Civil Contingencies Secretariat

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Civil Contingencies Secretariat
Agency overview
FormedJuly 2001; 22 years ago (2001-07)
Annual budget£10 million[1]
Agency executive
  • Roger Hargreaves, Director
Parent agencyCabinet Office

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS), created in July 2001, is the executive department of the British Cabinet Office responsible for emergency planning in the UK. The role of the secretariat is to ensure the United Kingdom's resilience against disruptive challenge, and to do this by working with others to anticipate, assess, prevent, prepare, respond and recover. Until its creation in 2001, emergency planning in Britain was the responsibility of the Home Office. The CCS also supports the Civil Contingencies Committee, also known as COBR (or popularly – but incorrectly – as COBRA).


In the aftermath of the Y2K bug scare, the fuel protests of 2000, flooding in autumn 2000, and the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001 the UK government felt that the existing emergency management policies and structures were inadequate to deal with natural or man-made disasters, and formed the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in July 2001, located in the Cabinet Office.[2][3][4] Soon after the 9/11 attacks the remit of the CCS was expanded to include mitigating the consequences of a large scale terrorist attack.[5]

Until 2001 the Home Office carried out emergency preparedness planning through its Emergency Planning Division, which in turn replaced the Home Defence and Emergency Services Division. From 1935 to 1971 a separate department, called the Civil Defence Department (in the early years the Air Raid Precautions Department, Ministry of Home Security), existed.

Remit and reporting[edit]

In 2002 David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, stated, in a written reply to a parliamentary question:

The remit of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat is to make the United Kingdom more effective in planning for, dealing with, and learning lessons from emergencies and disasters.

— David Blunkett, [6]

He went on to state:

The Secretariat services the Civil Contingencies Committee, which I chair and in addition as part of the Cabinet Office reports to my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister (Mr. Blair) through the Cabinet Secretary (Sir Richard Wilson).

— David Blunkett, [6]

The Civil Contingencies Committee, often informally referred to as COBR from the name of the room used, is a forum for ministers and senior officials to discuss and manage serious (level 2) and catastrophic (level 3) emergencies.[7][8]

In 2010, the secretariat launched an emergency communications service based on the Skynet military communication satellite system, called High Integrity Telecommunications System, for use by UK police and other emergency services, primarily at Strategic Command Centres and at major events and emergencies. It replaced the earlier Emergency Communications Network.[9][10]

Serco operates the Emergency Planning College in Easingwold, North Yorkshire under contract to the secretariat.[11]


The secretariat is led by a director and initially comprised five divisions dealing with:[12]

  • Assessment – assessing known risks and scanning for future potential risks
  • Capability Management – working with departments facing potential disruption, and advising on how to prevent or manage crisis
  • Communication and Learning – including the News Co-ordination Centre in the Cabinet Office and the Emergency Planning College
  • National Resilience Framework – developing partnerships between governmental agencies, voluntary agencies, local communities and private sector groups
  • Programme Co-ordination – providing secretariat support for the Civil Contingencies Committee

In 2012, the CCS still had five sections, with a slightly different emphasis:[13]

  • Capabilities
  • Local Response Capabilities
  • Emergency Planning College
  • Horizon Scanning & Response
  • Natural Hazards Team

Director of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat[edit]

Documents issued[edit]

The CCS has produced the following documents:

  • Emergency Response and Recovery which provides non-statutory guidance to accompany the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. First published in November 2005, it was last updated in October 2013.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gummer, Ben (21 December 2016). "Civil Contingencies Secretariat: Written question 57940". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  2. ^ Cornish 2007, pp. 10, 15.
  3. ^ a b Sylvester 2001.
  4. ^ Tesh 2012.
  5. ^ Cornish 2007, p. 10.
  6. ^ a b Hansard 2002.
  7. ^ BBC News 2006.
  8. ^ UK Parliament 2011.
  9. ^ "HITS Information Pack" (PDF). Cabinet Office, Civil Contingencies Secretariat. September 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  10. ^ "High Integrity Telecommunications System" (PDF). Cabinet Office. 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  11. ^ "About the EPC". Emergency Planning College. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  12. ^ Select Committee on Defence 2002.
  13. ^ Barber 2012.
  14. ^ BiP Contracts.
  15. ^ Revill 2007.
  16. ^ Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
  17. ^ NIHR.
  18. ^ UKIESF 2016.
  19. ^ "House of Lords".
  20. ^ Cornish 2007, pp. 16.
  21. ^ Publications.

External links[edit]