Unsung Norfolk and Suffolk heroes ride to rescue in snow

PUBLISHED: 08:34 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 08:34 18 January 2013

Jim Whiteside, a member of Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response team.

Jim Whiteside, a member of Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response team. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

They are the unsung heroes who help to keep Norfolk and Suffolk moving during freezing conditions.

For when nurses or ambulance staff are unable to get to work, or cars are blocking main roads, 50 men and women jump into their 4x4s and ride to the rescue.

From the “control room” - a kitchen table at Waxham - the members of Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response are despatched across the two counties to lend a helping hand.

And the last few days have been among the busiest of their 14 years in existence, with members ferrying 66 people to and from work - mainly at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - taking patients to hospital and towing away stranded cars.

One of the members, Jim Whiteside from Happisburgh, said: “We feel a need to contribute to the community. But in truth, what we do is piffling.

“It’s a wonderful excuse for us to go out and play in our 4x4s. We almost feel guilty about how much fun we have while helping Norfolk and Suffolk recover from a crisis.”

Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response is not the only team on standby in the two counties. Others ready to ride to the rescue are Breckland Rover Rescue and Suffolk Rover Rescue.

Mr Whiteside said: “We work very closely together. At times like this, it shows that well-meaning volunteers can be useful to emergency services, which occasionally need 4x4 vehicles to help out.”

He first got involved 25 years ago when, as a young member of Breckland Land Rover Club, he joined Breckland Rover Rescue.

Mr Whiteside added that Norfolk was the first place to set up a 4x4 response team, and there were now 30 groups across England.

“There is somebody available 24/7 to respond to calls. We have 60 members across Norfolk and Suffolk, including 50 with vehicles and 10 who help with logistics and events.

“Places like the ambulance HQ and the N&N rely on their staff getting to work in their own vehicles. It doesn’t take much to stop a normal car.

“When snow falls, we normally expect a dozen or so calls to help people get to and from work. This time the demand has been exceptional.”

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