British Red Cross community reserve volunteers were deployed for the first time on Monday 19th March to help set up camp beds for evacuated residents after a major gas leak in Croydon.
Red Cross emergency response volunteers and staff had been involved in the incident since Sunday when the incident began. Teams helped set up two rest centres running overnight from 10.30pm on Sunday evening and the community reserve volunteers were called out by text message on Monday afternoon, to help put up additional beds, when it became clear some residents might need to spend a second night away from home.
Sean Dench, 40 from Croydon, was one of the community reserve volunteers to help out. He was at work when he received his deployment text message.
He explained: “Luckily, we have a flexible working policy at Mercer UK and the company really encourages volunteering so I was able to respond immediately. I’d heard on the news there was a gas leak but I didn’t think it would be something the Red Cross would be involved in so I was surprised to get the text.
“As the incident was in Croydon and I was 15 minutes away I didn’t have any excuse. It’s what I’ve signed up to do so I was glad to do whatever I could to help.”
Sean made his way to the rest centre and met the Red Cross team and two other community reserve volunteers, Alison and Ismahel. The team helped to unload the mattresses from a van and start the process of inflating them.
Fortunately for those evacuated, the beds were not needed as they were eventually allowed back into their homes. For Sean and the other volunteers, that meant deflating the mattresses and packing them away again.
“I’m glad that the beds weren’t needed in the end, but we were preparing for the worst in case people did have to stay at the rest centre for a second night.
“I’m glad that I responded. It felt really good to be part of the team and it was nice to see how everyone pulled together to help others. The people who had been evacuated were obviously really glad for the help they received.
“This might be the only time I’m ever called out as a community reserve volunteer so I’m glad I’ve been able to play my part. It was exactly what I was expecting it to be. The email and text messages I received were very clear about where I needed to be, what tasks I was expected to do, and who I had to meet. I went with an open mind and was ready to do whatever I was asked to help out.”
It only takes ten minutes to sign up to become a community reserve volunteer. The initiative, which is funded by Aviva, has already seen more than 3,000 people sign up.
To sign up as a community reserve volunteer visit: www.redcross.org.uk/reserves. Volunteers must be over 18, have a mobile phone and be prepared to carry out practical tasks during an emergency.