PARISH councils across West Sussex are being encouraged to practise dealing with emergencies in the wake of flooding earlier this year.
At a meeting of the Sussex Resilience Forum last week, councillors and officers from across the county heard of the importance of having Community Resilience Plans in place.
They were also urged to work with neighbouring authorities to make the plans work.
After several parts of the country were affected by severe weather in recent months and years, all parishes have been advised to put practised plans in place to help deal with a variety of crises.
As well as emergency services, councils and utility companies responding to floods, landslides, bombings and rail crashes, Teresa Gittins, from Action in Rural Sussex, explained how important it was for communities to respond in practical ways.
She said: “There are an awful lot of resources in the community. There is often a meeting place and people in the community can involve businesses.
“One thing I want to emphasise is that the community knows where vulnerable people are; the old, lone parents, those with disabilities who need help in emergencies, and you are best placed to know where they are.”
She said parish plans should be a directory of key people to contact, as well as people with specific equipment such as chainsaws, snow-ploughs and shovels.
Sylvia Verrinder, from Angmering Parish Council, shared her experience of preparing a thorough parish plan, including risks if there were crashes on the A27, A280 and A259, which box in the parish.
She has also assessed the risk of the sea, which is only two miles away, as well as threats of the River Arun flooding.
Although they had not had the chance to try out their resilience plan, Milland parish councillors shared how they found theirs essential when gritting lorries were not able to get to the village.
By publicising their plans around the village and working with farmers to distribute salt, the main road through the parish was clear compared with a neighbouring village which was snowed in.
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “This year’s winter service has changed very little from previous ones, apart from the distribution of bulk bags of salt/grit to rural areas so they are better prepared.
“Learning from experience during the last few difficult winters, it was our intention that rural parishes would forge links with local farmers so the bulk bags could be stored in a sensible location.”