Helen Brown, Whitby
‘Ready For Anything’ Volunteer
When a major incident occurs, you find yourself asking ‘How Can I help?’ That was the very reason I wanted to be a ‘Ready for Anything’ volunteer. Essentially, we know the volunteers are an extra pair of hands, a smiley face, there to lend a listening ear whilst supporting the responding agencies. In real terms though what does that look like and just how would I fit in and help? The opportunity for volunteers to participate in multi-agency exercises and training sessions really appealed to me as I can see the huge value in exploring the bigger picture and considering just how we’d support. I was lucky enough to attend such a session in Riccall recently, a silver Tactical Coordinating Group (TCG) exercise. It gave me valuable insight into what happens during a ‘Response to Major Critical Incident’ (RMCI). Considering how volunteers would work alongside the responding agencies means they can be utilised effectively and efficiently. It benefits the volunteers knowing what kind of activities they could do to help the agencies, but it also enables the emergency teams to think about how they can use the volunteers, ensuring the best use of all the man power available.
The exercise was based around a scenario of a large fire on an Industrial Estate and included an evacuation. To see how the TCG came together to ensure they saved lives, reduced harm, assessed the situation, looked at the threats, established their parameters and resources needed, gave me food for thought and made me realise just how much planning and coordinating takes place at silver level. I learned it is extremely important that an accurate overview of the procedures takes place to ensure the incident is managed in the best way. As volunteers we observed how the different agencies represented (from the Fire Service, Police, Ambulance, NYCC, Hospitals, Highways, Public Health, Utilities etc) would respond to this incident and the decision-making processes they go through to come together to ensure they save lives and minimise risks. I found it extremely interesting, especially thinking about how volunteers would be utilised in this scenario. I quickly realised there is a lot of specific terminology, language and acronyms used in the planning exercises. Whilst to begin with it seemed a bit daunting by the end of the session, I felt much more knowledgeable about the language used and how these exercises work. I think that can only empower me to be a better-informed volunteer and if I’m called upon to help at an incident it means I understand the processes more fully. If you get the chance as a volunteer to attend a similar session, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It means you are as well-equipped as possible to be ‘Ready for Anything’!
EXERCISE RAINBOW ROSE - UCI WORLD CYCLING CHAMPIONSHIPS OPERATIONAL AND TACTICAL EXERCISE AT HARROGATE
David Johnson, Harrogate
On the 13th of June, I along with a number of other Ready for Anything volunteers joined Tim and Grace at the Harrogate Convention Centre to attend Exercise Rainbow Rose. This large scale training exercise brought together almost 200 key stakeholders from across Yorkshire, in preparation for the UCI World Road Race Cycling which is based in Harrogate in September 2019.
As volunteers we were invited to observe the morning's activities which concentrated on a range of complex scenarios that could impact on this major event that is spread across the region for nine days. The scenarios were multi-layered (flooding, crowd control, severe weather, accidents, media issues, missing persons) to ensure that all attendees, whether they are emergency services, local authorities, military, Yorkshire 2019 event staff, broadcasters, communications officers, contracted services and utility companies have the opportunity to work together to test and improve their standard operating procedures.
As part of this the filtering of descion making and upward communication was highlighted as critically important. It was fascinating to see how the knowledge and influence at each level was used as efficiently as possible through the agreed command structure of on-the-ground Bronze officers, logistical Silver officers and senior Gold officers who make financial, media and reputational decisions.
As a group we discussed the scenarios in general and identified opportunities for possible RFA involvement, should similar circumstances present themselves in the future. This was particularly motivating as these discussions highlighted some of the amazing skills, expert knowledge and enthusiasm that my fellow volunteers were bringing to RFA.
I would like to highlight both as an RFA volunteer and a member of the public that I found the day very reassuring as I am now partially aware of the effort and resource that goes into supporting major events and to making them successful.
DEPLOYMENT FOR RICHMONDSHIRE FLASH FLOODING
Nick Palmerley, Northallerton
On the 31st July, 2019, approximately one month’s rain fell in just four hours resulting in catastrophic damage to the villages of Bellerby, Grinton, Reeth and further parts of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in North Yorkshire. Along with huge damage to property, flash-flooding caused extensive destruction to transport infrastructure including highways, farm tracks and bridges. Additionally, local farmers suffered widespread loss of sheep and other livestock.
I attended the Memorial Hall in Reeth at the appointed time of 11am on Friday, 2nd August, having responded to a text request to assist from Ready For Anything co-ordinators on the evening of Thursday, 1st August. The hall was busy and noisy, with lots of people engaged in doing all they could to respond to the emergency in what appeared to be organised chaos!
Following a slightly frustrating delay of perhaps an hour, while we waited for volunteers from another agency to join us, our Coordinator (Grace Lawes from NYCC’s Resilience and Emergencies Team), tasked us with identifying isolated properties affected by ingress of flood-water and to find out whether fresh food was required. We were able to deliver perishable goods such as milk, drinking water and bread along with dried foods and cleaning materials to these people. I undertook visits to affected properties in Grinton, Reeth and remote farms in Arkengarthdale accompanied by Sue from Richmondshire District Council and a fellow RFA volunteer.
We liaised with locals to find out where vulnerable people might be struggling and made visits to them our priority. As well as the delivery of provisions, it seemed that people were pleased to see a member of staff from the Council and simply have volunteers to chat with. Locals in the incident hub also informed of us of an elderly lady in the village of Grinton who required fresh food – we were able to deliver basic groceries and freshly-made sandwiches for her lunch!
We were also able to find out if other forms of assistance were required and information was recorded by Sue in order that services could be mobilised at a later date. By 15.30, we were confident that we had visited all isolated properties with vulnerable persons in our given area.
I felt my skills in driving my 4 x 4, which meant we were able to reach isolated properties, were utilised, but perhaps more than anything just being a friendly face on the ground to listen to and support those affected was probably the most important task we undertook all afternoon!
The training we all received on signing up for Ready For Anything prepared us for this type of incident, although future training would definitely be helpful too.
As volunteers, we were able to offer the emotional support emergency services were simply too stretched to provide. Additionally, we were able to attend vulnerable people and provide essential provisions – this is not something emergency services had the time or resources to do and probably wouldn’t have happened without our input.
As well as working with an officer of Richmondshire District Council at all times, we were kept informed by Grace with frequent updates by mobile phone to ensure we were OK. Overall, the experience was enjoyable and I think, useful – I think we all felt a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day!
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