25 was the magic number as British Red Cross volunteers gathered on 25 February to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their special partnership with Humberside Fire and Rescue Service providing after incident care to those in crisis after fire or flood across the Humber region.
Back in 1994, the year of the first National Lottery draw and the opening of the Channel Tunnel, Dee Phillips and a small band of volunteers began the initial Red Cross service with a Renault Espace, some blankets and a few other bare essentials following a severe house fire in Cleethorpes.
Soon the volunteer numbers grew and more and more items were added to the vehicle as the knowledge of what practical and emotional help was required in the early hours of the morning when victims of fire could literally have nothing left but the nightwear in which they were standing.
In 2003, following six years of fundraising by the British Red Cross and many local firefighters, a campervan was purchased which provided warmth and comfort at the roadside outside the affected house. It soon became a feature at many serious house fires and provided somewhere to get the kettle on and start the long road back to normality - a little safe haven when chaos and crisis is going on outside.
In 2014, to mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership, a second vehicle was purchased by HFR Solutions which now covers North and North-East Lincolnshire and is based at Cromwell Road in Grimsby. The long wheel based van was individually designed to maximise storage space which now even includes pet food and dog leads! The purpose built vehicle is now held up by the British Red Cross nationally as the favoured size and layout of Emergency Support Service vehicles and two have recently been purchased for other areas of the country including Hampshire.
As local co-ordinator Dee Phillips told those present:
'The most important thing to the people concerned afetr a fire becomes our number one priority. We respect the wishes of those affected and simply work with them to make some order out of the chaos. We can ring relatives for those affected, give advice on how to begin an insurance claim or simply be a sympathetic ear to listen. Those who have lost possessions or beloved animals often need the emotional support more than the vast array of practical things like clothing and toiletries.'
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Shillito thanked all of the volunteers for their years of dedicated service:
'Often it is the firefighters who get the credit for rescues and extinguishing the fire. This is only the first phase of our response, because the follow up work done by British Red Cross volunteers and our Public Safety staff can also be considered life-saving. They are the unsung heroes and today is about recognising the partnership and the hundreds of lives it has touched.'
Dee worked out that since their first call-out in February 1994, a team of two volunteers has been on call continuously for 9130 days and nights.
The team play an important role offering humanitarian assistance to those who may have suffered trauma from a fire or flood and help people deal with emotions associated with the loss of their home or belongings.
Services the Red Cross provide include:
· Immediate temporary shelter
· Emotional support
· Practical assistance
· Clothing, toiletries and refreshments
· Shower / washing and toilet facilities
· Use of telephone camera to assist with insurance claims, signposting to other agencies
· Help in securing temporary accommodation
· Advice on care / replacement of damaged property
· Multilingual phrasebooks
Plaques were exchanged between the two organisations and a special cake cut to celebrate the milestone - 2044 is already in the diary for the 'Golden Jubilee'!