A NEW Red Cross vehicle to provide emergency support for Borderers caught up in fire and floods has been launched in Galashiels, writes Kenny Paterson.
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service was the first in Scotland to receive a Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) vehicle staffed by Red Cross volunteers in 2007.
The existing van has been mobilised 39 times since its introduction and it is expected the Borders-based vehicle will be just as busy.
Group commander Scott Forbes, from Lothian and Borders Fire Service, said: “The addition of a second FESS vehicle based in the Scottish Borders will be an excellent resource to support people who have the misfortune to be caught up in an emergency situation. Time and again we hear from operational firefighters how valuable the vehicle is and what an excellent service Red Cross personnel provide.
“When the FESS is on scene fire crews can get on with managing operational matters, secure in the knowledge that people evacuated from their homes are in safe hands.
“It can be hugely disorientating and upsetting for people if they have to leave their house in the middle of the night because of a fire or flood.
“The FESS vehicle provides an immediate safe haven and allows people to sit somewhere sheltered and gather their thoughts, usually with a welcome hot cup of tea.”
David Miller, Red Cross operations director for Fife, Lothians and Borders, said the vehicle will be invaluable for Borderers caught up in an emergency.
He said: “Often people have lost everything, with their only possessions being the clothes they stand up in.
“Sometimes they need practical help – sorting out insurance or somewhere temporary to stay. In other cases people may just need somewhere quiet and a reassuring presence to help them recover.”
The Red Cross team respond in emergencies to provide evacuees with temporary access to shelter, seating and welfare facilities.
Highly trained volunteers provide practical guidance and emotional support on what to do after an emergency, including how to secure emergency housing, deal with insurers and the use of a telephone to pass messages on family and friends about the incident.
Borders MP Michael Moore said: “The Red Cross are ever-present at sports events and common ridings in the Borders, providing essential support behind the scenes to keep residents safe, and their participation in this new service is brilliant news.
“Fires, floods and other such incidents are incredibly distressing for those affected, so I am glad this service will provide the support and practical help people need when faced with such situations.”