Rapid identification of vulnerable households in an emergency or crisis


  1. Project outputs
  2. Project timeline

This project, led by Westmorland & Furness Council (previously Cumbria Council), will investigate the scaling of a digital tool (VIPER) for the rapid identification of vulnerable households by emergency teams during a crisis. The tool was developed by Cumbria’s Local Resilience Forum to be used by regional partners and will replace manual, inefficient, paper-driven processes.

The key requirement is to be able to access the tool across a wide range of agencies at an input (data processing) and output (welfare check) level, as there may be multiple agencies working across an incident.

The property profile basis of VIPER also ensures that there are very limited GDPR concerns.

The ability to map properties on any geographic scale provides quick and concise situational awareness for agencies in a crisis. This reduces the risk of lives being lost, or casualties being created, among the most vulnerable during a major incident.

Project outputs

The following products will be produced as a result of this project phase:

  • project website – all of the final versions of the products list will be published on the project website
  • user research
  • service patterns
  • feasibility assessment
  • technical and data architecture models
  • data standards
  • information governance guidance
  • communication and events
  • updated prototype – the key output at the end of this project phase will be an updated prototype which will be tested across all of the partners listed for this project

During the project, all participating organisations will have shared access via a number of digital tools.

Project timeline

March 2023

The project is awarded £139,000 in funding through Round 6 of the Local Digital Fund to begin an alpha phase.

April 2023

Craig from Westmorland and Furness Council discussing their Local Digital Fund project roadmap
Craig from Westmorland and Furness Council discussing their project roadmap
Since the Local Digital Round 6 welcome event, the Westmorland and Furness project team have scheduled a kick-off meeting with partner councils for 16 May. The team has received a quote from Netcall for technical professional services to assist with development, and they have started conversations with potential third-party delivery partners.

The next sprint will be defined after the kick-off meeting, and the team expects to confirm the project roadmap, progress the procurement of a delivery partner, and identify roles and responsibilities.

June 2023

The project team had their second meeting on Thursday 8 June, with representatives from partner councils. Their project lead shared the timeline for procuring suppliers and discussed an upcoming workshop event scheduled for Monday 10 July at Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue.

July 2023

The project team recently organised a successful user workshop involving stakeholders from the North East and Cumbria region. They focused on project governance, stakeholder mapping, communication plans, and conducted an interactive demonstration of the VIPER system in Cumbria. Tailwind Digital began working on the project and facilitated this workshop on Monday 10 July.

In upcoming weeks, the team will confirm project governance based on stakeholder feedback. They will adopt a workstream-based approach for effective management.

Further upcoming tasks include working with Data and Information Governance staff from partners, raising awareness of VIPER, resolving data sharing issues and applying Cumbria’s learnings to the North East.

August 2023

The project team have developed a template data sharing model which will help to map out the organisations in the North East that hold data on vulnerable people, and their ability and openness to share this in an emergency response situation. They have also developed a communications plan for their first email campaign to a range of different audiences.

The project team’s next focus will be to continue developing their data mapping prototype to include stakeholder organisations and begin exploring options for the prototype VIPER solution.

September 2023

A key achievement of this sprint for the team is the completion of their visual mapping tool designed to identify data linkages and sharing between organisations in North East and Cumbria. Although it still requires the population of accurate data, the tool now has the security capability to safeguard sensitive information.

To improve project visibility and support, the team has produced a briefing note and prepared a letter from the three North East Local Resilience Forums to go out to all councils in the North East.

In the final two weeks of September, the project team has been preparing for an in-person workshop which took place on the 25 September, featuring discussions on legal data sharing principles with contributions from the Data Protection Officer (DPO) at Westmorland and Furness and an external legal advisor. They’ve also outlined user requirements for the prototype, to be confirmed during the workshop.

Operational principles have been discussed and agreed upon with product owners, and these will be verified at the workshop. Collaboration with Northumbrian Water has started to exchange insights from a similar project, and a data sharing questionnaire has been shared with 12 local authority project partners.

In the next sprint, the team will be addressing data sharing challenges, legal foundations, and their integration into the prototype. They’ll also review user requirements and explore potential prototype solutions. Following the workshop, they plan to communicate decisions and agreements to wider stakeholders. They’re aiming to advance their Data Mapping Tool alongside the promotion of their data questionnaire to the 12 local authorities.

October 2023

The project team held their second in-person workshop on 25 September, with 30 participants from a range of organisations and backgrounds.

Project team from Westmorland & Furness Council at the VIPER Workshop

The group agreed the principles of the hub and spoke model of VIPER, along with data sharing agreements. They also further refined user stories and explored options for a prototype, which includes developing wireframes and discussing access models for users.

The group agreed to split into two key workstreams. One will focus on the development of a new VIPER prototype, combining wireframes and functional code. The other workstream will concentrate on further refining the cases where VIPER will be used in both emergency response and emergency planning. They will address outstanding questions regarding which users will have access under specific circumstances and at what level of detail.

Additionally, the team will be holding a session between Data Protection Officers (DPOs) from partner councils to agree the legal basis and model for data sharing with VIPER.