Often 4x4 drivers are vilified by the media for their so-called 'gas-guzzling' cars but, now the snow has melted, it's been gratifying to read of the efforts many of those drivers have made to help others and to see that those efforts have been reported positively.
Members of a Bucks 4x4 club were reported as being heroes
The Bucks & Oxon Response Group was called on by the emergency services to help get nurses, carers and the police to work. Group chairman, Roger Taylor that the group even helped affairs of the heart run smoothly. He said, "We've been moving registrars around, getting them to ceremonies in remote locations, so weddings have been able to go ahead." Land Rover driver Roger told BBC Three Counties Radio presenter, Helen Legh on the morning show. He went on "We have the vehicles, which have the capability to move about in these conditions with no great problems." The group, known as BORG, is open to anyone with a passion for off-roaders. Members are normally seen marshalling charity events, competing in rallies or just out enjoying the uneven terrain of the Buckinghamshire countryside. In 1999 the club became a voluntary stand-by service in times of emergency, which would operate on behalf of Bucks County Council's Emergency Planning team based at County Hall in Aylesbury during emergencies such as bad weather, terrorist attacks or explosions. The recent snowfalls in Buckinghamshire saw the group provide transport to all services and agencies that call upon them. Roger said he had enjoyed helping out, "I did a couple of runs taking staff to the ambulance headquarters, moving people from Milton Keynes to Bicester," and added its at times likes these that members of the 4x4 group can 'put something back into the community'. John Carter, the club's emergency planning co-ordinator, said, "The council called us to say they were putting in place the emergency plan and from then on I had my phone glued to my ear. We've had groups out with Thames Valley Police, we've had groups in the ambulance stations and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue are using us. I know people slate us a lot for our 4x4s, but we like to give back to the community. In 2007 things got really big with the flooding - 4x4s got renowned and people started using us a lot."
Wales's 4x4 volunteers helped with rescues in the big freeze
A volunteer group of off-road drivers dealt with dozens of call-outs during the big freeze in Wales. 4x4 Response Wales ferried doctors, nurses and police officers along miles of snow and ice-filled rural roads to reach people in isolated properties. It is the first major test of the group since it was formed at the beginning of 2008 from one established in Powys. Founder Mark Margetts, 49, said, "We recognise this is a once-in-30 years situation but it stretched us." The organisation is part of the 4x4 Response Network, which has more than two dozen similar groups around the UK. 'Responders' train with their own vehicles to develop driving skills and volunteer to help emergency, police, NHS and local authority workers reach vulnerable clients or difficult locations. They most commonly expect to be called out when flooding makes roads impassable for routine driving but during the freeze, more than 100 volunteers around Wales dealt with calls day and night. One task ended with an RAF rescue helicopter airlifting a man from his home after a doctor was taken to the property by a 4x4 responder.
Mr Margetts said, "Our guy had tried three different routes to get the doctor to the property. Eventually he got him to within a kilometre and they walked the rest. The doctor was able to stabilise the patient but he needed to be got to hospital and that's when the helicopter went in.' He added, "The kind of places that we get called to tend to be remote rural locations and the last stretch is off road. In this case, we were only able to get within a kilometre of the property. The driver uses his judgment and his training and if he thinks the best thing is to get out and walk, then they get out and walk."
During the prolonged cold spell, the group, a charity, has dealt with tasks across Wales. Both North Wales Police and Dyfed-Powys Police called on responders to take officers to or from police stations or out to incidents at remote locations. Others drove doctors, midwives and district nurses to and from clients.
The 4x4 Response Wales group has regular training sessions in off-road skills, navigation, First Aid and vehicle recovery. In the team's membership are around 10 women volunteers, including five husband-and-wife teams. Wayne Jones, principal emergency planning officer for Powys, said he had tasked the group around 70 times in the cold spell using a text-message service set up with help from the county council. He said, "We would have struggled to provide a lot of our services without the assistance of the group. This is a very positive example of 4x4 off-road drivers. They do sometimes get a lot negative press and rightly so in some cases but this is a very positive case. They are basically assisting the community in which they live. It gives you faith in humanity."
Good response to Brighton 4x4 snow appeal
In Brighton, the council said drivers were needed to deliver to hard-to-reach areas and an appeal for 4x4 owners to help transport food and medicine to vulnerable people in Brighton was met with a fantastic response. Brighton and Hove City Council said 'volunteer drivers had helped to deliver items to hard-to-reach areas'. Drivers had also taken hospital staff to and from work, a spokesman said. As weather conditions across Sussex began to improve, the council said it would keep details of the volunteers in case of further difficulties.
In Wessex the community relied on Wessex 4x4 Response
When the emergency services, carers, doctors and nurses needed a helping hand to get to people desperately in need during the snowy spell they called on Wessex 4x4 Response. The dedicated team of volunteers braved the elements to help paramedics and other emergency services get to those most in need. Members of Wessex 4x4 Response live across North Somerset and Sedgemoor and sometimes have an emergency service background but often they are just kind-hearted individuals with a 4x4. Now in its eighth year, Wessex 4x4 Response is part of a national organisation where drivers of 4x4 vehicles give up their time and sometimes have to take annual leave to perform their duties. Martin Twigg got involved with the organisation when he read an article about 4x4 response in a Land Rover magazine. Martin bought his vehicle for carrying his bass guitar around when he played for a rock band, but wanted to use his car for what it was really built for and has now been a response volunteer for three years. One of his first calls was to help out in the Gloucestershire floods. He said: "We were taking drinking water to people who were stuck in their homes. Some of them hadn't had fresh water through for a fortnight because it was all polluted. I spent three days up there transporting bottled water - we shifted 23 tonnes." Martin a train driver for First Great Western took annual leave to help during the floods.?Pete Sadler is both a volunteer and an air crew paramedic for Great Western Ambulance Service. The 47-year-old has been with the group for 18 months and helped out an ambulance crew in Portishead during the recent snow. He said, "On another occasion I picked up emergency control room staff from their homes in Tetbury and Stroud, where no other vehicles were able to get through, and took them into work in Gloucestershire. I became aware of the group shortly after I bought my Land Rover Discovery and through work, so I thought I would put my vehicle at their disposal. For the majority of the year there is no work to do, but you need to keep your vehicle in a good road-worthy condition for when you are needed."?Simon Fisher joined the group in early 2009 after he spoke to friends who were also members and said: "It's a juggling act balancing work, 4x4 response and family life. During the recent snow I was unable to go out to my clients anyway, so I took some time off work and committed my time to the group. Luckily my employer is very understanding. I also have an understanding wife who is proud that I help others and she is willing to do her bit in taking care of the kids so I can do the response work. I like to be able to help someone else and I also get a bit of enjoyment while doing it."?Julian Sayer from Cheddar became involved with the team after giving some members off-road driving lessons. He joined five years ago and was out on several calls to remote snow-covered areas. For more information about joining the team visit www.wessex4x4response.org.uk?
Praise for dedication of Cheshire's Red Cross volunteers
In Knutsford, Cheshire volunteers have been praised for their efforts in helping during the recent snow. Shadow Chancellor and Tatton MP, George Osborne, paid a visit to British Red Cross staff and volunteers at the organisation’s Cheshire office and thanked volunteers who braved the snow and ice to provide extra support for vulnerable people across the county over the past two weeks. Thanks to the Red Cross 4x4 Land Rover ambulance and its Defender, Red Cross staff and volunteers were able to continue to support vulnerable people through their emergency response and care in the home services with minimal disruption. Sue Wreglesworth, senior service manager at British Red Cross Cheshire, said, “Our dedicated staff and volunteers have been amazing during these conditions, and have pulled together to contact vulnerable service users throughout east and west Cheshire to make sure they are okay and to find out if they need any support, whether it is shelter, warmth or food.” The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer or find out more about services in the Cheshire area visit redcross.org.uk/nearyou.