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Emergency Preparedness UK







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Emergency & Preparedness


In a major emergency, if you are not involved in the incident, but are close by or believe you may be in danger, the best advice is to go inside a safe building, stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise, and tune in to local radio or TV for information.

Of course, there are always going to be particular occasions when you should not 'go in', for example if there is a fire, or you are advised differently by the emergency services or your own common sense.

If you find yourself in the middle of an emergency, your common sense and instincts will usually tell you what to do. However, it is important to:

  • make sure 999 has been called if people are injured or if there is a threat to life
  • not put yourself or others in danger
  • follow the advice of the emergency services
  • try to remain calm and think before acting, and try to reassure others
  • check for injuries - remember to help yourself before attempting to help others

If you are not involved in the incident, but are close by or believe you may be in danger, in most cases the advice is:

  • go inside a safe building
  • stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise
  • tune in to local radio or TV for more information

What to do if you're not at home


If your children are at school you will naturally want to collect them as soon as possible in the event of a major emergency. But it may not be safe to do so. Please tune in to your local radio station for advice and for details of the arrangements your local council has made for letting parents know when to collect their children from school.

All schools have plans to cope with local emergencies such as fire and flood, and teachers and support staff do all they can to look after the pupils in their charge. You can find out more about school emergency planning by using the Teachernet link below.

Planning for an emergency

To prepare for an emergency, you should take time to find out:

  • where and how to turn off water, gas and electricity supplies in your home
  • the emergency procedures for your children at school
  • the emergency procedures at your workplace
  • how your family will stay in contact in the event of an emergency
  • if any elderly or vulnerable neighbours might need your help
  • how to tune in to your local radio station

At home in an emergency

If you are at home and an emergency happens, try to gather together:

  • a list of useful phone numbers, such as your doctor's and close relatives'
  • home and car keys
  • toiletries, sanitary supplies and any regularly prescribed medication
  • a battery radio, with spare batteries
  • a torch with spare batteries, candles and matches
  • a first aid kit
  • your mobile phone
  • cash and credit cards
  • spare clothes and blankets
  • bottled water, ready-to-eat food (eg tinned food) and a bottle/tin opener, in case you have to remain in your home for several days

Leaving your home during an emergency

In certain very unlikely situations, you may be asked to leave your home by the emergency services. If this happens, leave as quickly and calmly as possible. And, if you have time:

  • turn off electricity, gas and water supplies, unplug appliances and lock all doors and windows
  • take the items listed above
  • if you leave by car, take bottled water and blankets
  • tune in to local radio for emergency advice and instructions

Returning home after an emergency

When you are told that it is safe to return home, open windows to provide fresh air before reconnecting gas, electricity and water supplies.

First aid can treat all sorts of minor bumps and scrapes, but you should see a doctor for more serious accidents. Knowing first aid could also be life saving in an emergency before the emergency services arrive.

First aid kits

Your first aid kit could include:

  • plasters
  • bandages
  • safety pins or tape
  • pain relievers (paracetamol or aspirin) - always read the label and follow the instructions for use very carefully; there are special child versions available
  • medical spoon/syringe for giving babies and children their medicines - these are more accurate and much safer than a teaspoon
  • antiseptic lotion or saline for cleaning wounds
  • cotton wool
  • thermometer
  • tweezers (for splinters)
  • sharp scissors
  • sun block (factor 25 or higher for children)
  • child insect repellent

Keep your medical kit high up and out of reach of children.

You may choose to have two kits: a large one that stays at home and a smaller emergency kit for when you go out.

Use this interactive first aid kit to see how to use the main items in your first aid kit, with video guides and tips

First Aid Kit

Every home should have a complete first aid kit. Find out what essentials you need to keep in your first aid kit and, importantly, how to use them.

The Essentials


Quantity: selection of different sizes

Use: for most minor wounds


If there is a bleeding wound that is fairly small in size, an adhesive dressing should be used. If the wound is larger than the pad of the plaster, or is deep, use a sterile dressing instead and seek medical advice as it may need cleaning or stitching. If you're working in food preparation, use a blue plaster so you will be able to see it if it drops in the food.


Minor wounds can be washed with water first, padded dry with gauze, then the adhesive dressing should be stuck over the top. Do not use if the casualty is allergic to the adhesive strip. Plasters and adhesive dressings should not be left on for more than seven hours at a time. After that time, remove and assess the wound. If necessary, it can be washed and a new dressing applied to keep it free from infection.


A small number of people may be allergic to the adhesive strip, which could cause irritation. If you're applying one to a family member, you may be aware of this. If it’s someone you don’t know, ask them first.

Item: sterile eye pads

Quantity: 2

Use: for minor eye injuries


If the wound is small, or the casualty has a foreign object in their eye, such as dirt or grit, but it's not embedded, you can apply an eye pad or small dressing. If the dirt or grit doesn’t clear, seek medical advice. An eye pad should really only be used as a stop-gap until a trained medical professional can see it. Alternatively, they can be safely used if there's a small cut to the eyelid. However, if the casualty has a serious eye wound, or there's something embedded in the eye, get urgent medical help and do not apply an eye pad. If you do, you could make the problem worse.


Place the pad lightly over the eye and secure some bandage around the head using a knot or with tape (if you have some available). Make sure the eye pad is not applied too tightly and that you don’t apply too much pressure on the eye socket.

Item: crepe bandage

Quantity: 1

Use: for a sprain or strain


It's mainly used for a sprained or strained ankle or wrist. First treat the injury with an ice pack to reduce swelling. After 10-12 minutes, remove the ice pack for a few minutes then re-apply. If the swelling does not go down, it could be a break and you should seek medical advice as you may need an X-ray. If you think it's just a strain, and some of the swelling has gone down as a result of applying the ice pack, apply a crepe bandage for support.


It's generally applied in a figure of eight. For example, on an ankle you would start at the base of the leg (above the heel), make two turns, then take the bandage inside the instep of the foot and begin the figure of eight. The heel stays exposed. If the sprain or strain is to the wrist, you can simply wrap the bandage around the wrist in a circle. If the bandage came with clips, secure it with these. Alternatively, you can use tape or safety pins.


Don’t wrap the bandage too tightly. It’s there to provide support, so don't cut off circulation. If there is still considerable pain 24 hours later, seek medical advice.

Item: triangular bandages (sling)

Quantity: 4

Use: to lift a limb


You can use a triangular bandage in different ways: as a sling to lift a limb to prevent blood loss, to secure a fractured collar bone or hand, and also as a ‘broad-fold bandage’ for sprains and strains if a crepe bandage isn’t available.


If there’s an injury to the lower or upper arm, you can also make an arm sling, tied at the neck. Triangular bandages can also be folded into a ‘broad-fold bandage’ by folding the point towards the base, then in half again. This can be used as a supporting bandage if a crepe bandage isn’t available. This can be secured with tape or safety pins. It can also be used to strap the arm to the body if the arm is broken, or to strap one leg to the other as a splint.


When using as a sling, always make sure the point of the bandage goes to the elbow, otherwise it’s the wrong way round.

Item: medium sterile dressing pads

Quantity: 6

Use: when a plaster is too small


These pads are wound dressings. When you open them up, there is a roll of bandage attached so you can secure them into place. They cover most common wounds and should be used whenever a plaster is too small. The dressing applies firm pressure on the wound.


Make sure the pad covers the entire wound. When you wrap the bandage part of the dressing (which is attached to the pad) around the wound, make sure you seal each end of the pad with it to stop infections entering the wound, and stop blood seeping out. The bandage should be secured by tying in a knot, above the wound if possible, which will apply more pressure.


If the wound is severe, apply the dressing and seek medical advice. A doctor or nurse can then clean and re-dress the wound, and possibly stitch it if necessary. If blood soaks through the dressing, don’t remove it. Take a large dressing and apply it over the top as a second layer, otherwise clotting (which has started to take place) will be disturbed.

Item: large sterile dressing pads

Quantity: 2

Use: for dressing large wounds


These pads are large wound dressings. When you open them up, there is a roll of bandage attached so you can secure them into place. They cover most common wounds and should be used whenever a plaster is too small. It applies firm pressure to the wound.


Make sure the pad covers the wound and that the bandage part of the dressing seals each end of the pad. If the wound is severe, put the dressing on and seek medical advice. A doctor or nurse can then clean and re-dress the wound, and possibly stitch it if necessary.


If there is a significant amount of bleeding, lay the casualty down and apply a bandage. Raise the casualty’s legs so that blood flows to the heart, and seek medical attention. If the casualty loses consciousness, put them in the recovery position. If they stop breathing you should begin the 'ABC' resuscitation procedure. Find out all about resuscitation at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Accidents-and-first-aid/Pages/How-is-it-performed.aspx

Item: sterile gloves

Quantity: 1 pair

Use: to protect the casualty and first-aider


These protect the casualty if the first-aider’s hands are dirty, and they protect the first-aider if the casualty is bleeding. Sterile gloves should be used wherever possible when dealing with blood or bodily fluids.


Disposal is important: if there is blood or bodily fluids on the gloves, take one off first and screw it up inside the remaining glove. Next, turn this glove inside out and tie a knot in the end before disposing of safely.


Gloves are usually available in small, medium, large and extra large. Make sure you have the right size to fit you in your first aid kit.

Item: paramedic scissors

Quantity: 1 pair

Use: to safely cut clothing off


These are used for cutting clothing to get at a wound or the site of a fracture. They are safety scissors so you can’t jab them into somebody’s leg by accident – there is no danger of cutting the skin.


Only use if you need to expose the site of an injury. If the wound is on the arm or leg, cut along the seam of the trouser leg or shirt, and on a side away from the wound.


Always tell someone you are going to cut their clothing before you do it.

Item:  alcohol-free wipes

Quantity: 6

Use: to clean grazes if water is not available


These are used to clean grazes and minor wounds when water is not available.


Wipe the wound once, then dispose of the wipe. Take another one and repeat. If somebody has a wound and you wipe it from top to bottom, whatever is on top is now pushed into the wound. Always wipe away from the wound, otherwise you could introduce an infection.


Tap water is the best thing to clean a wound, but if there's no water available, an alcohol free wipe is better than nothing.

Item: safety pins

Quantity: 6

Use: to secure a bandage or sling


Safety pins can be used to secure a crepe bandage, or for securing a sling on the elbow.

First aid courses

Why is it important to go on a first aid course?

According to Ken Sharpe, first aid technical support manager for the British Red Cross, first aid courses confirm what people generally already know. “First aid is simple – it’s all to do with retaining the information. If it were too technical, people wouldn’t want to help if they saw a casualty. The whole aim with first aid courses is to de-mystify the whole thing and get rid of the idea that it's dangerous in the hands of a lay person.”

What will it cover?

This largely depends on which programme you choose. They range from simple two-hour courses covering basic life support, to four or five-day courses that cover everything you would need to know from resuscitation to choking, hypothermia and bleeding.

What will you be able to do as a result?

Usually first aid courses are certificated programmes, so at the end of it you will be able to give first aid confidently. According to Sharpe, the earlier you start chest compressions on a casualty who's had a cardiac arrest, the greater the chance of them surviving. "If you only know one thing, learn CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation)."

Shopping list

Here's a shopping list for a basic first aid kit:

  • 2 sterile eye pads
  • 1 crepe bandage
  • 4 triangular bandages
  • 6 medium sterile dressing pads
  • 2 large sterile dressing pads
  • Assorted waterproof plasters
  • 2 pairs sterile gloves
  • 1 pair paramedic scissors
  • 6 alcohol-free wipes
  • 6 safety pins

When to call an ambulance

Here are some situations where it is vital to call an ambulance, although knowing first aid could also help:

  • unconsciousness or slipping in and out of unconsciousness
  • a suspected stroke
  • heavy blood loss
  • suspected broken bones
  • a deep wound such as a stab wound
  • a suspected heart attack
  • difficulty in breathing
  • severe burns
  • a severe allergic reaction

What's being done to protect the UK?

The police, fire and ambulance services are specially trained to deal with major emergencies and have specialist equipment to cope with a whole range of incidents. If necessary, military assistance can be called on by the government and the emergency services.


There is now increased baggage and passenger screening at UK airports, and where appropriate UK aircraft carry plain-clothes police. Stronger cockpit doors have also been fitted to all sizeable aircraft.

We have also installed state-of-the-art surveillance systems at ports and traffic entry points into the UK. Also, all transport operators have emergency plans to evacuate you safely from their services if there is an emergency.

To check on the safety of a particular destination or country, ask your travel agent or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office call 0845 850 2829.

Visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website Opens new window


The UK has had to live with the threat of terrorism for many years and the emergency services have well established plans and procedures in place to deal with a wide range of events.

The government has a comprehensive programme of work to improve the response to a range of disruptive emergencies that might affect the UK, not only terrorism.

It aims to ensure we are able to respond to emergencies at the national, regional and local level, and to make sure that the essential services (food, water, transport, health, financial services etc) keep operating.

UK improvements

Over the last three years security around vital national resources such as water, energy and transport systems has been improved, safety advice given to potentially vulnerable businesses and locations, and laws toughened to make it more difficult for terrorists to operate here.

A lot of this work has to remain secret so potential terrorists don't get useful information.



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The SW Team.............