Vow to work as one to deal with disaster

WHEN the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded in the North Sea 20 years ago, it fell to various agencies to scramble their resources and deal with the blaze, the fatalities, the bereaved families and the aftermath.

The disaster showed the importance of co-operation, and the emphasis now is for agencies to work together.

Yesterday, a north-east partnership, the Grampian Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG), became the first of its kind in Scotland to publish plans on how the various agencies will work as one when dealing with disasters.

The group includes the local authorities in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, the region’s fire and rescue services and the NHS.

The strategy, Road to Resilience – Keeping you Safe in Emergencies, was launched at Grampian Police headquarters in Queen Street, Aberdeen.

Chief Constable Colin McKerracher, who is the area’s SCG chairman, said: “Our vision is for the responder organisations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from civil emergencies.

“At the heart of preparing a response to a major emergency is the requirement for all organisations with an emergency response role to plan and train together.”

Should there be a terrorist attack, flooding or a major tragedy similar to Piper Alpha, it will now fall to the SCG to co-ordinate response.

In the event of a major incident, the police incident officer who directs frontline staff at the scene will notify the SCG, who will gather in a special bunker, kitted out with £50,000 of the latest in communications technology.

From the nerve centre, they will control their organisation’s response and act as the link between the police tactical command centre and the outside world.

Superintendent Jim Urquhart, from the force’s operational planning department, said a multi-agency group had been in place for some years, but the “business plan” was a new move.

“This is to reassure people that, should anything happen in the north-east, we have in place tried and tested processes,” he said.

“We never had dedicated facilities for Piper Alpha. What we have now are specific plans and structures for agencies to work together.”

The Road to Resilience document can be viewed on www.grampian.police.uk