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Support for Gloucestershire people affected by house fires

1 August 2012

Gloucestershire is to get its own dedicated team of emergency support volunteers this summer when the British Red Cross launches its Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS).

The service, which is run by trained volunteers, helps people cope after they have had a fire or any emergency by providing practical help, advice and comfort. Gloucestershire’s FESS service will be based at the new fire station in Shepherd Road, Tuffley, Gloucester.

The Red Cross is now calling for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer to get in touch and find out more.

Dan Spencer, Red Cross community response services coordinator, said: “The Red Cross is really excited about bringing this service to Gloucestershire, as it gives us an opportunity to help more vulnerable people in need of support.

“Volunteering is a hugely rewarding experience and I would encourage anyone who is interested to get in touch to find out more.”

More than 300 people across the UK are helped by FESS every year and the support volunteers give helps people plan how to recover from their situation. Volunteers are paged to the scene by the emergency services and arrive in their specially adapted FESS vehicle.

This is equipped with items people may need in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, including clothing, hygiene items, baby food, toys for children and even treats for pets.

It may be many months before a family can re-occupy their home so the service helps people think about how to deal with the days ahead. Experience has shown the faster people are given guidance the shorter the road to recovery. 

As well as providing immediate support, the Red Cross can help signpost people to other services including;

> free insurance advice
> temporary accommodation, including pet accommodation providers
> advice on claims management/business interruption 
> longer-term emotional support and guidance
> access to other Red Cross services

Dan Spencer added: “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. 

“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. Sometimes they need someone or something to blame. Our volunteers are able to support people in these situations with sensitivity.”

Jon Hall, Chief Fire Officer of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are delighted to be working more closely with the Red Cross and look forward to their support for victims when they are at their most vulnerable. The aims of our two organisations are so closely linked that this alliance makes perfect sense.”

The service will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and cover all parts of Gloucestershire. Volunteers will be given full training and a flexible monthly rota means you can volunteer for as many or as few shifts as you want. 

If you would like to find out more about the FESS service, or are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Holly James on 0117 3012632 or email HJames@redcross.org.uk

ENDS

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