being able to nip down to the shop and get things. If something goes wrong, people haven’t thought about it in enough detail. They are not personally resilient enough themselves. Their family and their little community tend not to be that resilient. We are trying to push that idea and support the communities by saying, "You can do a lot for yourselves, and that can help to strengthen your community in more ways than just being able to respond to an incident-but for the longer term." That is a good thing.

Q83 Jim McGovern: We have probably covered everything. The Chair is probably well aware of this, but for the other members are there any difficulties of which we are or might be unaware?

Jane Fowler: I don’t think so. The real difficulty is how you communicate with people in the absence of electronic communications. This is when you have no mobile phone, no internet, no TV or radio-none of those things that we rely on. How do you actually communicate with people? It just comes back to the communities and word of mouth, using every single avenue you can possibly think of, but don’t underestimate how difficult that is. All the tools that you are used to having to hand just don’t work; they are not there. You can never underestimate how challenging that is, but it is something that we need to get to grips with because we are responsible for telling people and keeping them informed.

Q84 Chair: I have no more questions. Do any of the Committee have any more questions? Jane, this is your final chance to get anything else on to the record.

Jane Fowler: I think that is everything, thank you, Chair.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming; we appreciate it. It was very useful and gives us a lot of food for thought for questioning the power companies next week.

Prepared 1st July 2013