Issue details

24/00012 - Contingency contract to provide emergency facilities in the event of a mass fatality incident

Proposed Decision:


To give delegated authority to the Director for Growth and Communities, to take any necessary actions to enter into a contract for the provision of temporary emergency facilities, including mortuary facilities, in the event of a mass fatality incident



Reason for the decision


KCC currently has a contingency contract for the provision of temporary emergency facilities in the event of a mass fatality incident. That contract expires on 31st May 2024, having been previously extended.


Whilst the retainer element of the contract represents relatively small expenditure of approximately £4100 per year, in the event that it is required to be called upon the expenditure is likely to be in excess of £1m.


Background – Provide brief additional context


KCC has legal duties to plan and prepare for emergencies which may occur in Kent. The potential for an emergency to occur which results in mass fatalities is recognised. In relatively recent years other local authorities have had to manage such situations including the Grenfell Tower fire, the Shoreham air crash and the Manchester Arena bombing.


A mass fatality incident is defined as being an incident where one or more of the following key elements are present:


·      there are multiple deceased (actual or potential);

·      the nature of the incident is likely to make identification of the deceased difficult;

·      some or many of the deceased are lying in difficult to access locations;

·      there are fragmented human remains;

·      the incident was as a result of terrorist or criminal activity;

·      hazards are present at the scene, for example, asbestos, chemicals, radiological debris, that need to be considered before recovering the deceased, property and evidence;

·      mortuary capacity is, or may become, exceeded or overwhelmed.


There are existing arrangements in place to designate one or more hospital mortuaries in the event of such an incident. If the incident were to be of large scale or occur at a time which corresponded with peak mortuary occupation, for example during winter pressures, then local facilities might be unable to cope and emergency, temporary facilities would be required to allow for the management and identification of the deceased whilst maintaining appropriate dignity and respect.


KCC holds the existing contract on behalf of the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) partners. The contract allows for KRF partners to call down elements of it to support their roles and responsibilities. Each partner organisation is responsible for meeting the costs of the elements that they call down. It is proposed that the new contract will be on the same basis.


Options (other options considered but discarded)


-     Do nothing. This would leave KCC exposed to not meeting its duties to provide the facilities necessary to accommodate the coroners in carrying out their work and also to significant reputational risk in the event that there is nowhere to accommodate the deceased with dignity and respect out of public view.

-     Rely on national government, local mutual aid agreements or military support. National government no longer maintains capability in this area. Mutual aid agreements are already part of the emergency plan for this type of event, but they are limited in scope and are unlikely to be able to provide the physical accommodation for the deceased which would be required. Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) may be sought in such an incident but it cannot be guaranteed and, again, is unlikely to be able to provide appropriate physical accommodation. MACA requires that all civil options have been exhausted before it can be undertaken.


How the proposed decision supports Framing Kent’s Future 2022-2026: (


The decision concerns the provision of infrastructure for the community in the event of an emergency and forms part of KCC’s role in making Kent’s communities safe.


How the proposed decision supports: Securing Kent’s Kents Future - Budget Recovery Strategy.pdf


The decision results from a review of an existing contract. The new contract will be of a ‘call off’ nature, allowing KCC to only call off the elements it needs to support its duties. It will also provide the framework to allow partners to call off elements for their own purposes but will provide the means and clarity to ensure that KCC only pays for those elements which it calls off itself.






Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;

Decision status: For Determination

Notice of proposed decision first published: 27/02/2024

Decision due: Not before 27th Mar 2024 by Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services
Reason: To allow 28 day notice period required under Exeuctive Decision regulations

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Lead director: Stephanie Holt-Castle

Department: Growth, Environment & Transport

Contact: Mark Rolfe, Interim Head of Community Protection Email: Email:


The proposed decision was considered and endorsed at the Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee on 5 March 2024.

Financial implications: The annual retainer cost for the current contract is approximately £4100. In the event that the contract is called upon, the expenditure will vary greatly depending on the nature and scale of the incident, but experience of other authorities shows that this can run to multiple millions of pounds. A mass fatality incident which results in expenditure will represent an unfunded pressure on KCC’s finances which is likely to need to be met from reserves.

Legal implications: The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 defines Kent County Council as a category 1 responder in relation to emergencies. As a result, KCC has a duty to plan for emergencies with a view to being able to continue to carry out its own duties and also to take action to reduce, control or mitigate the effects of an emergency. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 defines Kent County Council as the relevant authority for the four coroner areas in Kent and Medway. As a result, KCC has a duty to provide such officers and other staff as are needed for the coroners to carry out their functions together with appropriate accommodation for the carrying out of those functions.

Equalities implications: Equalities implications: An equalities impact assessment has not been carried out for the placing of this contingency contract. Because of the nature of the contract, insufficient data is known, and can be known, to inform proper consideration of equalities impacts. The KRF contingency plan requires that an equalities impact assessment is carried out in the event that this contract is called down. This is the stage where sufficient will be known to inform proper consideration. Data Protection implications: None