The challenges we face may change from year to year – flooding, a local train crash, a terrorist attack that has a knock-on effect on our region, a world-wide health crisis – but human need remains the same. If churches are to offer spiritual and practical support to their communities during emergency situations, it is vital that plans are put in place, both to ensure their effective operation in the face of a crisis, and to facilitate an appropriate pastoral response. The Diocesan Emergency Planning group, chaired by the Bishop of Dorchester, works closely with secular agencies and national and regional experts, and has produced plans and resources to aid parishes and individuals.

Pandemic Flu planning

In order to help churches to be prepared for serious health emergencies, the diocese has produced documents and guidance on appropriate responses, including producing a business continuity plan. These are available on the website and are regularly updated to reflect the current situation. The plan helps to guide individuals through resilience planning, details the appropriate actions and precautions to take during a health emergency and offers suggestions for pastoral care. The diocese also offers prayers and liturgies in time of need, which will be posted on the website if public gatherings are banned or there are significant numbers of fatalities.

Role of the religious groups in the event of a major incident

The main areas in which the religious groups have a role to play includes:
  • Recognising the spiritual dimension of life and death
  • A ministry of care and comfort to relatives and others caught up in the disaster. This may be exercised at a temporary mortuary, casualty and rest centre, relatives’enquiry station or similar premises, established for the purpose close to the incident
  • In supporting others as outlined by the Thames Valley Police Major Incident Response Plan
  • In exceptional circumstances, by providing a ministry at the scene of an incident to care for the injured and all those affected by the disaster. Although this stage is normally of a fairly limited duration, many involved may suffer from ‘shock’and need support
  • Providing a ministry with hospital chaplains at the hospitals designated as receiving hospitals in the event of a Major Incident occurring. The Churches’response at the receiving hospitals is directed by the hospital chaplaincy.

Response to a major incident

The Oxford Diocese is currently represented within the Thames Valley Police (TVP) area by the TVP Chaplain (Gold Chaplain).

The major incident plan is activated in one of two ways:

  • the Thames Valley Police will call out the Gold Chaplain (or nominee)
  • a member of the appropriate Local Authority Emergency Planning Officer will contact the Gold Chaplain (or nominee).
Any call-out to the religious groups will be initiated and co-ordinated centrally by the Gold Chaplain and the Gold Support Team. They may or may not initiate a call-out of the Religious Groups.
Please do not go to an incident site unless asked to do so by the Gold Chaplain or his/her staff.
If clergy are required to respond to an incident you will be fully briefed on location and reporting
procedures. It is most likely you will be deployed to temporary mortuaries, family assistance/rest centres, emergency services refreshment areas.
If you are required to attend a major incident remember:
  • Do work in partnership with other professionals present.
  • Do follow the chain of command and the direction of those in charge.
  • Do watch for the needs of other helpers possibly affected by the incident.
  • Do be responsible about taking part in a careful and thorough debriefing.
  • Do look after your own needs, recognise your limitations and ask for replacement cover.
  • Do not leave before your replacement chaplain has arrived or without informing your fellow team member or Gold Chaplain.
  • Do not go outside your capabilities e.g. trying to give First Aid.

Contact Us for further information