The British Red Cross is calling for the law to be changed so that voluntary groups are included in planning responses to emergencies and disasters.
It says emergency services, Government bodies and councils may not take local knowledge into account because they are not legally bound to involve volunteers.
In its report, People Power in Emergencies, the charity looks at how far local resilience forums, which lead local council emergency planning, factor in the knowledge and skills offered by the voluntary and community sector.
It says collaboration is variable, but responses to emergencies tend to focus chiefly on 'command and control' mechanisms.
It recommends a 'people at the heart of planning' checklist for local resilience forums, and an amendment to the Civil Contingencies Act, Regulations and Guidance.
This would require local resilience forums to plan a more ‘person-centred’ approach.
Mike Adamson of the British Red Cross said: ‘This is about showing how we complement the work of our partners.
'It’s also about giving a voice to those affected by emergencies and highlighting local challenges, sensitivities and opportunities to help people survive and recover better.
'It’s people and communities who know best what their needs are and how they want them addressed.'
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