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Red Cross launches vital emergency service for people affected by fires in North Yorkshire

For immediate release 23 January 2012
For further information Catherine Bates
Contact number 0115 850 5954 / 07834527105

From Wednesday 1 February volunteers from the British Red Cross will be on-hand to give vital support to victims of fires, floods and similar emergencies in North Yorkshire.

An open day is being held on Saturday 28 January at Clifton Moor Retail Park (car park outside Tesco) between 10am-3pm to celebrate the launch of the new fire and emergency support service (FESS) and give local people interested in volunteering a chance to find out more.

The Red Cross are launching the service in partnership with North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, who will call on the Red Cross when they are attending a fire to give support to the individuals or families affected.

Trained Red Cross volunteers will arrive at the scene of the fire or emergency in a specially adapted campervan, which has a comfortable seating area and is fully stocked with essential items like food, clothing and toiletries. From the shelter of the vehicle the volunteers can give practical support, like helping people find alternative accommodation or start making an insurance claim, as well as vital emotional support.

The Red Cross are launching the scheme in North Yorkshire after successfully running the service across West and South Yorkshire as well as Hull and East Riding.

Dee Phillips, from Cottingham has volunteered for the Red Cross for almost 25 years and set up Red Cross’s fire and emergency support service in Hull in 1993. Since then she has helped hundreds of people in incidents across Hull and East Riding.

Last year she was asked to use her wealth of knowledge and experience to set up the service for North Yorkshire as service co-ordinator. She said: “We’re proud and excited to start working with North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service – while they deal with the fire or emergency at hand we are there to support the people affected.

“Over the years I’ve realised that there’s often more to a fire than fighting flames. For the people involved it can be a really traumatic experience, and it’s our job to give them whatever support we can.

“Someone could just need to use a phone, some fresh, clean clothes or warm up a baby’s bottle  - they all seem like small things, but when you may have been left homeless or lost everything in a fire they can be incredibly important. They may also need someone to talk to and support them, which can make a huge difference at such a distressing time.”

Station Manager Cecil Pugh, from North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said: “We are delighted to be able to work with the Red Cross on this initiative. The consequences of a serious fire or flood on the occupants of a home can often be devastating. Whilst we do everything we can to prevent fires occurring in the first place, and deal with them speedily and effectively when they do occur, there are often occasions when we wish we could do more for those affected. This new service will enable us to offer the fantastic support the Red Cross are able to provide and I have no doubt that it will be of great benefit to the communities York and North Yorkshire in the future.”

The vehicle will be based at Acomb fire station, near York and the Red Cross aims to reach the scene of a fire or emergency within 90 minutes of being called out by the fire service's control room. From the end of February, a satellite team of volunteers and a vehicle will also operate from Scarborough to make sure that they can reach people in rural areas in the north of the county.

The Red Cross are urgently appealing for local people to get in touch who are interested in becoming a volunteer for the service. Dee said: “We currently have ten local volunteers to help run the service between Monday and Thursday but with more help we are hoping to be able to offer the service seven days a week.”

“We’re looking for the kind of person who can bring empathy and a sense of calm to difficult and stressful situations and who could commit to being on-call for just one or two nights a week. We will be able to provide training and uniforms, as well as the opportunity to benefit from some training from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.”

“There is so much to gain from volunteering at the Red Cross. I’ve made life-long friends and gained some invaluable skills, so I would urge anyone who is interested to get in touch or come along to the open day on Saturday.”

The open day is a chance for people interested in volunteering or learning more about the service to come along and take a look around the FESS vehicle, chat to Dee and meet other Red Cross volunteers. Representatives from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will also be there with one of their fire engines.

If you’re interested becoming a volunteer or finding our more about the service contact Dee Phillips on DeePhillips@redcross.org.uk , call 01904 691191 to leave a message or visit www.redcross.org.uk.

- Ends -

For more information, please go to www.redcross.org.uk  

Notes to editors

Reporters and/or photographers are invited to attend the open day on Saturday 28 January at Clifton Moor Retail Park (car park outside Tesco) between 10am-3pm.
Interviews will be available with Dee Phillips, Red Cross co-ordinator for FESS in North Yorkshire who can discuss the service and give a tour of the FESS vehicle.

Photo opportunity: Volunteers and staff from the Red Cross and representative from North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue service with Red Cross fire and emergency support vehicle and fire engine.

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