NES A National Emergency Service

NES A National Emergency Service

The aim of this paper is to encourage the setting up of a National Emergency Service to prepare for and deal with pandemics and climate change.  If you think this could be useful, please share this with friends and any you might know from any profession, party or position in society who might help to get it started.  Comments and suggestions would be much appreciated. email and see

There will be no return to business as usual. Covid-19, flooding, drought, extreme weather, air and plastic pollution,  all threaten our lives, health, and jobs.  Covid has rudely woken us up to the fact that we face a radically different future from anything we have known, imagined or prepared for, despite the warnings scientists in many fields have been giving us for years.  Iike Covid-19 climate change will bring a future in which our “normal” lives will be disrupted, often suddenly and unpredictably.  These disruptions will of course be repeatable with more droughts, floodings, and new viruses here, while wars, famine, disease, pollution, environmental degradation and other major catastrophes take place abroad which will also have consequences here.

Like the threat of war or imminent invasion, these threats can also stir us to develop the abilities and the spirit we need to face them.   They can spur us to work with and for others, to co-operate, to accept risks, challenges and difficulties and to get involved.   In short it can help us develop, through practical action, a vivid sense of our mutual interdependence and common humanity.

In the face of this politics also needs to change.  Like the setting up of the NHS, setting up a NES National Emergency Service to prepare for and respond to life-threatening national emergencies and to promote sustainable energy and environment policies should have wide social and cross-party support.  Still, while we are a long way from beating this pandemic, the response of scientists, academics, NHS workers, and the 750,000 volunteers to deal with Covid-19 has already given us hope and examples of how many wish to respond to the challenges that face us.

Possible Aims for a National Emergency Service

1. Provide a body people can join with local, regional and national membership for all concerned who want to do what they can to prevent and respond to catastrophic health and climate change emergencies
2. It should train and provide a large number of volunteers with a range of practical skills and relevant understanding so they can be called up to serve full time or part time with relief work during emergencies.  Rather like the Territorial Army and the Fire Service the Emergency Service should be seen as a valuable form of national service and should attract payment commensurate with skills and time devoted.  Those called up to serve during an emergency should have employment protection.  In return it should provide valuable skills and training for those preparing to enter the world of work, or to those who have lost their jobs as a result of climate change or covid infection.
3. The NES should seek to recruit:
Academics and students involved in the study of pandemic or climate emergency projects.
Specialists in people and logistics management including former defence service personnel.
Doctors, nurses, health professionals and carers.
Teachers, education professionals, youth and social workers.
Architects, engineers, and builders,
Skilled workmen, electricians, earth movers, flood and fire equipment users.
5. The NES should co-ordinate and prod the various branches of government (central departments and local councils) to work closely to both pursue green policies and prepare for emergencies.
6. The NES should also be used to speed up and carry out surveys on local environmental risks (flooding, storms, etc) and for promoting energy conservation and renewable energy projects in order to reduce the impact of climate change emergencies on local communities.
7. The NES should back and promote the findings of specialist scientific research groups and their suggestions for public policy.
8. The NES should help organise and encourage a network of local neighbour support for the disabled, elderly, quarantined, flooded or burnt out in times of national or local emergency.
9. The NES could be run as a form of National Service for all school leavers. To be a mixture of education about Pandemics and Climate Emergencies and practical work on climate emergency projects.
10. The NES should provide an opportunity for personal challenge and for experiencing a deeper sense of belonging to British society.  It should be an integrating force which should work across social, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender divisions in providing volunteers with a wide range of opportunities to be of service for:
Immigrants and new citizens
Those retired with useful social, befriending and practical skills
Long term unemployed and school evaders.
A proportion of those sentenced to carry out Community Service.
11. Service in the NES should become a source of pride for participants and something that employers will value in employees and prospective employees as showing a commitment to service, the capacity to work as part of a team and the ability to develop practical, organisational and leadership skills.

The NES will need a highly skilled and charismatic Director General to lead it and get it going.  It will need dedicated, high calibre management.  It will need to be non-partisan and get cross-party and government support, and be able to mesh in with local and national government plans and initiatives and have a co-ordinating and leadership role across government in promoting the adoption of Pandemic and Climate Change related policies.

Inevitably as it develops the service will require very careful planning and substantial funding, but compared to the alternative – an unprepared public rushing around like headless chickens after each crisis or suffering passively while not knowing what to do, it should simply come to be seen as an important and morale boosting aid to good government.

In the face of this terrible pandemic we need to recognise the inevitable speeding up of climate change and the certainty that we can expect a sharp increase in “natural disasters ” – flooding, drought, hurricanes and extreme weather, which will not wait for us to “solve Covid-19”– political and social leaders regardless of party should campaign for the setting up NOW of a National Pandemic and Climate Emergency Service.  NES

John Baxter

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