'Miles and time is secondary' - 4x4 response team's bravery amid floods

The 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas.

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas. - Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response

Calls in the middle of the night or while tucking into Christmas dinner did not stop some 50 dedicated 4x4 response drivers from stepping up to help those affected by flooding.

Towns and villages across Norfolk and Suffolk have seen rivers burst and hundreds of properties flooded or evacuated, following heavy rain in the run up to Christmas.

Alongside the emergency services, volunteers from Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response Team have been on standby since the late hours of December 23.

Around 50 people said they were ready to deliver sandbags, evacuate buildings, drive stranded motorists home and take emergency services staff to work.

Among the volunteers was Katerina Nemcova, who described the experience as an "intense" three days.

Katerina Nemcova was one of the many Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response volunteers working over Christmas during the flooding.

Katerina Nemcova was one of the many Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response volunteers working over Christmas during the flooding. - Credit: Katerina Nemcova

The Tivetshall St Margaret resident has been a volunteer with the charity for a year after buying her 4x4 vehicle and wanting to get involved in her community.


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She received her first call in the early hours of Christmas Eve to help a family of five whose car had been flooded while trying to get home to Diss.

Taking over from the fire service who had made sure the family were safe, Miss Nemcova started her travel and were able to get the family home three hours later. 

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She said: "We had local flooding where I live, a neighbour's property was pretty badly hit. I had a call a family of five were stuck in a car in the middle of a single tracked road and the water had flood their car which was stuck in the flood water. They had been trying to find a way home and they got stuck as well.

"The journey would normally take 15 minutes, it is only a couple of miles, but because a lot of roads are flooded, it took us three hours to get them home.

"You are prepared for people being scared, panicked, this family were ever so positive, they saw it as an experience, the children saw it as an adventure."

The 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas.

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas. - Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response

With her Christmas plans this year altered due to the pandemic, Miss Nemcova continued to volunteer over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, helping take community nurses to see their patients.

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over...

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas. - Credit: 4x4 team

She said on her journeys she has seen other 4x4 drivers get into difficulty and advised people not to take the risk by driving through flood water.

The head of customer insight said: "Being able to help we have cars that can literally swim. It was most intense the last few days

"It's not about the hours, if someone is stuck, got themselves in a situation because of the water or unfortunately they need sandbags, if we can help we will.

"The miles and the time we spend out is secondary."

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over...

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas. - Credit: 4x4 response team

The charity was founded in 1999 by Great Yarmouth resident Ralph Hardwick and his brother and has grown into a UK-wide service with 32 4x4 response teams.

Kalvin McLeod, vice-chairman of Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response and controller of deployment, works in a team to send out volunteers such as Miss Nemcova.

As part of its flood protocol, two 4x4 vehicles are dispatched if attending a scene with flood water to ensure back-up if vehicles get into difficulty.

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over...

The Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response team were on standby to help whatever the time of day throughout the county over Christmas. - Credit: 4x4 response team

Mr McLeod said: "On December 23 we were told go on standby. Around 11pm we started getting calls. Long Stratton was a disaster zone, we were heavily involved with that.

"We had a very busy Christmas Eve.

The 4x4 response team monitoring throughout the day and night.

The 4x4 response team monitoring throughout the day and night. - Credit: Kalvin McLeod

"I'm really impressed with the way the volunteers were available and made themselves available. One of them got a call while he was eating his Christmas dinner.

"He drove from King's Lynn to Norwich to take sandbags towards Diss. Then he went home again. There are no shortcuts in Norfolk, if you take a shortcut you'll probably have to turn back."

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