A Short History
The Fire & Emergency Support Service (FESS) was first introduced in the UK in Berkshire in 1993, before being approved by the British Red Cross Council in 1995 as a core service. There are currently over 30 FESS vehicles based around the UK. Many of the vehicles are actually based on a Fire Station, although a few are based at local Red Cross HQ.
FESS respond to the needs of those suffering the effects of fire, by providing practical and emotional support during and after an incident. Volunteers who are part of the service are given training in varying fields covering basic first aid, giving emotional and practical support and many other skills. We also learn how to work with the Fire and Rescue Service at incidents and fireground safety. There are ongoing training sessions for volunteers as well as visits to fire stations to meet some of the crews and learn more about the work they do.
At an incident, the Fire & Rescue Service incident officer will identify a need for FESS to attend, and a message will be sent to Fire Control requesting the FESS duty crew is paged, or called by mobile telephone.
The FESS duty crew will then respond as soon as possible to where the vehicle is garaged and turn out to the incident. The vehicle is a modified camper van which can be used to take people into a warm and dry environment, away from the public eye, while their needs are assessed. Calling out a FESS crew does not depend on the size of an incident but rather takes into account the amount of support they can offer which other organisations may not immediately be able to respond to. This will enable the Fire & Rescue Service to concentrate on their firefighting duties without the need to look after occupants of affected buildings, as well as leaving the organisation of housing needs or arranging for other professionals to attend to help restore the property to a habitable condition. In cases of extreme emergency, the British Red Cross have contingency plans which can lead to more staff and volunteers being called in to assist if appropriate. It is the aim of the British Red Cross to have a duty crew on call 365 days a year, on weekday evenings until the next morning, and all day Saturday and Sunday.
The FESS vehicle and crew are often available to attend fire station open days.
The British Red Cross are always looking for new people to join the service as a volunteer. Anyone interested should look at the website for their local British Red Cross organisation.