My Winter – Community Emergency Volunteer Team Coordinator, Paul Robertson

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

Paul Robertson, CEV group coordinator

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. 

Snow wardens clearing the road
Snow wardens

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.

WeatherReady Winter Campaign 2019

The Met Office has launched its WeatherReady Winter Campaign for 2019 in partnership with the Cabinet Office to help people prepare for and cope with severe weather. WeatherReady encourages individuals, families and communities to think about winter preparations they can make to help them stay warm, healthy and safe at this time of year.

The following WeatherReady checklist has been produced as part
of the campaign’s resources and can be used to help people to think ahead.

Get your flu jab

Flu can have a major impact on vulnerable people and you may be entitled to your vaccination free of charge.

Check your vehicle is winter ready

Top up anti-freeze screen wash, check your tyres and think about a winter kit for your car.

Make a ‘plan B’ for commuting and childcare

Consider alternative commuting plans for severe weather, and alternative childcare plans in case of school or nursery closures.

Check your heating

Cold weather can be a risk to your health, particularly if you are over 65 or have health conditions. Your home should be heated to at least 18 ºC.

How will you access information?

Consider how you would access vital information if a storm takes out power and phone lines. Save key documents and information in a safe place and consider a battery-powered charger.

Think about what may be impacted by strong winds or flooding

Around the home there may be guttering, pipes, roof tiles/slates, garden items and important items stored on the ground floor which could beat risk from severe weather. Make some checks and maintenance, and consider moving items.

Plumbing checks can save your money

Check your pipes are insulated and know where your stop tap is.

Have some basic supplies and a grab bag ready

Make sure you have some basic supplies such as bottled
water, medicines, torch, radio and batteries in a ‘grab bag’. This will help if
you have to leave home quickly or your power or water are disrupted.

Think of your neighbours

Share this checklist with your neighbours and see if they
have any other tips. You can also tell them if you can help in severe weather.

Think of your community

There are lots of things you could do to help your community, particularly if severe weather hits. Contact your local resilience forum for more information.

The above information has been produced by The Met Office. More information can be found at www.metoffice.gov.uk/weatherready

Communities Prepared resources

You can also download a range of free training resources and information from Communities Prepared with guidance on preparing for, responding to, and recovering from flooding, snow and utilities failure plus additional support on managing and recruiting community volunteers. Click here to sign up for free.

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