The British Red Cross and insurance company Aviva are inviting people across the UK to sign up to a new scheme called community reserve volunteers, to help create a national network of people ready to help in a local emergency.
The campaign follows one of the British Red Cross’ “busiest years since WWII” when it helped 9,265 people in more than 1,500 emergencies across the UK.
Research commissioned by the two organisations suggests that there is a widespread willingness to offer support in a local emergency. Almost nine in ten people (88%) said that, if an emergency happened in their community, they would want to get involved. However, more than half (53%) of people would not know what to do if a disaster struck.
Indeed, the biggest reasons that would hold people back from helping in an emergency were not knowing how they could help (27%) and feeling like they didn’t have the right skills (19%).
The report, ‘When Crisis Hits: mobilising kindness in our communities’, was published today.
The British Red Cross hopes to attract 10,000 people to the scheme by the end of 2019. Currently more than 20,500 people volunteer for the British Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteers
What do volunteers do? The British Red Cross “responds to an emergency every four hours in the UK” – from fires, to extreme weather conditions and flooding, and national emergencies including acts of terror.
The willingness to offer support highlighted in the report might in part be due to the fact that 21% of the people surveyed said that they had themselves witnessed or experienced a large-scale emergency such as fire and flooding.
Registering for the community reserve volunteers “takes just ten minutes”.
No specialist skills are required. Volunteers will be called in by text if crisis strikes in their area. They could find themselves undertaking vital practical jobs like packing food parcels, blowing up airbeds for rest centres and filling sandbags in times of flooding.
Any necessary training will be given at the scene of the crisis and volunteers can confirm their availability when they are contacted.
Simon Lewis, Head of Crisis Response at the British Red Cross, said: “The findings of our report with Aviva show that despite this desire to help, people often don’t know how best to assist or worry they don’t have the right skills to get involved.
“By creating a national taskforce of community reserve volunteers we want to put local people at the heart of emergency response, to help communities rebuild and recover faster.
“Everyone has a role to play when disaster strikes, even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference. It’s quick and easy to sign up online community reserve volunteers, you don’t need specialist skills and we need your help now more than ever.”
— Aviva UK (@AvivaUK) April 30, 2018
Graham Brogden, Head of Property Technical Claims at Aviva UK, said: “At Aviva we understand how traumatic and disruptive major events can be to communities. Our own claims teams are often among the first on the ground when incidents occur and we see first-hand how important it can be for communities to pull together in times of crisis.
“That’s why we’re proud to be launching the community reserve volunteer programme as part of our ongoing partnership with the British Red Cross. By recruiting 10,000 volunteers across the UK, we hope to support the vital work of emergency responders and the British Red Cross teams in helping communities manage the unexpected, as well as help prevent or limit the damage caused.”
WATCH: From survivor to volunteer: this man was inspired by those who helped him
Thomas Milburn, 26, signed up as a community reserve volunteer after being assisted by British Red Cross volunteers when he was badly burnt in the Shoreham Air Show disaster.
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