There are 42 ‘Local Resilience Forums’ (LRFs) across England and Wales comprised of key emergency responders, and should there be evidence of another coronavirus outbreak in a town, city or region, it is these multi-agency forums that will decide how best to respond.
LRFs use ResilienceDirect – an online private ‘network’ overseen by the Cabinet Office – to work together across geographical and organisational boundaries in the preparation, response, and recovery phases of an emergency.
Dr Daniel Sage, of the School of Business and Economics, and Dr Chris Zebrowski, of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, have been awarded funding of £108,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, (UKRI) to research how ResilienceDirect is used by LRFs to facilitate collaborations in the context of the UK’s COVID-19 response.
The project, which will focus on five LRFs, will have an immediate impact and improve the UK’s response to COVID-19 as the findings will be rapidly circulated as ‘best practice’ documents to LRF practitioners, national policy-makers, and scholars.
Dr Zebrowski commented: “This project will provide valuable insights into how technology is being used at the local level to address coordination problems within emergency responses.
“We are delighted to be conducting research that will help our emergency services to perform their invaluable work in responding to COVID-19.”
Dr Sage added: “Emergency responses are defined by the strength of collaboration between people and organisations. The COVID-19 pandemic introduces new opportunities and challenges in delivering emergency collaboration, particularly around the use of digital tools to enable remote working.
“Very few studies actually have the opportunity to study and enhance emergency collaboration as it unfolds, and so we are extremely pleased to have received support from UKRI to do so.”
Though the research is specifically focused on responding to the pandemic, the findings will also help LRFs in responding to all manner of future emergencies, such as flooding and terrorist attacks.
Luana Avagliano, the Head of ResilienceDirect (Civil Contingencies Secretariat, UK Cabinet Office), said: “During these incredibly difficult times, I am always proud to work with and support Loughborough University and the COVID-19 research they are doing.
“Anything that we can learn and implement about the impact of future pandemics is crucial in supporting the safety of UK communities whilst trying to minimise the loss of life.”