Are you ready for anything?

Airth residents pictured with members of the emergency services, Falkirk Council's emegency planning team and MP John McNally
Airth residents pictured with members of the emergency services, Falkirk Council's emegency planning team and MP John McNally

Severe weather has wreaked havoc in towns across the UK in the past few years, with flooding causing extensive devastation to thousands of properties.

Heavy rain, flash floods, and inadequate defences have caused untold misery to many, with those living in semi-rural, at-risk areas being cut off for weeks.

And while the nation extended its sympathy, a few Airth residents were also thinking, “that could happen to us”.

The realisation was one of the many triggers that resulted in the area developing Falkirk’s first community resilience plan.

The project puts an area’s own residents on the front line, acting as the first line of defence against a whole host of emergencies.

Community Resilience is backed by the Scottish and local governments, encouraging people to think about scenarios that may affect them and take steps that could help in a crisis.

The scheme also wants to harness the power of people, using their skills and resources ranging from everything from being a good snow shoveller to someone who owns a handy 4x4.

Airth and District is driving the initiative forward, holding an official launch last Sunday alongside members of the emergency services.

Bob Smith, a local resident and one of original members of the resilience team said: “Flooding is certainly an issue for us.

“We live in a semi-rural area with lots of outlying areas which have in the past been cut off due to flooding or heavy snow.

“Luckily it’s never lasted too long, but the weather is becoming more and more severe, and we thought it would be an idea to make everyone more aware of what can happen and be prepared.

“We are on a flood plain: we are dependent on tidal protection supplied by the banks but they can and have burst in the past.

“The plan is to be prepared and do what we can, until at least the emergency services can come and sort us out.”

But Airth’s ambition to be first responders has taken time.

Several years have passed between the initial discussions and last Sunday’s launch and it’s still at an early stage.

Bob said: “The official launch was really to raise awareness and try to sign more people up.

“It’s very useful to know who is going to be able to help and what skills they have, for example to know where the first aiders live.

“People may think the only skill they have is to be able to clear a path of snow, but that’s something worthwhile.

“So from here we hope to go on and recruit more people, having a presence in each area.

“We want to hear from people who think they will need help in a crisis, and also we want to hear from people who think they may be able to help.”

“We’re really keen to spread the net.”

Those already involved have been working with each other and with Falkirk Council’s emergency planning team.

With the help of the local authority, an information leaflet was produced and 970 of them were delivered in the area.

The flyer contains not only contact details of local co-ordinators in place in Airth, Letham, Dunmore, South Alloa and Bothkennar but a brief questionnaire asking residents what they are willing to do.

Malcolm Wilson, from the council’s emergency team, congratulated Airth residents for coming so far, but called for others to get on board.

He said: “People in other areas have certainly talked about it, but the group in Airth has come the furthest with it and we now have a community resilience emergency plan.

“Over the years, we’ve all seen the flooding that’s happened in the Borders, up North and in Cumbria, and this is all about focussing on what the individual citizen can do to complement the emergency services.

“The fact is that in some cases during heavy snow or flooding, the emergency services are stretched and won’t always be able to get to you, so it’s about thinking what you can do to help yourself, your family and members of your community.

“It’s not about residents becoming firemen or council workers, it’s about being prepared and taking sensible precautions.

“Every community has its carpenters, drivers, builders, and IT experts and these are the kind of skills that bring massive benefits.

“And of course, every community has people who are less able to help themselves, so knowing where they are really helps.

“Airth does have a plan, but the plan won’t work without people so I’d encourage anyone to come froward.”

Bob added: “Now we have come this far, we’re determined to keep things rolling, and hopefully in the process we will build a stronger community.”

To register for Airth and District Community Resilience, call Bob on 01324 831538.