From floods to pandemics – resilience for rural communities at times of crisis
by Phillip Vincent,

From floods to pandemics – resilience for rural communities at times of crisis

Communities Prepared (a Groundwork South programme) and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) have published a new guide to help rural communities become more resilient in the face of emergencies.

Drawing on the experience of local rural charities and existing initiatives, the guide provides practical tips for rural residents to prepare for, and help each other, at times of crisis. It shows how volunteer groups can be set up to develop emergency plans that identify local risks, and maps out the resources and support which can be mobilised should situations arise that threaten the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of people in the local area.

Financial backing for the guide has been primarily provided by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, with additional support from The National Lottery Community Fund.

In contrast to their urban counterparts, rural communities are not well served by public infrastructure and services so initiatives led by volunteers can make a tremendous difference to the wellbeing, livelihoods and security of everyone locally

Zoey Ayling, Programme Manager for Communities Prepared said: “As the outbreak of Covid-19 has demonstrated, unexpected events can and do happen, threatening the way of life we have become accustomed to. Sometimes the impact on individuals and the services that support them can be severe, with recovery taking months, if not years. That’s why we created this guide to help communities plan ahead, offering information and practical guidance on how to identify risk, understand the key roles during an emergency and pull together to build long term resilience.”

The guide features stories where rural communities took a proactive approach to anticipating and responding to emergency situations. These include the delivery of hot meals to residents in Caddington, Bedfordshire, who were left without electricity and gas after heavy snowfall, and community and voluntary organisations that joined together to help residents and businesses recover following the extensive flood damage caused by Storm Desmond in 2015.

David Emerson, ACRE’s Chair said: “We are delighted to publish this guidance with Communities Prepared which builds on the ACRE Network’s rich heritage of helping rural communities to help themselves – sometimes at the most difficult of times – by making the most of their local knowledge, capacity and resources. In contrast to their urban counterparts, rural communities are not well served by public infrastructure and services so initiatives led by volunteers can make a tremendous difference to the wellbeing, livelihoods and security of everyone locally. This way of working has been demonstrated brilliantly in the context of Coronavirus – when we are seeing rural communities across England taking a lead on local responses to the pandemic, from good neighbour schemes to village halls being used to distribute food parcels”.

Building community resilience to challenges also has many other benefits. Examples in the guide show how this can also bring about environmental improvements, foster new community networks, and underpin social cohesion.

This essential guide will make it possible for everyone in the countryside to recognise the risks to their community, understand what can be done to prepare for them, and be familiar with the emergency actions that can be taken in conjunction with other agencies should the worst happen.

DOWNLOAD A Guide to Rural Community Resilience

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Media contacts

Imogen Smith, Marketing Officer, Communities Prepared: 07715631595 | Imogen.smith@groundwork.org.uk | Tweet @CommunitiesPrep

Phillip Vincent, Public Affairs and Communications Manager, ACRE: 07531107129 | p.vincent@acre.org.uk | Tweet ACRE @ACRE_national

Notes to editor

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for 38 independent county-based organisations that make up the ACRE Network. Our vision, to be the voice of rural communities, is supported by the wealth of evidence and intelligence on rural matters that we collect from our members. We use this evidence to influence national policy on rural issues, from housing, health and transport to broadband, services and fuel poverty. Our Network Members, many of whom date back 90 years, have a long, fruitful history of making a difference at grassroots level. They are charitable local development agencies, generally based at county level, which lead, support and enable community initiatives, reaching 52,000 grassroots organisations.

Communities Prepared is a nationwide community resilience programme run by the community regeneration and environmental charity, Groundwork South in partnership with the Environment Agency, Cornwall Community Flood Forum and Cornwall College Business. Working with a range of partners, Groundwork South creates social, economic and environmental improvements by enabling communities and individuals to make positive changes to their lives and neighbourhoods. Communities Prepared is one of its flagship projects. With backing from The National Lottery Reaching Communities England Fund until October 2021, and additional support from The Prince’s Countryside Fund and SSEN, the programme equips communities across the country with the knowledge and tools to effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from, severe weather and other civil emergencies.