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Crisis Response IT System

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 12 December 2013

In my written statement of 21 February 2012, Official Report, column 74WS, I updated the House on the changes the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had made to its response to overseas crises. This statement updates the House on further progress made by the FCO as part of its commitment to excellence in all areas of its work.

The review into the FCO’s response to the multiple crises of 2011 highlighted that our crisis IT system, LOCATE, did not provide a platform suitable for the 21st century. I therefore made a commitment that the FCO would introduce a new crisis IT system for British nationals affected by crises overseas. Our new crisis IT system, the crisis hub, is now fully operational.

The crisis hub is designed to make it easier for British nationals affected by a crisis overseas to ask for help, whether this is by phoning the FCO’s crisis hotline, sending a text message, completing a form online or speaking to a member of our crisis team on the ground. The FCO used the crisis hub to help British nationals in the aftermath of the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. It was a highly effective part of the Government response, giving our crisis teams around the world access to the same information.

The crisis hub is one of the many changes which the FCO has introduced to its crisis response since the review of consular evacuation procedures in 2011. These changes include a cadre of crisis response experts, a requirement for all of our overseas missions to have their own crisis management plan, which is regularly tested in exercises, and a refurbished crisis centre with space for over 100 staff from across Government to work together on a continuous, 24-hour basis during crises. Our improved crisis response structures have supported our response to 25 crises in the past 24 months.

Crises will continue to occur, many without warning. British nationals should sign up for the FCO’s free country-specific travel advice alerts via email or social media, and updates will then be sent to them. In a crisis our latest advice will be published online and publicised by our crisis response teams in London and overseas. Continuous improvement will remain at the heart of the culture of the FCO’s crisis management department, driven by a thorough and objective assessment after each crisis of lessons learnt and areas for improvement.