Sunday, 31 May 2020

Emergency plan finished (but no mention of virus)

SONNING Common has adopted a community emergency plan at the same time the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

The document, drafted by the parish council, is not related to the outbreak but outlines the risks of certain incidents and actions that should be taken if they happen.

It says heavy snowfall is among the most serious of these because it could isolate the village and increase the risk of people slipping and falling or being involved in traffic accidents on roads without grit.

Roads could also be closed preventing suppliers from making deliveries and this could force shops in Wood Lane such as the Co-op, One Stop and Day Lewis Pharmacy to run out of goods.

The plan requires villagers to grit and clear areas with lots of traffic, business owners to clear the space outside their units and residents to clear the space outside their homes and check on neighbours.

Pubs will also be used to provide emergency catering if residents run out of food.

Exhausted fuel supplies are another risk in an emergency and this would make it difficult for people to leave the village.

Volunteer 4x4 groups could therefore be deployed under the plan to provide transport for people.

The village community responders and Fish volunteer centre will also establish a list of individuals who may be vulnerable and require drivers’ assistance.

Strong winds could also trigger an emergency. The plan outlines that falling branches or debris could injure people or cause power outages and the loss of communications.

If this happens the parish council will report any fallen trees to the police and Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, so they can be removed as soon as possible.

Residents who are licensed to operate chainsaws will also be called upon to remove trees that have come down and walkie-talkies would be used to facilitate communication while other systems are affected.

If power is lost across Sonning Common, the village hall is equipped with a generator and will be used as a place of safety.

Churches, schools and Kidmore End War Memorial Hall, in Reades Lane, could also be used to provide refuge for villagers in an emergency.

A plane crash or severe fire are among other potential incidents covered by the plan. They could result in smoke inhalation, road closures, deaths, injuries and burns and the parish council will contact the emergency services for advice and alert residents via its social media.

The plan will be invoked after an initial assessment of any incident by the following criteria (bullet list):

Actual or threatened injury or loss of life, particularly if the threat is increasing or extensive.

Actual or threatened damage to property, particularly if the threat is increasing or extensive.

The causation is spread geographically, not located at a single property.

Last year Carol McKay, from Oxfordshire County Council, told villagers about the importance of creating an emergency plan at the annual meeting of the parish council.

The emergency planning officer encouraged them to get to know their community and find out who could help in a crisis.

Carole Lewis, who chairs the parish council, said it was important the village had now prepared for emergencies.

She said: “In Sonning Common we’re not an archetypal village, but we have the most amazing community spirit and we’re very aware that we need to look after each other. 

“We would never have considered a plan in years gone by. Clearly we’re not in a flood risk situation, but that doesn’t mean to say there couldn’t be a disaster.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve had situations where we’ve had strong winds and trees have come down and roads have been closed. We’re just trying to be one step ahead of the game. It’s a bit like insurance really and I think there’s enough flexibility there to identify the sort of things we can do.”

Cllr Lewis praised her fellow parish councillor Dirk Jones and deputy parish clerk Becky Jenkins for their work compiling the plan. “There’s a lot of hard work and hours that have gone into this,” she said.

ENDS

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