Nick Palmerley, NYLRF volunteer
On the 31 July, 2019, approximately one month’s rain fell in just four hours, resulting in catastrophic damage to the villages of Bellerby, Grinton, Reeth and further parts of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in North Yorkshire. Along with huge damage to property, flash flooding caused extensive destruction to transport infrastructure, including highways, farm tracks and bridges. Additionally, local farmers suffered widespread loss of sheep and other livestock.
I attended the memorial hall in Reeth at the appointed time of 11am on Friday 2 August, having responded to a text request to assist from Ready for Anything co-ordinators on the evening of Thursday, 1st August. The hall was busy and noisy, with lots of people engaged in doing all they could to respond to the emergency in what appeared to be organised chaos.
Following a slightly frustrating delay of perhaps an hour while we waited for volunteers from another agency to join us, our co-ordinator tasked us with identifying isolated properties affected by ingress of flood water and to find out whether fresh food was required. We were able to deliver perishable goods, such as milk, drinking water and bread, along with dried foods and cleaning materials to these people. I undertook visits to affected properties in Grinton, Reeth and remote farms in Arkengarthdale, accompanied by a council officer and a fellow Ready for Anything volunteer.
We liaised with locals to find out where vulnerable people might be struggling and made visits to them our priority. As well as the delivery of provisions, it seemed that people were pleased to see a member of council staff and simply have volunteers to chat with. Locals in the incident hub also told of us of an elderly lady in Grinton who required fresh food – we were able to deliver basic groceries and freshly-made sandwiches for her lunch.
We were also able to find out if other forms of help were required and information was recorded so that services could be mobilised later. By 3.30pm, we were confident that we had visited all isolated properties with vulnerable persons in our given area.
I felt my skills in driving my 4x4, which meant we were able to reach isolated properties, were utilised, but perhaps more than anything just being a friendly face on the ground to listen to and support those affected was probably the most important task we undertook all afternoon.
The training we all received on signing up for Ready for Anything prepared us for this type of incident, although future training would definitely be helpful too.
As volunteers, we were able to offer the emotional support emergency services were simply too stretched to provide. We were also able to attend vulnerable people and provide essential provisions – this is not something emergency services had the time or resources to do and probably wouldn’t have happened without our input.
As well as working with a council officer at all times, we were kept informed with frequent updates by mobile phone to ensure we were okay. Overall, the experience was enjoyable and I think, useful – I think we all felt a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.