The Fire and Emergency Support Service Vehicle (FESS) has been working with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service since July 1998. The adapted caravanette style vehicle run by around 33 volunteers provides practical and emotional support to people in the West Yorkshire area affected by a domestic fire or similar Fire and Rescue service incident e.g. domestic flooding, evacuations, including road traffic collisions where the vehicle ends up in a house.
This service is delivered in the first few hours after the fire/incident and supplements the activities of the statutory services by providing a higher level of support than that demanded by the statutory obligations of the emergency services and local authority. The vehicle is fully equipped with non-perishable food and clothes along with other items.
One family grateful for the help provided by the FESS in 2010 commented:
“The Fire Service asked if we wanted some help from the Red Cross. It was in the middle of the night and we didn’t know who else to turn to. We accepted the offer. They turned up in a camper van. They were really helpful”.
The senior fire officer at the scene of the incident initiates the call out by informing the Control Centre, requesting the attendance of the vehicle where the volunteers can assist with welfare and practical issues. The incident does not have to be large, just that the victims may be in trauma or in need of the facilities, which the Red Cross volunteers can offer.
The vehicle is not intended to be used as sleeping accommodation; the services on offer are free of charge and the primary considerations and uses are:
- Assist those affected by the fire/incident by giving immediate temporary shelter and to identify their own needs
- Provide or arrange for the provision of practical and emotional support and assistance with the care of children
- Signposting to other relevant organisations
- Light refreshments, shower, washing, toilet facilities, provision of toiletries
- Transport to relatives or temporary accommodation arranged
- Availability of clothing
- Baby food, nappies and toys
- Pet food
- Use of camera – photographs of scene for insurance claims
- Provision of Fire Emergency Support Service Vehicle information pack to help them start to rebuild their lives
- Independent insurance assistance offered