accessibility & help

Volunteers respond at stricken Southwark tower block

18 November 2009

Volunteer handing out hot drinksBRCAfter over 100 people were left with no power or water in their 18-storey Southwark tower block for over 24 hours, Southwark Borough Council called on the Red Cross to help.

Emergency response volunteers arrived to find over 100 residents from 78 flats with no power, heat or water and not having had a hot drink or meal for 24 hours. The power failure had knocked out all of the building's systems and left residents struggling to stay warm and unable to wash or even flush toilets.

Distressed residents

Keiran Smith, emergency planning officer, said: "Our volunteers had to work extremely hard. The lifts were also affected so all welfare had to be carried up the stairs to vulnerable people.

"We went door-to-door to assess people's needs. Everyone we spoke to had some need we were able to help with, ranging from hot drinks, through to blankets, hygiene packs and emotional support. Many of the residents were very distressed due to the length of time the power had been out and the weather conditions.

"Seventy-eight properties would not normally sound like a large call-out, but when these are vertical it adds a significant challenge to the response. Our volunteers helped over 100 people in a cold and difficult situation with good humour and enthusiasm."

Cat-astrophe averted

Volunteer with rescued catBRCAs well as helping the tower block's human residents, the team was called on to perform an animal rescue after a distressed pet cat fell off a balcony and broke both wrists and injured its face.

Fortunately, one of the responding volunteers was a veterinary student and provided first aid to the cat until the RSPCA arrived to take it to an emergency vet.

Twenty-four emergency response volunteers and staff  responded with specially adapted vehicles to help residents in the tower block, remaining on site for hours.

Become an emergency response volunteer

Find out more about emergency response in London

More about London Red Cross