accessibility & help

Rachel’s story: ‘We literally lost everything’

When a family found their home flooded by a burst water tank, they were inconsolable – until the British Red Cross helped them put their lives back together and start over.

Married couple David and Rachel had spent the day Christmas shopping with their daughter, but when they got home a very nasty surprise was waiting.

A burst water tank in the attic of their Surrey home had been spilling water throughout their home for the entire day. That meant the ceiling had collapsed and all their possessions – everything they owned – was soiled and sodden.

‘Absolute devastation’

Rachel recalled: “We came in the front door and the house was dark and cold. As I stepped in the doorway, there was water all over the floor.

“Then we looked about and saw the damage – the house was absolutely flooded. The entire ceiling had come down and the carpets were drenched in water. It was absolute devastation and everything was ruined. We were in total shock.”

Rachel had suffered a heart attack just months earlier and her husband had recently undergone treatment for skin cancer, so this was a terrible blow. She said: “We just didn’t know what to do. Our insurance had run out a month earlier and I hadn’t got round to renewing it, so we’d literally lost everything.”

Fresh clothes

The shocked couple were spending the night in a local hotel when two fire and emergency support (FES) volunteers arrived.

Rachel said: “Those volunteers are wonderful people. Besides providing reassurance, they helped us focus on what needed to be done next and provided fresh clothes, as well as toiletries, toothbrush and things. They even gave us tea bags and sugar so we could have a cup of tea in our room – all the basics you forget you need.”

‘Source of comfort’

One month on, repairs were well underway and David, Rachel and Laura had moved back into their home.

But their tale had an extra little twist. Rachel recalled: “As we were leaving the hotel, we spotted a family checking in who looked really upset. It turned out they had just lost their house in a fire – and the Red Cross had been there to help them too.

“Since we were moving on, I felt able to give them a bit of extra support and let them see that – in a month or two – they would also be back on their feet. By helping us, the Red Cross helped me be a source of comfort to this other family.”

Note: names have been changed


Emergency response true stories

We helped the Dawes family after their house caught fire. Their neighbours were so impressed by our volunteers they even raised money to help fund our work.

When a water pipe burst, an elderly couple were beside themselves with worry – until our volunteers arrived.