Uckfield Community Resilience launches
Sue Edwards talks to Tom Crellin about how he started Uckfield Community Resilience and what plans he has for its future.
How did the idea of Uckfield Community Resilience come about?
I have been an emergency response volunteer for various national charities for over 20 years but was increasingly frustrated that these charities tend to concentrate on densely populated areas such as the Sussex Coast or the Gatwick Diamond area – with Uckfield and North Wealden largely missing out. I had also seen volunteers leave because they wanted to support local community initiatives rather than being asked to respond to incidents 30 or 40 miles away.
The idea of community resilience is not new. It has been part of the national government emergency plans for more than a decade but, as far as I am aware, we are the first community resilience group in East Sussex. There are a couple of groups that I know about in Kent.
What made you start the group?
A number of things came together. I saw some people taking the initiative in the local area to respond to incidents without the benefit of an organisation behind them providing funds, equipment, training, insurance and so forth and I felt that I could possibly tap into their enthusiasm. Also, changes in my family situation meant that I had become more restricted myself in being able to respond to incidents a long way from home. It therefore suited me to create a more local role. Finally, my day job involves disaster and emergency planning and running a related charity gives me experience that sets me apart from my competitors.
How will the community of Uckfield benefit from the group?
The aim of the group is to help the community to recover more quickly from serious incidents. We can help people to be better prepared so that they protect themselves from the worst effects of a disaster; we can pass on information and advice from the emergency services (door to door if necessary); and we can be there to help with the clean-up operation and getting back to normal.
We can respond to widespread issues such as flooding or closed roads and we can also respond to the needs of an individual family whose home has been made uninhabitable. We can also help to coordinate appeals and reach out to the local community.
What plans do you have for the group?
We tested our response last winter with a core group of just six people. We are currently planning to have a trained group of around 12-18 people in place and ready to respond to incidents for the winter of 2015/16. We are hoping to raise some £3000 this year to support the training and equipping of this team. Most of this is likely to come from grant aid but we will also be looking for donations from members of the local community.
What technology or apps do you rely on?
We have a 24-hour emergency response number which automatically rings both the home and mobile numbers of our call-takers simultaneously to allow for a quick response. We have online facilities to edit the calling order at any time to account for holidays and also so that we can operate in shifts during a large incident.
We also have a system for automatically alerting all of our responders by SMS text message and tracking who has responded to the call.
We rely heavily on the Internet and social media and have a website and presence on Facebook and Twitter. We rely on incoming data feeds from the Met Office, local highways, river level gauges and others in order to provide up to date information about the current situation. We also use Internet-based applications for keeping in touch with members and for the administration of the Charity. For instance, the trustees share key files using Dropbox (thus ensuring that there are always multiple up-to-date copies of the file in different physical locations).
What are you doing to raise awareness?
As well as regular updates on Facebook and Twitter, we are exhibiting at the Uckfield Festival Big Day and are looking for other opportunities to exhibit. We have been interviewed on Uckfield FM this week and we take every opportunity to speak at events such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Uckfield Volunteer Lunches. We shall shortly be issuing press releases and, in the longer term, we will be engaging directly with the local councils, emergency services and other emergency responders in order to build up awareness within their organisations.
Article kindly written by Tom Crellin for Sue Edwards, Business Support.
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