Ahead of Christmas, Paul Robertson, Senior Coordinator of Bradford on Avon Community Emergency Volunteer Team, Wiltshire, discusses how his team of snow wardens supports the community in winter
How we prepare our community for winter
One evening in autumn we gather the volunteers together to undertake our snow warden refresher training and review our snow plan. This ensures that any new volunteers are familiar with what we do as well as reminding existing volunteers of their previous training and health and safety advice. We also invite other local agencies to the training session such as the local health centre, police, home care specialists, pharmacy, and highways department to ensure we are all linked together.
As part of our snow plan we also have dedicated grit bins that the local highways department fills with salt, so these are checked and, if necessary, new supplies are ordered in the summer.
How I check the forecast
I have several apps on my phone including the Met Office App, What 3 Words and a snow radar which alert me to impending weather warnings and gives the volunteers 2-3 days’ notice of an event. We are lucky to have a snow warden scheme in place, supported by Wiltshire Council which tells us when to deploy. This is based on accurate weather forecasting they receive from the Met Office.
My role in a snow emergency
“When the Beast from the East hit in 2018 we were operational for 3 days with 14 volunteers giving over 140 hours of community service, clearing and gritting 1.5 km of paving.”
My job as the volunteer coordinator during the event is to call out snow clearance and gritting teams to clear strategic footpaths in our town as agreed in our snow plan. At the same time, I coordinate the many calls on our 4×4 vehicle to assist in GP and carer transport, delivery of vital medication and taking local residents to hospital appointments they might not otherwise get to.
When the Beast from the East hit in 2018 we were operational for 3 days with 14 volunteers giving over 140 hours of community service, clearing and gritting 1.5 km of paving, as well as providing transport to a diverse range of essential community services. It validated our commitment to creating a multi-role team after the 2013 floods to ensure our volunteers were able to assist our community in a variety of incidents from flooding and snow to public health and utilities failure.
How we implement our snow plan
If we receive a warning for 50 mm or more of snow, we pass on the coordinator’s contact details to the home care specialists, GP surgery and pharmacist and check our 4×4 vehicle to make sure it has good levels of antifreeze, a shovel and plenty of fuel. Our 4×4 truck is fitted with winter tyres and correctly insured. If you are looking to use a 4×4 make sure the vehicle is properly equipped and insured to undertake the roles you are expecting and that the drivers are competent and confident enough to drive in potentially challenging conditions.
My Winter is part of the Met Office’s WeatherReady Winter Campaign, run in partnership with the Cabinet Office to help people prepare for and cope with severe weather. More information can be found at www.metoffice.gov.uk/weatherready.