More volunteers are needed to help a British Red Cross service which helps traumatised people who have had to leave home following a disaster.

The situation is so dire that sometimes the charity’s Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) has no-one on its rota.

From finding somewhere to sleep, to feeding the dog and keeping babies in nappies, the FESS helps West Yorkshire families who have had to leave home because of a disaster.

A team of about 20 volunteers with a mobile home travels the district helping people following fires, floods or evacuations, but the charity needs more Bradford people to sign up.

The 24-hour service, which is triggered by the fire service, is co-ordinated by Norman Brickley.

“Each month I’ve got to do a rota for the following month and I send out an email requesting availability, then I’ve to put all that together and do the rota. I did that yesterday and I’ve gaps where there’s no cover. There’s definitely a shortage,” he said.

Mr Brickley said at least six more volunteers were needed to provide a full cover and stop the same few people repeatedly being relied on.

When there are no volunteers to get out to people, support can be offered over the phone.

“But that’s not the same. It’s not like taking a vehicle out and bringing people inside the vehicle and supporting them,” Mr Brickley said.

Volunteers needed to be able to get to Idle, where the mobile home is based, within 20 minutes.

“Two volunteers will go from their homes, meet at Idle Fire Station and take the mobile home anywhere within West Yorkshire to offer immediate emotional and practical support.

“People come on board and we see what their needs are. We can ring relatives, friends, work colleagues and do whatever they need us to from that mobile home,” he said.

The free service, which started in 1998, can help people find temporary accommodation, explain how to make insurance claims, give clean-up tips and advice on replacing documents lost in fire.

It even has toothbrushes, pet food and nappies in its mobile home, which was bought five years ago, thanks to a £30,000 grant from Brit Insurance.

Mr Brickley said: “We don’t make decisions for clients, we allow clients to make their own decisions. It’s about letting them know what’s available and how you can get accommodation in the middle of the night.

“Because they’ve had to leave suddenly, they might not have any clothes with them. We have brand new clothes and second-hand clothes, we’ve got baby food so a little package can be put together.

“We’ve got toiletries right down to toothbrushes. We’re fully equipped with everything you could possibly need.

“We also have a first aid-kit and a camera to take pictures for insurance companies.”

Mr Brickley said there were many reasons for people to sign-up.

“It gives people something to do and gives something back to the community. They get quite a lot out of it such as first-aid training and new people skills. A lot of people have used this as a basis if they go for job interviews. You learn quite a lot about how to deal with people who are traumatised.

“It’s a big organisation is the Red Cross, and they feel part of a big family. They enjoy doing what they’ve done. When you’ve had a call-out and you’ve used your training, you get a kick out of it, knowing you’ve helped a family.”

Firefighters, who call out the FESS say its support is vital.

Crew commander Cameron Marshall said: “It releases our resources quickly so we can do other things. They’re invaluable for us to have.

“You can only spend so much time with somebody because we’ve other things to do, other fires to get to. We’ve got that moral support. We want to leave people knowing they’re alright.”

The fire service provides a safe base for the mobile vehicle and fuel.

WYFRS area manager Ian Bitcon said: “We are fully supportive of the service FESS provides which is of great benefit to the community at a much needed time.”


Volunteers will initially be interviewed by Fire and Emergency Support Service coordinator Norman Brickley.
They will then have references checked, a full CRB check and have to take part in training, covering first aid and learning how to deal with distraught people.
They also need to drive and be able to get to Idle within 20 minutes.
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