Volunteers wanted in Yarmouth for emergency rest centre drill


- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A simulated evacuation of about 30 residents will take place next week to test emergency rest centre plans for a real flood – and people can help by volunteering as the would-be evacuees.

A rest centre is a safe local building which provides temporary accommodation for residents during an emergency. One of these is Ormiston Venture Academy, in Goleston – and on Saturday, September 3, from 10am to 1pm, it will open to 'evacuees' as part of a training exercise.

The simulation, co-ordinated by Great Yarmouth Borough Council in partnership with the Environment Agency and the school, will enable those staff trained to run and oversee the rest centre in real crises to test their approach in a realistic environment.

To ensure the exercise is as realistic as possible, organisers are seeking volunteers to play the role of evacuees. Most people will be playing themselves and, just as in real life, they are encouraged to turn up with any special circumstances or requirements they might have, including bringing along their children and/or pets.

Anyone who fancies the acting challenge has the alternative option to play a specific role, such as a distraught parent separated from their child, an older person with long-term dementia, or someone who has been traumatised by seeing their home flooded.

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In addition to putting the school and council staff through their paces, Norfolk and Suffolk 4X4 Response will also be transporting disabled people to and from the venue, and amateur radio group Raynet will be helping with communications.

Cllr Carl Smith, chair of the council's environment committee, said: 'This exercise aims to test and further improve the rest centre plans and to give staff the extra practice of implementing procedures and working alongside each other and partner organisations in a realistic environment, accommodating 'evacuees' with sometimes challenging requirements.'Enlisting the help of real people from the community as 'evacuees' is a very authentic way of doing this, because people often have special circumstances or issues that would have to be addressed in a real emergency. We would love to hear from anyone who is able to volunteer.'

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Cllr Penny Carpenter, chair of the council's housing and neighbourhoods committee, said: 'I have volunteered as an 'evacuee' in a previous rest centre exercise and know how useful they are as a learning tool.

'Rest centres are an important service. Several were opened and used during the 2013 tidal surge. More recently, the Marina Leisure Centre was opened as a rest centre during the Regent Road fire, though fortunately it was not needed.

'The borough council would like to thank Ormiston Venture Academy and the other premises which have offered themselves for use as rest centres in the borough, as well as the numerous staff, volunteers and partners which ensure they can run well.'

Simon Gilbert-Barnham, principal of Ormiston Venture Academy, said: 'At Venture, we are proud of the role we can play in supporting all aspects of our local community. We are excited to be involved in this exercise to ensure that if the need arises we can work together with the rescue services, providing a safe and friendly provision for those in need. We are proud of the service we have been able to provide in the past and know that this opportunity will ensure we are ready to help.'

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Julie Woods on 01493 604739 or info.mesh@btconnect.com If you have any special health or other requirements, or you are planning to bring pets, please let Julie know the details.

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