Helen Brown, NYLRF volunteer

When a major incident occurs, you find yourself asking ‘How can I help?’  That was the very reason I wanted to be a Ready for Anything volunteer. Essentially, we know the volunteers are an extra pair of hands, a smiley face, there to lend a listening ear while supporting the responding agencies. In real terms though what does that look like and just how would I fit in and help?

The opportunity for volunteers to participate in multi-agency exercises and training sessions really appealed to me as I can see the huge value in exploring the bigger picture and considering just how we’d support. I was lucky enough to attend such a session in Riccall recently, a silver tactical co-ordinating group exercise. It gave me valuable insight into what happens during a response to major critical incident.  Considering how volunteers would work alongside the responding agencies means they can be utilised effectively and efficiently. It benefits the volunteers knowing what kind of activities they could do to help the agencies, but it also enables the emergency teams to think about how they can use the volunteers, ensuring the best use of all the manpower available.

The exercise was based around a scenario of a large fire on an industrial estate and included an evacuation. To see how the group came together to ensure they saved lives, reduced harm, assessed the situation, looked at the threats, established their parameters and resources needed, gave me food for thought and made me realise just how much planning and co-ordinating takes place at silver level. I learned it is extremely important that an accurate overview of the procedures takes place to ensure the incident is managed in the best way.

As volunteers, we observed how the different agencies represented - from the fire service, police, ambulance, council, hospitals, highways, public health, utilities and so on - would respond to this incident and the decision-making processes they go through to come together to ensure they save lives and minimise risks. I found it extremely interesting, especially thinking about how volunteers would be utilised in this scenario. I quickly realised there is a lot of specific terminology, language and acronyms used in the planning exercises. While to begin with it seemed a bit daunting, by the end of the session, I felt much more knowledgeable about the language used and how these exercises work. I think that can only empower me to be a better-informed volunteer and if I’m called upon to help at an incident it means I understand the processes more fully. If you get the chance as a volunteer to attend a similar session, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It means you are as well-equipped as possible to be Ready for Anything.