THE Arctic conditions in the Borders in recent winters prompted a local community to arm itself against further such disruption.
Now the case of villagers in Oxton and Channelkirk, who set up their own emergency response service with help from the British Red Cross, is being used to highlight the annual fundraising drive by the charity, which needs to collect more than £1million for its work at home and abroad.
This year, the campaign theme for Red Cross Week is Be One in a Million – the idea being that if a million people donate £1 each, the ambitious target can be achieved.
During Red Cross Week, which ends on Saturday, Scotland’s 5,500 volunteers are staging a huge variety of fundraising events and street collections all over the country.
For thousands of vulnerable people in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK and abroad, the Red Cross is a sign of hope in crisis, meeting immediate and long-term needs. Red Cross Week donations will go directly to providing help where it’s needed most.
Oxton and Channelkirk Community Council decided to set up an emergency response service thanks to the support of the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) and the Red Cross.
Members of the community council adopted a Be Prepared policy following discussions with the local authority about equipping themselves to tackle weather and other emergencies in their area. A number of meetings took place within the community to enlist volunteers.
The council approached the Red Cross whose Resilient Communities initiative had been set up to provide emergency training and equipment for groups of residents in outlying areas.
A funding application paid for the supply of a range of equipment including high-visibility vests, first aid kits, torches, batteries and snow shovels.
Community Council member Iain Robinson said: “We have a very strong sense of community in Oxton and have members from all walks of life.
“We appreciated the support we had been given by Scottish Borders Council and the Red Cross during the winter emergencies but felt we could make a contribution to dealing with weather crises ourselves.
“We are delighted with the support we have been given by both organisations because as well as the equipment we received, we have been given basic first aid training and plan to develop our skills in handling emergencies.
“We have around 50 volunteers ready to become involved if the going gets tough – but we are always looking for more.”
As well as preparing for the worst that winter can offer, the Oxton group have taken advantage of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme and converted a local phone box into a defibrillator facility.
If someone suffers a cardiac arrest, the kiosk has step-by-step instructions for giving treatment.
Jim Fraser, emergency planning officer with SBC, says the residents of Oxton have shown a great deal of initiative in taking this step and SBC wants to extend such projects across the region.
He commented: “We work in close partnership with the Red Cross and the communities that have embraced this initiative and the funding has meant that we could empower a group of local residents who wanted to do their bit for their community.”
Jim Robertson, Red Cross senior services manager for the Borders, added: “Our volunteers are always ready to help out in a crisis but we believe it is vital to get local people on board and help them prepare to deal with emergencies on their own doorstep.
“We are hopeful that working with Scottish Borders Council and local communities we can roll this project out from one end of the county to the other.”