South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and the British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) have a long standing partnership to help support people affected by fires and other emergencies across South East Wales.
Vernon, who runs FESS in South East Wales, explained: “The British Red Cross has been supporting SWFRS for a number of years, with a team of FESS volunteers attending some domestic fires or other emergencies to offer practical or emotional support to those affected by the incident. This historical partnership has had varying levels of success, so we embarked on a month trial to really establish how to improve and develop our working relationship in 2014.”
In October 2013 the two organisations came together to trial an arrangement where the Fire and Emergency Support service (FESS) would be notified of and respond accordingly to every accidental dwelling fire reported to SWFRS.
This trial soon further enhanced the level of support given by FESS to SWFRS through a service level agreement to carry out home fire safety checks and gather post incident information.
“During the trial FESS attended 18 accidental dwelling fires where, in addition to carrying carried out home fires safety checks and collecting post incident data, we provided practical and emotional support to some 60 beneficiaries.” Here is the story of one of them:
I suffered a fire at my home earlier this year, which was a terrifying and upsetting experience. While the fire brigade were dealing with the blaze my son, who had earlier jumped from a first floor window to escape, was on his way to hospital with a head injury and burns. I was outside on the street. I just stood there and watched.
When the Red Cross arrived it was such a relief - the fire and emergency support volunteers provided immediate comfort, somewhere warm to sit and a cup of tea. But more than that, they gave me extremely valuable practical advice and emotional support at a very tough time. They obtained emergency overnight accommodation at a local hotel and provided me with clothing and toiletries.
The next day the fire and emergency support volunteers visited me. And I’m so pleased they did because with my son in hospital and my home badly burnt I didn’t know how to start off the complicated process of sorting things out! It was at this point that the Red Cross’ extra support in signposting me to a range of organisations who could help proved absolutely invaluable and they explained the information they gathered would be passed on to the fire service.
After I had returned to my home the fire and emergency support volunteers carried out a home fire safety check and fitted smoke alarms. Having such a kind and sensible response from the Red Cross was so important at such a stressful time. It enabled me to feel in control of the situation.
“In the six months since the trial ended FESS has supported around 350 beneficiaries,” Vernon concluded “the complementary services we provide can ensure those affected by house fires or other emergencies get the best possible support at the time when it is most needed. We are looking forward to building on these achievements and developing a successful partnership.”