25 January 2011
When the roofs of four houses suddenly collapsed and crashed down onto the street below, a team of nine Red Cross emergency response volunteers raced to the scene to help 50 local residents.
The incident – which was initially thought to be a gas explosion – happened in Lambeth, London in the early evening of 22 January. All the houses in the terrace were cleared until surveyors could determine the safety of the buildings.
Volunteer Graham Claxton (26) recalled: “We arrived on the scene very soon afterwards with three emergency support vehicles, which are kept well-stocked with provisions so we can supply whatever is needed.”
At the request of the local council, the Red Cross team set up a rest centre in a nearby disused school building. Graham said: “About 25 residents came to us as it was late in the evening and they had nowhere else to go.
“We provided hot food and drinks, blankets and reassurance that people were working hard to return them to their homes. This was particularly appreciated by some of the more vulnerable evacuees, such as a mother with two children aged one and three, and four elderly people. One man had two dogs with him.”
The emergency response team stayed in regular contact with the council, fire brigade and police force, and kept the evacuated residents up to date with developments. Graham added: “We’re ideally placed to take on the role of keeping communications open in a situation like this, and it made a big difference to the evacuees that we could tell them what was happening.
The volunteers stayed at the scene for more than six hours until they were sure everyone was safe and comfortable. Graham said: “This was one of the largest incidents I’ve attended and I was so pleased to end my shift on a happy note at 2.50am, when the last of the evacuees were given approval to return to their homes.”
Find out more about our emergency response service
Become an emergency response volunteer