Rising demand for Keynsham-based Red Cross team's help in times of crisis

Published on: 01 Sep 2017

A Keynsham-based team of volunteers who help people in times of crisis have seen a 23 per cent increase in call-outs in the first half of the year.

The British Red Cross emergency response service, which is based at Hicks Gate fire station, had one of its busiest weekends yet last month, attending a “chemical incident” in central Bristol, a flood and a fire.

On Friday, August 4, a volunteer crew had just completed a call-out and were returning the emergency response vehicle to Hicks Gate when they were deployed to the chemical incident in Gas Ferry Road, where residents had been evacuated from nearby flats. Bristol City Council had set up a community rest centre at Spike Island and 11 Red Cross volunteers were on the scene to help the residents.

The team stayed at the rest centre until residents were allowed to return to their homes in the early hours of the morning

Among the volunteers was mum-of-two Lynne Davies, 44, from Severnside, who has been a Red Cross emergency response volunteer since January.

She said: “We are there to help in that moment of crisis. Often people are in a state of shock if they’ve experienced a house fire or flood so having someone there who can give a bit of advice or just a cup of tea and a chat can be so helpful in trying to make sense of the chaos.

“When we are supporting at a rest centre, like the one at Spike Island, people may have left their property in a hurry and forgotten to pick up important medication or they may be worried about their homes or friends or family. Our role is to provide practical help, such as arranging replacement medication, or giving emotional support to try to reassure them as much as possible.”

This is the second time Lynne has supported at a rest centre since she started volunteering. In June, she travelled to London to help in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire as part of a huge response by Red Cross volunteers from across the country.

Lynne said: “I was deployed to the community assistance centre located close to the tower the day after the incident. I worked a night shift and I was busy throughout the night registering people, offering emotional support to people who were desperately searching for family and loved ones, or just listening to people who wanted someone to talk to about what they’d seen to try to process what had happened.

“While it was challenging at times, it was an incredibly rewarding experience. The Red Cross came together to help people facing a terrible crisis and I was proud to play my part.”

During the chemical incident in Bristol, an emergency call came in from Avon Fire and Rescue asking the team to support their crews at a flood and volunteers Tim and Hazel Fletcher left the rest centre to help before returning to Spike Island.

On the Sunday evening, volunteers Terence Jefferies and Tim Cann went to the aid of the Fishponds community as the fire service tackled a major blaze in a flat.

Jo Riches, emergency response officer at the Red Cross, said: “Responding to emergencies is at the heart of what the British Red Cross does here in the UK, but I’d still like to say an enormous thank you to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly over the weekend.

“Our call-out rate is certainly increasing, which is great because it shows that we are making a big difference to people in crisis. However, we need more people to become emergency response volunteers to allow us to reach even more people in need.”

Anyone who is interested in the role can email S&CIER@redcross.org.uk or call 07921 872429. More information about the Red Cross can be found at redcross.org.uk

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