accessibility & help

Emergency communications book developed in Surrey wins Red Cross Excellence Award

11 April 2014

For immediate release Friday 11 April 2014
For further information Rebecca McIlhone
Contact number 0117 3012624 07525 128297

A picture-based resource designed to improve communications with disabled people during an emergency has won a British Red Cross Excellence Award at the charity’s National Assembly.

The Emergency Communications Book was developed by a team of Surrey-based Red Cross staff in partnership with multiple agencies and organisations, including Surrey County Council, Hampshire County Council, The Surrey Learning Disability Partnership Board and the Communication People.

The idea was conceived after Red Cross volunteers and emergency services took part in an emergency decontamination exercise (with the Fire Service, Ambulance personnel and St. John Ambulance) in Beaulieu, Hampshire involving a group of people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities who acted as casualties. The teams confronted a difficult barrier as the responders did not know sign language and often felt unsure of how to deal with the needs of the people with disabilities.

Dominic Briant, business development manager at the Red Cross explained: “The emergency exercise uncovered some real areas of learning for us as an organisation. We immediately set to work on creating a picture-based communications ‘tool’ to overcome this problem in the future.

“The book is designed with the beneficiary’s needs at its very heart. Disabled groups were closely involved in design, illustration and testing of the product and have offered ideas on how to develop it further. The finished product is waterproof, tear proof and tea proof. In terms of branding, colouring and design - it looks and feels great.”

The book enables people to communicate medical information, feelings or simply their food and drink choices during emergency situations. Red Cross has now distributed copies of the book to emergency response teams across the UK. The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is using an electronic copy of the guide in all their command modules.
Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Health and Wellbeing Board, Michael Gosling said: “Helping vulnerable people is at the heart of what the council and firefighters do. That’s why we were more than happy to play our part in creating a book that will be used nationally to help disabled people express their needs and concerns in even the most difficult of circumstances.”

Those judging the excellence awards, at the Red Cross National Assembly in Brighton on 21 March, were very impressed by the standard of the winning entry saying: “The team’s commitment to being inclusive is clear. The book is very innovative and addresses a clear beneficiary need. Well done.”

For more information on the British Red Cross please visit:


Notes to editors

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

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