Fire and flood aid needs volunteers

One of the Fire and Emergency Support Service vehicles used to help families affected by fires and floods
One of the Fire and Emergency Support Service vehicles used to help families affected by fires and floods

Volunteers are needed to help run a unique service which provides vital help to families affected by house fires or floods.

A mini-bus kitted out with wash-room facilities, hot drinks, snacks and a mobile phone is used as a temporary shelter to help people made homeless after an emergency.

The Fire and  Emergency Support service (FESS) volunteers. Pictures by Alison Foy

The Fire and Emergency Support service (FESS) volunteers. Pictures by Alison Foy

It is the brainchild of Lancashire fire service and the Red Cross.

“It’s a brilliant concept and more importantly a desperately-needed refuge for families in need,” said John Taylor, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

“If the victims’ homes are uninhabitable then the emergency vehicle is a place of warmth and comfort with friendly-faced volunteers until they can be placed in a more permanent shelter.”

In 2014 the service – which is run by volunteers – was called out to 57 homes in Lancashire and helped 92 people in their hour of need.

It’s a brilliant concept and more importantly a desperately-needed refuge for families in need

Last year saw the emergency vehicle help 87 people and 17 pets.

Alison Foy, from the Red Cross’s Fire and Emergency Support Service, emphasised the role played by volunteers in the project.

“As well as manning the vehicle they also offer emotional support to fire victims and the choice of new clothing if needed and hygiene packs,” she said.

“More importantly we have created a follow-up service after the incident to assist families with further advice, applying for grants if needed and helping with any court proceedings when making a claim.

“This is a project which has been running since 1997 in Lancashire and over the years our volunteers have supported hundreds of people in the immediate aftermath of an emergency incident like fire or flooding.”

The mini-bus acts as an emergency safe haven and gives families a temporary roof over their heads until contact can be made with relatives or alternative accommodation.

With an on-board crew of two volunteers for every call-out, each emergency vehicle is also equipped with comfortable seating and holds up to 10 people.

The Red Cross FESS is seeking volunteers to help with its ongoing service.

For more information contact Alison Foy at afoy@redcross.org.uk