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Snow chaos continues as volunteers help hundreds

24 December 2009

Ambulance in the snowJanet Meehan (BRC)Red Cross volunteers have helped hundreds of people across the UK as snow and ice have caused chaos around the country. Trained teams have been out through the week supporting the ambulance service, running rest centres and visiting vulnerable people cut off from electricity and gas supplies.

Four days of support in Caddington

After water from a burst main entered a gas main in Caddington, supplies were cut off to nearly 1,700 people. In addition, temporary heaters given out to the stricken residents caused a power surge, cutting off electricity to the area.

Over 30 Red Cross emergency response volunteers staffed a rest centre at Caddington sports and social club and a separate drop-in centre from 20-23 December. They also made house-to-house visits to check on residents' welfare.

South West ambulance cover

On 23 December, Red Cross volunteers provided extra support to South Western Ambulance Services Trust, to help it respond to increased numbers of call-outs due to the extreme weather.

Icy conditions across Somerset and Devon have put the ambulance service under increased pressure triggering the call-out of six volunteers in three 4x4 Red Cross ambulances to do routine patient transfers. This gave the ambulance service more capacity to deal with emergencies. Two of the ambulances have been deployed in Somerset and one in North Devon.

Graham Kerridge, Red Cross service manager for emergency response in the South West, says: "Situations like this show just how dedicated our volunteers are - remaining on standby to help out at a moment's notice. This is particularly true this time, as we approach the festive period."

Highlands mercy dash

In the Highlands on 21 December, a rapid response crew of two trained volunteers made a 158 mile mercy dash to get two kidney patients to hospital for vital dialysis treatment.

The crew, in a 4x4 vehicle, left Inverness at 3am to pick up the patients in Helmsdale and Balintore and transport them to Raigmore hospital back in the Highland capital. They made the trip in heavy snow and temperatures of -15c. Later in the day, as the blizzards worsened, rapid response crews were on standby in Inverness and Aberdeen.

Ian Rideout, Red Cross operations director for the north of Scotland, said: "The kidney patients were critical cases. Missing their dialysis sessions could have been life threatening. Our rapid response vehicles are used in conditions where normal service vehicles cannot  get through."

Read how to prepare for severe winter weather

Read a blog about our work in winter emergencies