A unique service giving practical and emotional help to people suffering from the trauma of a house fire, flood or other serious emergency has made a "huge difference" to people's lives since it was launched in Shropshire.
The Red Cross fire and emergency support (FES) service has been called to more than 50 incidents helping scores of people at all times of day and night since it was set up a year ago with the support of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Trained volunteers working from a specially adapted vehicle providing “a safe haven” are called out by fire control in Shrewsbury on the orders of the fire and rescue service's incident commander when people need assistance in an emergency.
Baby food, bottles and hot soup helped a family after a kitchen fire left them without a cooker at their Westbury home; support was given during the distress of a pet’s death in a Telford house fire and the family was also given replacement clothes and toiletries, while insurance information and emotional support helped another family after a house fire at St Martins.
Shocked and distressed farm workers who witnessed a farming accident involving a colleague were given emotional support from the trained FES volunteers.
In the early hours of a cold November morning last year, one family were left without any electricity when a faulty dishwasher started a kitchen fire. The FES vehicle provided a warm shelter while the team gave out hot drinks as the family waited for loss adjusters to arrive.
The team was called to support a householder to look for alternative accommodation when a Ludlow home was flooded by the central heating system and another distressed home owner was given emotional support when she went back into her Shifnal property, damaged in a house fire.
These were just some of the people helped by the Red Cross volunteers in Shropshire after suffering damage or losing their home after a major fire, flood or serious incident.
“Since the British Red Cross fire and emergency support service became operational in Shropshire, it has made a huge difference to the lives of many members of the public who have been unfortunate to experience the effects of fire,” said Group Commander Neil Griffiths, of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
“For those affected by a crisis, the chaos doesn’t end when the fire engine drives away from the incident. Kitchens and bedrooms, or often whole premises can be left uninhabitable after a fire. Sentimental items and basic amenities such as food, clothing and phones may also be lost.
“In the Fire and Rescue Service we are well trained and equipped to deal with removing people from danger and making the area safe but the British Red Cross is trained to offer the emotional support that people often need at such times.
“This is where FES can really assist because they deal with the immediate physical needs in terms of washing facilities, food and clothes and also help them come to terms with the emotional trauma that undoubtedly occurs.”
More volunteers with the right qualities to look after people in a crisis are needed to join FES.
“We currently have a strong team of volunteers who are very dedicated to helping people in their hour of need but are always looking to grow the team so we are able to offer more support,” said Lindsay Herd, British Red Cross Emergency Response Manager.
“Volunteers and staff are trained to provide emotional support which means that the British Red Cross can care for those affected, refusing to ignore people in crisis.
“If you think you have the qualities to look after those in crisis, please get in touch, and call me, Lindsay Herd, on 01743 457803.”
The FES vehicle was paid for by Red Cross funds and a donation of £19,000 from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
FES is already well established in more than 40 counties across the UK, helping thousands of people every year after a house fire, flood or similar emergency