Voluntary Agencies Group gets official ‘thank you’ for Somerset Floods response

Twenty voluntary organisations who pulled out all the stops during Somerset’s unprecedented 82-day 2013-14 winter floods have been handed a long-awaited prestigious award.

Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group (SEVAG) discovered it was to receive the Emergency Planning Society Resilience Award 2014 for the Voluntary Sector in the autumn. Unfortunately no-one was able to attend the award ceremony in Birmingham to receive the honour.

Made up of 20 different agencies, spanning the British Red Cross to the Burnham Area Rescue Boat, the award recognises the significant contribution SEVAG made supporting the local response to the Somerset floods.

Today (Wednesday 17 December) Somerset County Council Chairman David Fothergill was finally able to make it official with a reception and presentation at County Hall in Taunton.

Cllr Fothergill said: “The drive, tirelessness and expertise of the organisations that make up the Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agency Group has helped the county through some incredibly troubling times, and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

“They are a recognised and trusted group of volunteers who have become a fundamental part of our local response when the unexpected hits, and without them, we would be all the poorer.

“I wish to give my sincere thanks to SEVAG for all the work put in by all 20 organisations, and I am extremely pleased to finally be able to present each with this long-deserved award.”

SEVAG is on permanent standby, ready to be called out by Somerset Local Authorities Civil Contingencies Partnership for County and District Services to help in response to, and recovery from, incidents as and when they are needed.

Among the tasks the group of organisations completed during the floods, were:
•  Providing aerial photographs of the Somerset Levels and Moors
•  Door knocking, welfare checks and information gathering
•  Searching and evacuating residents from flooded homes in boats
•  Providing boat and 4×4 transport routes for cut-off residents
•  Running a logistics cell for heating fuel, welfare checks and transport
•  Staffing a tactical control centre as liaison for all voluntary agencies involved in logistics
•  Attending places of safety and rest centres for those evacuated providing welfare support
•  Providing information and refreshments at flood assistance centres
•  Preparing shift rotas to cover all the locations and centres needed
•  Supporting drivers from other voluntary agencies
•  Helping deploy sandbags, lay pipelines and protect properties
•  Providing first aid training  and medical help
•  Assisting the rescue and rehoming of pets and farm animals
•  Assisting at the donated goods distribution centre
•  Collecting used sandbags and providing refreshments for staff

Regional clubs also donated money to the Somerset Community Foundation for flood grants, while national clubs donated equipment for flooded homes and community buildings.

The Chairman also recognised the contribution made by Mrs Barbara Sparks RVS, who has been involved in emergency response since 1978. Mrs Sparks is stepping down as the lead of SEVAG and the Voluntary Agency representative on the Avon and Somerset Local Resilience Forum.

Notes to editors: 

Somerset Local Authorities Civil Contingencies Partnership is funded by Somerset County Council and five District Councils. It is responsible for preparing plans, training and exercising staff for emergency response and recovery, and promoting community resilience.

Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group (SEVAG) is made up of the following agencies:

British Red Cross
Royal Voluntary Service
Burnham Area Rescue Boat
St John Ambulance
Freewheelers Emergency Voluntary Service
Wessex 4×4 Response
Plymouth Brethren Rapid Response Team
Civil Air Patrol (Skywatch)
Victim Support
Salvation Army
Faith Communities Response Team
Rotary Club
Lions Club
Exmoor Search and Rescue
Street Pastors
South West England Rescue Association