2022 Dorset Prepared Community Resilience Workshops to take place this March

Communities Prepared is delighted to be part of this year’s Dorset Prepared Community Resilience Workshop, running sessions on flood volunteering, community emergency plans and volunteer recruitment. Information on our sessions is available here, but please read on for an overview of the week from our partners at Dorset LRF.

Dorset Local Resilience Forum (LRF) will be hosting several community resilience awareness raising sessions, running between 7 and 11 March 2022.

The Dorset LRF is a multi-agency partnership made up of local councils, Emergency Services and NHS organisations, National bodies, utility companies and transport providers and voluntary and community groups.

The Dorset Prepared Community Resilience Workshop links in and works closely with communities to deliver advice, support and training to help enhance local resilience to emergencies and incidents.

Following the success of the two-day event held in 2021, this year will see a week-long series of online events and awareness raising with a range of partner organisations. The subjects will include:

Flooding and the Flood Warden scheme in Dorset
Climate change
Avoiding scams
Cyber security
Volunteering in the Community
Counter Terrorism
Community Resilience and Emergency Planning
Fire Safety and Safe & Well advice
Utility companies and how they plan for incidents

The events will be a range of live and pre-recorded presentations with Question and Answer (Q&A) sessions between Monday and Friday, starting at 09:30 am each day.

The schedule will see morning sessions running from 9:30 am to 1pm, afternoon sessions running from 2 to 5pm and an evening session running 6 to 8pm.

Nigel Osborne Chair of the Dorset Local Resilience Forum Community Resilience Group said:

“The Dorset LRF is committed to the ‘whole of society’ approach to community resilience so that individuals, communities, businesses and organisations can all play a meaningful part in building local resilience. The workshops are aimed at existing voluntary organisations, community emergency volunteers and anyone interested in getting involved with such activities. They are designed to help you develop local initiatives that enhance resilience to emergencies and incidents.”

To find out more and register your interest, go to dorsetprepared.org.uk/community-resilience-week-march-2022 and follow the link to Eventbrite. The tickets are free and by registering ahead of the sessions, you will get the chance to win a Home Emergency Grab Bag worth £168 (sponsored by Communities Prepared. Terms and conditions apply).

Somerset celebrates emergency volunteers

To continue Volunteers’ Week celebrations, registration has opened for the 4th annual Somerset Resilience event, with residents invited to sign up to a month of free, interactive online training with emergency incident responders and volunteer organisations. Volunteers’ Week celebrates the contribution volunteers make, recognising the huge positive impact they have, with many of these volunteers key to their community’s emergency preparedness.

The ‘Somerset Prepared’ partnership is organising the resilience event which will run across October. Throughout the month, there will live online talks, videos, toolkits and training which aims to help communities become better prepared for emergency situations, as well as looking at wider preparedness measures that anyone can take.  

Anyone who registers will receive a goody bag and information pack, and weekly emails throughout October, signposting to pre-recorded videos and written toolkits on a variety of subjects.  

Somerset Prepared co-chair and Environment Agency organiser Hannah Ovett said: “Interactive events like this are an excellent way to raise awareness with local communities and individuals and help them to take vital steps in preparing for an incident, which could ultimately save lives.  

“The month’s sessions will cover a range of subjects from how to use Natural Flood Management to Food Resilience and First Aid, and will also feature case studies from communities who have written and used emergency plans during incidents.”  

“The community chat sessions will be a great opportunity for groups to hear from each other, share their experiences and get together in a safe, online environment, whilst the training workshops are scheduled to help with topics we are consistently seeing raised by communities, including recruiting volunteers, how to assess risk and GDPR.” 

Sessions will be led by a range of organisations including the Environment Agency, South West Ambulance Service Trust, Communities Prepared, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Somerset Rotary, Somerset Civil Contingencies Unit, Spark Somerset, and Community Council for Somerset.   

To attend this free event, residents can register their interest on the Somerset Prepared website www.somersetprepared.org.uk.  

Lessons learnt from a year of lockdowns

The pandemic has made people think of themselves as custodians of the village as a whole… I can’t see that stopping over night.” People in the South West say that the pandemic will change their behaviour and lead to a longer-term boost in community spirit.

Research from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, suggests that the pandemic could be a step-change moment for the South West, leading people to make lasting changes to how they live their lives and the connections they build with friends, family and the wider community. 

As the UK recently marked the anniversary of the first lockdown on March 23, over seven in ten (72%) in the South West say that they will change their behaviour as a result of the pandemic, with an emphasis on enjoying a simpler more pared back life post-COVID.

The findings come from a newly-launched Community Research Index – an annual survey of over 7,000 adults across the UK designed to get a temperature check on how people are feeling about their communities and their key concerns for the year ahead. The Index will be used by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and enhance learnings gleaned from the thousands of projects and groups it funds each year*.

Nearly half (48%) think community spirit will be better in the long-run following the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 crisis has put a greater emphasis on health, with over a quarter (29%) of the 602 people in the South West asked, saying they intend to be healthier in future. The experiences of the last year have also made people want to be more neighbourly (26%), kinder (18%) and more environmentally friendly (23%).

People in the region are also optimistic that changes in behaviour brought about by the pandemic will be widespread. Nearly half (48%) think community spirit will be better in the long-run following the pandemic – just 12% say it will be worse – while many agree that the pandemic will have a positive impact on the amount people care about others (49%) and the environment (35%).

In the last challenging year, being part of a community gave people a reassuring sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ (43%). They could see real benefits to being part of a community, including having people close by to help (43%), a sense of connection with others (37%) and a reduced sense of isolation (31%).

Another of the biggest benefits of all was being able to give others support (37%), which confirms that helping others or volunteering brings its own rewards. For more key findings, please see the full research report.

Sarah Elliot, 49, has lived in rural Somerset, on her own, for several years. After working in London as a town planner for two decades, she decided to move to Ham, a tiny village of just 38 houses. A beautiful village, but one that’s prone to road flooding in the winter months, Sarah was soon involved in the Village Flood Resilience Project. Along with her fellow members, she set up a WhatsApp group as a way of better communicating during emergency situations.

When COVID-19 hit, the group chat became a lifeline for the whole village. “We were able to organise really quickly, splitting up the village into small groups and helping out those who were shielding, key workers or those doing home-schooling in that area. Whether they needed someone to nip to the Cash and Carry or someone to pick up their medication, there was always a neighbour willing to help out.”

A naturally independent person, and a born organiser, Sarah is an enthusiastic community member and has attended webinars run by National Lottery Funded project Community Prepared to pick up ideas as to how to better coordinate her community. But the thing that surprised her most about the pandemic, was the outpouring of kindness she witnessed in her community, and to her, herself. “You might be the most independent, self-sufficient woman you know, but it’s still so appreciated having someone check in with you…. That incidental, everyday chit chat has made me feel really quite looked after by the community which is really lovely.”

A river with  a gauge measuring the depth of the water

She went on: “The pandemic has made people think of themselves as custodians of the village as a whole… I can’t see that stopping overnight.”

“Usually we all live such busy lives, it’s rare we have time to really help each other out. I think this will continue well after the pandemic ends.”

Julian Hubbuck is a councillor and Flood Warden for the Parish Council in Puddletown, Dorset. Previously an outdoors events manager, he has become increasingly involved in his community over the years particularly in their flood resilience efforts, attending webinars put on by Community Prepared to pick up ideas as to how to better coordinate his community. But, when the pandemic put a stop to all large gatherings, the small rural community became his main focus.

He said: “When something like this happens, it brings people together. The local vicar, Sarah, had so many offers of help a large part of my job was managing volunteers. We had people shopping for others, picking up prescriptions and managing socially distanced queues for the local shop.”

He went on: “I have planned for emergency scenarios before, but I never thought we’d have to deal with something like this. One positive to take way from it is the outpouring of kindness we saw. Usually we all live such busy lives, it’s rare we have time to really help each other out. I think this will continue well after the pandemic ends.”

National Lottery players raise £30 million a week for good causes. For more information on The National Lottery Community Fund and the funding available to support communities visit https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/covid-19

Raising awareness of Property Flood Resilience in Yorkshire

We chat to Emily Howes and Lauren Davidson, Project Officers for Yorkshire Flood Resilience, one of three national Pathfinders being led by the Environment Agency. Together with JBA Consulting, the Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) and the Living with Water Programme, the Yorkshire Pathfinder project aims to raise awareness of the benefits of Property Flood Resilience (PFR) and encourage positive behavioural change to support its uptake.

Tell us about the project

We started our roles in January 2020 and the project will conclude in September 2021. We aim to empower communities to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of flood damage to their own properties. We’ve created a project website which hosts a range of online resources, including awareness articles, videos and blogs, downloads, animations and online training. We’re connecting with communities via public presentations and demonstrations and co-developing a community demonstration hub at Wilberforce College in Hull. We’re trying to reach a wide range of stakeholders, including residents and businesses, the property sector and trades, financial influencers and local authorities.

Are there any misconceptions around PFR that you’re looking to address through the project?

We’ve encountered some concerns about the impact of PFR on the appearance of homes and, consequently, their value. Every solution is bespoke to the property. Many of the measures on a property’s exterior are removable and interior adaptations can be incorporated into the design of a home. Once PFR has been installed, it’s the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that it is maintained and put into place in the event of a flood.
Some people may be put off by the cost, but it’s important to remember that the cost of repairing your home following flood damage could be considerably more, especially in areas at risk of repeated flooding. PFR is, therefore, a long-term investment, and more and more homeowners are recognising the importance of understanding their flood risk and installing these key measures.

Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency (EA) has praised the pathfinder projects for helping to boost the uptake of property-level resilience measures in homes and businesses across the country,” which is one of the core themes of the EA’s FCERM Strategy. How are you/will you be working together through the project?

All three Pathfinder projects are in close contact and, although we each have slightly different approaches to encouraging take-up of PFR measures, we’re sharing best practice and hoping to put what we’ve learnt individually into some joint projects aimed at raising greater awareness of property flood resilience in other areas of the country during the coming months. We’ve each developed innovative ways of working with our local communities. These include demonstration sites, flood hubs, and online learning with real life case studies, which are soon to be launched.

It’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient.

What are some of the key messages you’ll be promoting?

We’re keen to encourage people to take action to reduce the risk of flood damage to their property. Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding. It’s important to understand the flood risk to your property; so be prepared and act now.

Property flood resilience reduces the damage that floodwater causes to your property and can therefore help to minimise the need for costly flood repairs, saving you money and enabling you to return to your property quicker after flooding. It can also reduce the need to make insurance claims if your property floods. As flood risk is predicted to increase in the future due to climate change, nobody should assume that flooding won’t happen to them. Therefore, it’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient, whether that’s through making a flood plan, considering having property flood resilience installed or making sure that the measures you have are maintained.

How do you hope the outcomes of the project will inform future PFR work?

The learning from our project will inform research into effective strategies to raise awareness of property flood resilience and flood risk. Our work is being used to inform academic studies, as well as educational courses about flood risk management. Through our educational work, we hope to inspire a flood-resilient future generation. We hope that, through engaging with Yorkshire Flood Resilience, more people in Yorkshire will be inspired to make their homes resilient to flooding.

Finally, how can people get involved?

You can find out more about our project and stay up to date with the latest information about flood resilience and flood risk management by visiting our website at www.yorkshirefloodresilience.co.uk. You can also access our wide range of online resources on the website. Follow us on social media for the latest project developments and news from the flood risk industry.

Find us on:
Twitter: @YorkshirePFR
Facebook: Yorkshire Flood Resilience
LinkedIn: Yorkshire Flood Resilience

Emily Howes, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Emily Howes
Lauren Davidson, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Lauren Davidson

Flood Action Campaign 2020

This year, the Environment Agency’s annual Flood Action Campaign, which runs from October through to March, is targeting people who live in areas at high risk of flooding but have not yet experienced flooding to their home. This is a priority for any year, but particularly now as COVID-19 restrictions will exacerbate the challenge of recovery from flooding this winter. The campaign encourages people to prepare for flooding, using and downloading the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ flood plan to help reduce these risks.  

There are 5.2 million homes and businesses in England at risk of flooding. Don’t assume it’s not you.

Whether you live on a hill, in a flat or in an area that’s never flooded before, flooding can still affect you, putting your home, your possessions and your family at risk. In England there are over 5 million properties at risk of flooding, but most people assume it’ll never happen to them. According
to recent polling, only a third of people in areas at risk of flooding believe that their home could be at risk.

And with climate change already causing more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise, we all need to know what to do, should the worst happen.

Knowing what to do in a flood could save your life.

According to the Environment Agency, the average cost of flooding to a home is around £30,000. Flooding also brings a significant risk to life. The mental health impacts of flooding can last for 2 years or more after flooding has happened. Depression, anxiety and PTSD can affect up to a third
of people who have been flooded.

But, crucially, taking steps to prepare for flooding, and knowing what to do in a flood can significantly reduce the damages to a home and possessions (by around 40%), reduce risk to life, and reduce the likelihood of suffering from mental health impacts in the future.

Know how to Prepare. Act. Survive.

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to prepare for flooding. Knowing what to do in a flood could help keep you and your family safe, and save you thousands of pounds in damages and disruption.

Would you know what to do in a flood? Visit flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/what-to-do-in-a-flood

For more information and to find out if you are at risk visit the what to do in a flood page on GOV.UK to get prepared.

Caroline Douglass, Director of Incident Management at the Environment Agency, said, “Flooding can cause serious disruption to people’s lives. We can’t prevent it, but we can help homeowners to be more flood resilient. Those who are aware of the risk and have done something about it are
able to reduce damage to their homes and possessions considerably.”

Flood Action Week starts next week from 9 to 15 November.

The Environment Agency is using bitly links (https://bit.ly/2EytseV) to track visits to their campaign materials. Please use the links from this article to maintain tracking capabilities.
Twitter: @envagency
Facebook: facebook.com/environmentagency
Instagram: @EnvAgency

Working together to prepare for the future

Quote from Andrew Turner, Emergency Officer: "Everything we have established through COVID-19 needs to be maintained so that we have a package ready should it be needed again."

As Michael Adamson, Chief Executive of British Red Cross highlighted in the third webinar from The Emergency Planning Society, “it’s local people who respond first.” It’s our primary goal at Communities Prepared to ensure Community Emergency Volunteers are empowered with the knowledge and confidence to prepare for, and respond to a range of emergencies and we are delighted that we can now deliver our free tailored training to groups via webinar. To support you in identifying your community’s next steps on its resilience journey, we’re holding 30-minute free telephone advice sessions, tailored to your community’s priorities. Topics for discussion might include, but are not limited to:

• Developing your Community Emergency Plan

• Training and skills – identifying any knowledge gaps and developing a tailored training plan

• Volunteer management, with a focus on spontaneous volunteers post crisis response

• Communications

Sessions will be run by Paul Robertson and Imogen Smith from the Communities Prepared team. Paul has over 5 years’ experience in setting up and running his own Community Emergency Volunteer group, while Imogen brings her expertise in marketing, communications and fundraising.

On July 14th, the Environment Agency launched its new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy, setting out a range of measures to prepare and protect millions of homes and businesses from the impact of climate change. As the global temperature rises and weather patterns become more extreme, we must prepare for more frequent and severe weather-related emergencies and focus on the ongoing task of building both personal and community resilience.

COVID-19 has demanded more from us as individuals and communities than we ever thought possible. While we begin to process and grieve for what has happened collectively and individually, we must recognise the importance of volunteering and apply this spirit of collaboration, communication and kindness to everything we doing moving forwards. As was highlighted during the first Communities Prepared Crisis Recovery webinar, “we must not waste a good crisis.” Now is the time to rest, reflect and regroup so that we can better prepare for future unknowns.

Coming up

Unable to make our earlier webinars? Never fear! Due to popular demand we are repeating our Crisis Recovery webinar on July 29th. We are delighted to be joined again by Charlotte Eisenhart, Head of Member Services at National Association of Local Councils, who will be presenting on the structure of crisis recovery. Thank you to NALC who have supported us with the development of this webinar. Other topics explored on the webinar include: the recovery timeline, building a community narrative and putting back better.

Quote from National Association of Local Councils: "This webinar is a must-have for parish and town councils supporting their communities through crisis and recovery."

From floods to pandemics: adapting to COVID-19

Andrew Turner is the Emergency Officer for Sixpenny Handley and Pentridge Parish Council in Dorset, whose role until COVID-19 largely covered groundwater flooding. Here, he discusses how he and his team of community volunteers adapted to the impact of COVID-19.

Can you explain some of the steps you took to adapt to COVID-19?

I started to review our Community Emergency Plan in February 2020 as more COVID 19 outbreaks were occurring. At this point, I had planned out the workings of our Flu Friends support group but had no community volunteers. In early March I put posters up around the village with my contact details asking for volunteers. Within a week I had 18 and by the time the lockdown occurred I had over 80. I divided the Parish into areas based on the number of houses and allocated a team to each with a Leader and Deputy. I also established a Phone Buddy team, made up of people in the community with appropriate skills or those who wanted to be involved but couldn’t as they had to self-isolate.

We sent letters to residents, explaining how to order food from our local shops and arranging for prescriptions to be collected. This was issued along with a newsletter explaining what we were doing and helping keep people informed. We’ve kept the newsletters going and each one has had a different angle, including good news stories and reminders about key safety aspects.

Everything we have established through COVID-19 needs to be maintained so that we have a package ready should it be needed again.

How did you find the process of adapting?

It was very quick to get the group up and running because I had done the groundwork with the plan and received a lot of community volunteers willing to support those having to isolate. Our Dorset Councillor was and is very supportive and I have a call each week with the Parish Council to keep them up to date. However, making decisions in the beginning, based on what I felt was the right thing to do, was very difficult; no county wide communication loop had been established and I did feel very isolated as a result.

Within the team I have maintained weekly calls with the Team Leads, Phone Buddies and Reserve volunteers. This ensures we have a chain of command and consistent messaging as well as the ability to feed back. I gather stats from each team every week and collate these to establish how much ‘work’ we are undertaking. Initially, this was to know whether any team was overloaded, and is broken down in terms of shopping, prescriptions and phone calls. As we gathered data, I have been able to build a profile and can now see we have a steady volume of trips and calls that is sustainable within the team.

How did you use social media and other communication tools during the crisis response?

I set up a Facebook page and a group in the NextDoor app to push information out – either updates on our group’s activities or output from the GOV.UK daily update. This information also gets uploaded onto our community website, so those not using Facebook or NextDoor can still access it. I have also set up a free Microsoft Teams area where all our documents are stored.

I used the Communities Prepared website for information and guidance in setting the support team up and continue to check back for other resources to utilise.

Have there been any key learnings from this experience that you’ll take forward?

Everything we have established through COVID-19 needs to be maintained so that we have a package ready should it be needed again. I made use of Communities Prepared training/briefing packs to ensure we were covering the right scope at a realistic level and to inform community volunteers joining the team. Engagement within the community has been key to the success of the plan and so we need to ensure we maintain this going forward. We need to work with Dorset Council to ensure we are better integrated.

Will you maintain engagement with the new volunteers you’ve acquired through the pandemic? If so, how do you see them playing a role in future emergencies?

Yes, when we’re able to meet, I want to workshop the whole experience to gather everyone’s thoughts and ensure we track what we did but also what could have been done better. With this information I will update the Pandemic Flu plan for future use. I also want to keep everyone registered so that I can contact them periodically and look at how we can extend other areas of our overall emergency plan if needed.

What stage is your community at now? Are you looking at crisis recovery?

We are continuing our support model and expect to align this with the overall Government recommendations.

Andrew Turner sitting with his dog

As lockdown restrictions ease, communities will be starting to look at ways to rebuild and strengthen. Our free upcoming webinar takes a practical look at how community volunteer groups & Town & Parish Councils can assist with crisis recovery. Book here.

Building resilience in rural communities

Communities Prepared (a Groundwork South programme) and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) have published a new guide to help rural communities become more resilient in the face of emergencies.

Drawing on the experience of local rural charities and existing initiatives, the guide provides practical tips for rural residents to prepare for, and help each other, at times of crisis. It shows how volunteer groups can be set up to develop emergency plans that identify local risks, and maps out the resources and support that can be mobilised should situations arise that threaten the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of people in the local area.

A tractor clears snow from a roadway after the Beast From The East Winter Storm.

Financial backing for the guide has been primarily provided by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, with additional support from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Zoey Ayling, Programme Manager for Communities Prepared said: “As the outbreak of Covid-19 has demonstrated, unexpected events can and do happen, threatening the way of life we have become accustomed to. Sometimes the impact on individuals and the services that support them can be severe, with recovery taking months, if not years. That’s why we created this guide to help communities plan ahead, offering information and practical guidance on how to identify risk, understand the key roles during an emergency and pull together to build long term resilience.”

The guide features stories where rural communities took a proactive approach to anticipating and responding to emergency situations. These include the delivery of hot meals to residents in Caddington, Bedfordshire, who were left without electricity and gas after heavy snowfall, and community and voluntary organisations that joined together to help residents and businesses recover following the extensive flood damage caused by Storm Desmond in 2015.

David Emerson, ACRE’s Chair said: “We are delighted to publish this guidance with Communities Prepared, which builds on the ACRE Network’s rich heritage of helping rural communities to help themselves – sometimes at the most difficult of times – by making the most of their local knowledge, capacity and resources. In contrast to their urban counterparts, rural communities are not well served by public infrastructure and services so initiatives led by volunteers can make a tremendous difference to the wellbeing, livelihoods and security of everyone locally. This way of working has been demonstrated brilliantly in the context of Coronavirus – when we are seeing rural communities across England taking a lead on local responses to the pandemic, from good neighbour schemes to village halls being used to distribute food parcels.”

Building community resilience to challenges also has many other benefits beyond the emergencies. Examples in the guide show how this can also bring about environmental improvements, foster new community networks, and underpin social cohesion.

A close up of a person’s gloved hand picking up a plastic bottle from leaves on the ground.

This essential guide will make it possible for everyone in the countryside to recognise the risks to their community, understand what can be done to prepare for them, and be familiar with the emergency actions that can be taken in conjunction with other agencies should the worst happen.

Celebrating community emergency volunteers

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2020, we chatted to Calum, aged 25, who started volunteering with the Bradford on Avon Town Council Community Emergency Volunteers (CEVs) in February. Paul Robertson, who heads up our training and development for the Communities Prepared programme, is the group’s senior coordinator.

This interview with Calum took place before the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown. The group has since been on duty for over 10 weeks, providing deliveries to the vulnerable and self-isolating in the community around the clock. A further 10 volunteers have joined the team during the pandemic, including many younger members of the community who have been either furloughed, home working, or back from university.

What motivated you to sign up as a community emergency volunteer?

I had always had in mind that I would get involved in volunteering at some point in my life, but I think there’s a danger as a young person with university and employment pressures to think, “I’ll get myself set up first, then I’ll do it.”’ Even though I’m currently in a bit of a transitional phase, I felt that I was perfectly capable of giving up the odd evening and/or weekend to volunteer.

To my shame, I thought it might contain a bit of a busy-body element, but the reality is far from that and is quite admirable.

Can you tell us a bit about your role and how you support the community?

I was hesitant at first about the idea of a local community support group. To my shame, I thought it might contain a bit of a busy-body element, but the reality is far from that and is quite admirable.

We operate, to a certain degree, as a voluntary extension of a variety of public services, helping with some of the lower level tasks. For example, during the flooding, we helped the Environment Agency monitor water levels as well as the flood barrier. I’ve yet to be involved in such activities but I believed they’ve also supported the NHS in getting doctors to their area of operations during poor weather and helped the local authority transport department. With the group training and equipment we receive, you really get a sense you’re part of a professional outfit.

How do you fit the role in around your professional and social life?

It hasn’t taken up much time so far, but on the occasions that I’ve had a late evening or given up an odd day at the weekend, I just try to remember the many other people across the country who find time to volunteer with far busier schedules than me. 

Do I feel a sense of appreciation towards people who volunteer? Yes. Is there anything stopping me from doing something like that myself? No. I just want to feel like I’m contributing.

What do you get out of volunteering with the group? Why is it important to you?

For me fundamentally, it comes down to two questions: do I feel a sense of appreciation towards people who volunteer? Yes. Is there anything stopping me from doing something like that myself? No. I just want to feel like I’m contributing.

How do you see climate change affecting your role as a volunteer moving forwards?

Climate change played a part in my thinking when considering volunteering. I think a lot of people have a sense that we might be in stall for more frequent adverse weather conditions. As such, I think the training around the community response to these situations will get more of an impetus, even though it’s quite developed already for things like flooding and snow conditions. 

What would you say to encourage more young people to get involved in their local community emergency volunteer group?

Once you’ve done the odd thing with a voluntary group, be it an hour a week or a weekend a month, it tends to fit quite comfortably into your day-to-day life. I’d emphasise to younger people to just join the first meeting to find out more information and get an idea of what’s involved. And although this shouldn’t be the principal motivation, most employers love to see voluntary commitments on a CV. 

A note from senior coordinator, Paul, on the impact of COVID-19 on the group and how they’ve adapted during this challenging time:

Despite previously having trained with Wiltshire Council on public health emergencies, nothing prepared us for the intensity of work over the last 2 months. So far we have undertaken over 200 individual tasks from shopping and medication deliveries in partnership with the town’s spontaneous volunteer neighbourhood ‘street champion’ network, as well as putting up information posters around town on behalf of the Town Council and assisting with furniture deliveries for a homeless charity whose client was moving into an unfurnished flat.

Whatever the task, our volunteers have brought a friendly smile and in some cases, home-picked flowers to spread some cheer to those self-isolating.

Calum has fitted right into our COVID-19 response and, after some online training and mentoring, has even undertaken coordinator responsibilities, managing the volunteers as they respond to requests for help across our community.

It has been a privilege to be the senior coordinator for such a committed, cheerful, and eager group of volunteers, who have lost none of their enthusiasm after 10 weeks. They, along with every other volunteer across the country, should feel rightly proud of the important work they have done.

A close-up of two volunteers in front of a car, facing away from the camera. Both volunteers are dressed in high-vis clothing and are carrying boxes.
Photo credit: Lydia Booth Photography
A volunteer helps move a bed onto the back of a 4x4 vehicle. Another volunteer can be seen in the background.
Photo credit: Lydia Booth Photography

Thank you to Calum, the Bradford on Avon Town Council Community Emergency Volunteers, Lydia Booth and to all volunteers across the country for their incredible efforts and dedication to community resilience. Thank you!

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