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Emergencies beyond the pandemic: Maggie and Barry's story

When Maggie and Barry woke to a fire in their home, emergency response volunteer Julia was on hand to help 

Last updated 19 April 2023

Though Covid-19 has been the year’s main focal point, other emergencies still happen every day – even amid a global pandemic.

In June, Maggie and Barry from Cheshire woke to a fire in their house. Even though it was summer, the weather that evening was horrible.




“It was blowing a gale, throwing it down, windy and cold,” said Maggie. “It was 3.30 in the morning and something woke my husband up. I ran down the stairs and saw the flames and got a pan of water to try and put it out myself but it was going very quickly.”

Even if you can’t be there, you have the power to help someone through a personal emergency. 

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After calling the fire brigade and safely evacuating the house along with Barry and her mother, who lives with them, Maggie was put in touch with the British Red Cross.

“I didn’t know what day it was, I was just mesmerised by what was going on,” said Maggie. “It must have been around 6.30am when this mobile campervan turned up and this wonderful lady got out and took over.”


Warm clothes and cups of tea

The lady in the campervan was Julia, an emergency response volunteer with 10 years of experience in the role.

She had been preparing to finish her shift when she received a call from the emergency response control and headed straight to Maggie and Barry’s house.

“There was extensive damage to the roof of the property and when I arrived at the scene they were stood in their garage,” recalled Julia.

“They were absolutely freezing. [Maggie] was wet-through so I got her a change of clothes from the vehicle, so she was a lot warmer. I got her a blanket and made them both a brew.” 


In the hours after her arrival, Julia got to work helping make calls to Maggie and Barry’s insurance company, while making sure they were both safe and warm and had plenty of cups of tea.

“I was in a terrible state,” said Maggie. “She just said ‘Let me be practical, what can I do?’ She helped to pack my mum’s clothes and get them out of the house while I was upstairs getting a few things together. I was sitting on the top of the stairs crying and she said, ‘I want to give you a hug but I can’t.’”

Our volunteers are helping from a safe distance


Due to restrictions put in place because of Covid-19, our emergency response teams have had to adapt their services to be mindful of the need to social distance wherever possible.

“It was a little bit challenging because of the distancing,” said Julia. “Usually you do end up giving hugs and things like that, so it was quite sad that we couldn’t, because they were an absolutely lovely couple.” 

Julia stayed at the house until she was certain that Maggie and Barry had everything they needed, including a roofer who would make the damaged roof safe and secure until it could be properly fixed.

“Barry and I have both wondered how we could have coped without her,” said Maggie. “I don’t know how people cope without support like that in similar situations. We didn’t know who to ring or anything – she just reassured us from the word go. I feel like she was like family to us.”




As well as volunteering with the emergency response team, Julia works as a Red Cross service coordinator for the enhanced discharge service at Chester Hospital, which helps people after they are discharged from hospital.

“It is nice to think to that you can go out and help people,” said Julia. “I always think ‘What if it were me in that situation? How would I feel if I had nobody around me to support me?’ It’s lovely to know that you’ve actually made a difference to someone: that’s how you know you’ve done a good job.”

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