Help for Shropshire people affected by house fires

Photo of mainly white van on the station yard

Shropshire’s new Fire and Emergency Support Service vehicle

A unique service to offer practical and emotional support to people affected by house fires and other emergencies has been launched by the British Red Cross in conjunction with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Called out by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Red Cross volunteers will arrive at the scene of a fire in their specially-adapted vehicle to offer help to people who may have suffered damage to or lost their home after a major fire, flood or serious incident.

Shrewsbury Station Manager Neil Griffiths said, “When I first heard the idea of this being established in Shropshire I was really pleased that we would be able to provide more support to people in emergencies.

“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.”

Volunteers provide practical help, advice and comfort and a place of refuge in a new specially-adapted vehicle as part of the Red Cross fire and emergency support (FES) service.

Trained to help in a crisis, volunteers will be ready for emergency call outs from 6pm to 6am weekdays and 24 hours over the weekends covering the Shropshire area.

Based at Shrewsbury Fire Station, the vehicle will be “a safe haven” for those affected by an emergency - as firefighters make the area safe.

Group photo - staff standing in front of the van

FES volunteers with members of White Watch Shrewsbury and (far left) Chief Fire Officer John Redmond and Red Cross operations director Andrew Strong

The Red Cross vehicle is equipped with items people may need in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, including clothing, hygiene items, baby food, children’s toys and even pet treats.

As well as providing immediate support, the Red Cross will give people information on insurance, help with temporary accommodation for them and their pets and signpost them to other organisations that can help after the initial crisis has passed.

The brand new partnership has been praised by both Shropshire’s outgoing Chief Fire Officer and the newly appointed chief.

Chief Fire Officer John Redmond said: I am confident that our communities will benefit hugely from their establishment in Shropshire. As our firefighters concentrate on resolving incidents safely we can be reassured that the people involved are being looked after by well trained volunteers offering emotional support and shelter at their time of need.”

FES is already well established in more than 40 counties across the UK and Paul Raymond, who has just retired after 30 years service, said he was pleased to see the introduction of the scheme in Shropshire at the end of his fire career.

“The introduction of FES in Shropshire is something I have been keen to do for a number of years having seen the benefits it can bring to those affected by emergencies in other parts of the UK.”

The new vehicle was paid for by Red Cross funds and a donation of £19,000 from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Lindsay Herd, Red Cross emergency response and recovery manager, said: “Losing your home is a devastating experience and when people are under stress they can react in a range of ways. Often they are very upset and our volunteers are able to support people in these situations with sensitivity.

“Few people realise how much damage even a small fire can create. Smoke penetrates everywhere. All carpets, soft furniture and clothing will be affected and invariably have to be replaced.

“The Red Cross is really excited about bringing this service to Shropshire as it gives us an opportunity to help people in need of support during traumatic times.”

Volunteers have been trained by Shropshire firefighters in how to observe cordons and stay safe at incidents and will participate in a number of exercises over the coming months.

18th July, 2013