Fieldwork Emergency & contingency planning

Emergency Planning
An emergency plan is a written plan which responds to an emergency situation (e.g. a natural disaster, or a medical or security emergency). The more complex the fieldwork, the more likely it is that an emergency plan should be written and included in the Fieldwork Assessment. An emergency plan should relate directly to the level of risk associated with the fieldwork activity and should be in place before the fieldwork activity begins.

It could include:

  • Support available locally (e.g. emergency services, Consuls and Embassies)
  • Processes for contacting the University of Leeds and next of kin
  • Methods for contacting the next of kin
  • Processes for dealing with civil and political unrest, natural disasters and/ or medical emergencies and repatriation 
  • A means for summoning help in the event of an emergency. For remote locations, the use of mobile or satellite phones should be considered
  • Access to emergency funds and a clearly defined process. If necessary, check on the capacity to obtain money from the University and discuss the provision of an institutional credit card
  • Emergency processes should link to existing University processes as far as possible e.g. in the event of kidnap, serious injury or death
  • Specialist training for Fieldwork Activity Organisers, participants and First Aiders 
  • How support will be provided for the remaining fieldwork activity or return to the institution following an incident or emergency
  • Emergency equipment (such as appropriate first aid kits)
  • Itinerary – outlining when and where you expect to be, details of planned arrangements including accommodation.

If third party organisations are involved and have a role or some responsibility as part of the emergency plan it is essential that they are included in the planning process. A copy of the emergency plan should be provided to all participants as part of the fieldwork briefing along with a list of emergency contact numbers.

Contingency Planning
A contingency plan is one which can be put in place to ensure that fieldwork can continue safely in all foreseeable circumstances of change - e.g. bad weather, transport failure, loss  of documentation etc.

For some activities, documenting a contingency plan will become an integral part of the Fieldwork Assessment. In other circumstances the contingency plan will be drawn up dynamically in response to illness, changes to leadership ratios (staff: student ratio), changes to the weather and loss or theft of money.

Case Study: an example of dynamic contingency planning
During fieldwork in Scotland, there was heavy snowfall and the weather conditions deteriorated to such an extent that it was deemed too dangerous to travel on remote, untreated roads.  As all Fieldwork participants had appropriate clothing with them, as identified in the Fieldwork Assessment, a short observational walk was planned instead and the remaining time was made up with classroom-based activities.