Need for speed: how terror attacks, fires and floods brought emergency services together
When disaster strikes, we’ll be responding more effectively than ever after joining an emergencies partnership - charities and community groups that bring together local and national expertise from the sector, linked directly with government and local authorities
Last updated 8 March 2023
The fire in Grenfell Tower. The terror attacks in London and Manchester. Flooding across England and Wales. People caught up in these emergencies needed immediate help in very different ways.
Fire and emergency services were needed to rescue people and save lives. Local authorities and the NHS put the pieces back together during and after a crisis.
Charities and local organisations, too, often help with basics such as emergency food, a place to sleep and dry clothes. We also provide ongoing support in the long term.
From these disasters, we’ve learnt that it’s best when all these organisations work together.
That’s why the new Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership was brought together. It consists of charities and community groups with a link to government and local authorities. The Emergencies Partnership is about collaboration across the sector, with a shared aim of improving coordination and empowering communities in an emergency.
When helping to shape the partnership, British Red Cross CEO Mike Adamson placed people and local communities firmly at the centre of effective emergency response. “Ultimately, individuals and communities know best what their needs are,” said Mike, who serves as chair of the VCSEP. Jane Ide, the chief executive of the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), serves as vice chair.
Another aim of the Emergencies Partnership is to give a voice to those who are most at-risk, including people who are ‘hidden’ - such as homeless people, or those currently in the asylum system.
Need help fast? We have an emergency support line
One of the most important things we found is that when people need help, they need it right away. Working your way through a tangled bureaucracy to get answers to basic questions helps no one.
That’s why the British Red Cross, the Samaritans and Victim Support, three of the organisations that form the partnership, are setting up a new emergency support line.
During an emergency, our trained advisers can help with issues ranging from how to get emergency food and clothing, to seeking immediate support from trauma specialists. They can also guide callers to other services for support in planning the next steps.
The partnership proves its worth
The emergencies partnership has already shown how much it can help. Partner organisations sprang into action during the floods in Yorkshire in November 2019.
Flooding turned gardens into lakes and houses into islands. Torrents of water flooded roads and cut people off from their friends and family. For some, the experience was terrifying as telegraph poles floated past the window.
The partnership mobilised quickly to visit people at risk and sandbag their homes. The Red Cross and Salvation Army opened a rest centre, sheltering evacuees.
We worked alongside community groups to get people hot food and give them someone to talk to. We told the local council what help people needed and where.
Ann, a local affected by the floods, explains that seeing the emergency services working alongside communities helped keep spirits high.
“The whole village is like one big family. It’s brought everyone together. We’re here for each other and in times like this you really need it. We're all in the same situation after all.”
We’ll raise funds together, too
To complement this coordinated approach to emergency management, charities also came together to create the National Emergencies Trust (NET).
When big natural disasters or terrorist incidents happen, the public often wants to help immediately. The NET, in partnership with the British Red Cross, raises funds at the time of a national emergency and, through that, helps people direct their generosity to support those affected at their time of greatest need.
Rather than having to contact several organisations to find what they need, people can use the NET as a single point of contact to get support quickly and efficiently.
Planning for the future
British Red Cross CEO Mike Adamson is a NET trustee, and told The Third Sector: "We need to move beyond sharing information into sharing space, purpose and resources, and that requires all of us to change."
Our emergency partnership offers hope. Together, we can respond quickly and effectively to make sure that people in trouble are OK, and that we can meet all future crises with kindness.
Emergencies in the UK
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