accessibility & help

Volunteers help residents during Kent power cut

23 July 2009

Emergency response UK (day)BRCA young mother and her one-week-old baby were among those helped by British Red Cross volunteers during a four-day power cut in Kent and Bexley.

Red Cross teams worked around the clock up until 10.30pm yesterday (Wednesday 22 July) to help the most vulnerable affected by the large power outage across parts of Erith, Orpington, Dartford, Bexleyheath and Crayford. Up to 100,000 homes and businesses were initially left without power after a suspected vandal attack which caused a fire and damaged four major electricity circuits.

More than 30 volunteers from Kent, Sussex and London responded to the emergency at the request of EDF Energy Networks and London Borough of Bexley, assisting more than 300 vulnerable people who were left without power. They used several specially equipped vehicles to provide hot drinks, as well as handing out torches and making door-to-door visits and phone calls to some of the most vulnerable people affected.

Amazing volunteers

Young mother Hayley Shaw, from Dartford, asked the Red Cross for help for her and her one-week-old baby. Having no transport of her own she was unable to get out to buy nappies or milk. She was also unable to warm her baby’s bottle or sterilise it.

A volunteer smiles at a woman and her infantBen Stickley (BRC)Hayley said: “I don’t know what I would have done without the Red Cross. The volunteers have been amazing. The thing is, they don’t have to do this. It’s just so impressive that they do. Most people wouldn’t help the way they do. I’m so grateful to them, they have made such a difference.“It was so difficult knowing that I couldn’t get the things I needed for my baby. I was really worried about being able to heat bottles for feeding and sterilise them. Also, I had been out shopping for nappies when the cut happened and as the shops then closed I wasn’t able to get any.”

No hot food for days

Red Cross volunteers also helped a blind woman and her husband on the third day of the power cut in Dartford. Arriving at the house, the volunteers found that the elderly couple had not had a hot meal or drink for three days as all of their appliances were electric.

The volunteers gave them hot water and a hot meal from their fire and emergency support service vehicle.

Red Cross volunteer John Franklin said: “They were over the moon with what we were able to do for them. They hadn’t wanted to trouble anyone but were so grateful for a hot meal. They had just been eating bananas and bread for the last three days and just wanted something hot.

"They kept asking what they had to pay for the service and couldn’t quite believe it was all free. This is what it’s all about really; it’s great to be able to make a difference.”

The team also visited three care homes, all with no power, as part of the response. They gave out hot water, drinks and torches to the elderly residents.

Becoming vulnerable

Red Cross volunteers and a fire and emergency support service vehicle were based outside the council offices and train station providing assistance to passing people. The team gave out hot drinks and advice as well as  torches, batteries and analogue phones to people who needed them.

Jane Roberts, operations director for Kent and Sussex, said: “It can seem surprising that something as simple as a power cut can lead to people becoming vulnerable. But we know from experience that some families and individuals, for example the elderly needing stairlifts or those with an illness, need basic practical help such as torches or a hot drink, or sometimes just a reassuring chat.”

The call-out in Kent comes as part of a partnership with EDF Energy Networks in which the Red Cross helps communities suffering from power failure by offering practical and emotional support.

Find out how to prepare for blackouts

Become a fire and emergency support service volunteer