accessibility & help

Volunteers equipped to help vulnerable people cut off by snow

11 January 2010

Unimog emergency response vehicle in snowVictoria Wood-Matthews (BRC)As treacherous snow conditions persist, the Red Cross’ experienced volunteers – and its specialist emergency vehicles – are ensuring that help reaches vulnerable people in even the most inaccessible areas.

In the Bristol area, the icy and slippery conditions have led to a huge increase in demand for loaned wheelchairs from the Red Cross’ medical equipment service. But, given the conditions are so severe, reaching scores of injured people nursing fractures and broken bones has been quite a challenge.

Fortunately, the British Red Cross has been able to call on its Unimog vehicle – a 7.5 tonne, Mercedes 4x4 truck – which is usually used overseas to deliver international aid in mountainous or flooded terrain.

Delivery during crisis

John Cunningham, warehouse manager, said: “The Unimog is often associated with major international emergencies, such as flooding or natural disasters. We actually used the same model in Indonesia during the Asian Tsunami in 2004."

He added: “The vehicle will be invaluable during the current severe weather crisis because it can work in incredibly difficult conditions and reach places other vehicles can't. It can also carry about two and a half tons of cargo – in this case, much-needed wheelchairs for people who can't leave their homes.”

Colleen Cleevely, operations director, said: “We’ll be using the Unimog this week to tackle a backlog of  60 wheelchair deliveries. The huge capacity of this vehicle means that, thankfully, we can safely handle a large delivery even in these wintery conditions.”

Life-saving support

Red Cross Land Rover in deep snow© InfoIn the north of England, Red Cross community first responders in Matlock have been braving the severe weather and using their Land Rover 4x4 emergency vehicle to support the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).

Community first responders – based largely in rural or hard to reach areas – are trained to provide life-saving treatment to casualties before paramedics arrive on the scene. When tackling life-threatening conditions, the first ten minutes is the most crucial time.

In the past two weeks, the team’s four-wheel drive Land Rover has been invaluable in reaching people requiring urgent medical treatment but who are stuck in remote areas cut off by snow. Volunteer Carol Gregory said: “We’ve been out on foot as well as with the Land Rover to reach people cut off by the bad weather and needing emergency treatment.“

Across the country

As people continue to struggle with the plunging temperatures and icy conditions, British Red Cross emergency teams have been responding all week across the UK – including Wales, Scotland, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall.

In Surrey, for example, volunteers are using Land Rover 4x4 vehicles to help carers reach vulnerable people through heavy snow. And in Peterborough, the Red Cross has been handing out emergency foil blankets to destitute refugees and homeless people who have been put at risk by the freezing weather conditions.

More on our response in the North

Read about our response in Northern Scotland

First aid tips for the severe weather

Diary of an emergency responder

Read our young volunteer's snow-response blog