- New Teams
||13-12-2009 10:11 PM
Guide Lines for establishing a 4x4 Response Group
Hi everyone, as the map is rapidly filling can I ask that anyone who is thinking of setting up a new team or is aware of any potential new teams to read the following and then contact one of the Trustees, these are
Simon Bentley and
Paul Johns (PJ)
We can advise not only on the generalities but also on specifics such as how to obtain H/V clothing, produce ID cards, obtain signage etc.
We are here to help.
First things first
Is there a group already in your area. Check the register and see if a group either exists or is under development. If not, and you’re up for a challenge, then read on.There have been a few occasions recently where groups have approached us telling us that they have set up a group. It would be worth realising a couple of simple points here:
* We do not establish two groups in one geographic area
* It is not appropriate for anyone to set up a 4x4 Response Group until they have first made contact with us to confirm that they are not moving into the area covered by a current group.
* We are very supportive of those who are keen to get involved in this fantastic work, but politeness means that you make contact first!
Before we go any further, let’s be clear about what you are proposing to start.
* A 4x4 Response group is not an emergency service or rescue team!
* A 4x4 Response group will never directly answer 999 calls nor is it likely that any of the volunteers will be authorised to use blue flashing lights on their vehicle.
* A 4x4 Response group will not be expected to deliver an instantaneous response nor any group member travel at high speeds to the scene of an incident.
* A 4x4 Response Group is neither a taxi service nor a parcel delivery company. Therefore, a volunteer group should not find itself competing with local businesses or be regarded by authorities as a cheap form of transport or bargain courier service.
What a 4x4 Response Group can and should do is provide reliable, discrete and effective logistics support to the emergency services, the local authority and other voluntary groups who attend civil incidents in that part of the country.
The 4x4 Response Group should aim to give valuable back-up of a tactical and measured nature. Certainly, members may find themselves in extreme situations assisting in a dire emergency or rescue but that is not the prime function of a 4x4 Response group.
There are several situations when a call out may be initiated:
1. During periods of extreme weather conditions for example blizzard or local flooding when all-terrain vehicles are required
2. In the event of a major civil incident where there is a need for additional transportation
3. During period of ‘normal’ weather but when access to uneven terrain is required
4. When the provision of a well trained and coordinated fleet of vehicles will assist in an incident involving injury or potential loss of life
Typically the tasks undertaken would be of a "fetch and carry" nature and may involve the movement of personnel, equipment and supplies. Operations might include the delivery of urgent medical supplies to families living in remote areas, the evacuation of personnel or members of the public from potentially hazardous situations, the transport of medical personnel including midwives and health visitors, the recovery of stranded personnel or vehicles (including emergency vehicles), assistance during search operations over rough terrain or remote areas, transportation of key staff to hospital during extreme weather, etc.
During a major incident a User Service Controller would be appointed. Members of the 4x4 Response group attending an incident would report to and be under the control of that person either at the scene or remotely.
4x4 Response teams are geographically based and cover a discrete area alonside other teams. The most appropriate name for a team will be: “County/area name 4x4 Response” e.g. Gloucestershire 4x4 Response / Hertfordhsire 4x4 Response etc.
You will need vehicle identification of some kind to assist the User Service at an incident. There is aNational Identity scheme, with each group being allocated a 2 character identifier, e.g. WE for Wessex 4x4 Response.
Your members will need ID cards and some groups have gone down the route of embroidered sweatshirts and fleeces etc. Even a simple sweatshirt emboidered or printed with the team name can help to give identity to the team, and matched with suitable "uniform" trousers will help to give the impression of a team to users and the public.
Members will need Hi-visibility clothing suitably marked this can be simple waistcoat or more elaborate jackets and leggings for wet and cold weather.
Who do you help
Each group should define the ‘User Services’ they are prepared to work for. These would normally include the Council Emergency Planning Department (sometimes referred to as Civil Contingencies or Resilience), the local Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade and Coastguard but may also include other volunteer groups such as WRVS, Red Cross, etc. Once you have established your group you will need to make contact with these services.
The single most difficult task facing a new group is establishing a working relationship with these User Services. Your initiative, whilst full of good intent, may be viewed with suspicion, derided as pointless and even regarded as a criticism of the current civil contingency arrangements. Some organisations may not involve themselves purely on the grounds that to do so would suggest to the public that they are ill-equipped or lacking man-power. Do not underestimate the anti-4x4 feeling which may exist. However, an Emergency Planning Officer with a little imagination could be a great ally and, if invited to mentor the group and guide its development, could be the key to a good working relationship with all the local organisations.
4x4 Response Groups should be acutely aware that the Category 1 responders are all professionals. Additionally, Category 2 responders and voluntary agencies such as The Red Cross, RNLI and mountain rescue teams all have a very professional outlook and approach to their work. Well-meaning but misguided and ineffective amateurs are not likely to become part of the contingency scene. Therefore it is critically important to adopt and project a professional, mature attitude if you are to gain the respect of the User Services you wish to support.
4x4 Response is very proud of the professional approach and attitude it has, it is expected that all groups will maintain the high standards already in place.
Remember User Services in different regions may work differently and apply different standards and rules. Just because a particular approach worked in one county does not mean it will work in yours.
Be patient it can take literally years to gain the respect of the User Services.
On a different tack valuable experience can be gained assisting at commercial and charity events. In some cases funds can be raised. Providing vehicle support to motorcycle enduros, equestrian events, charity bike rides or walks are all good uses for the Groups members.
A committee needs to be formed willing to take on the responsibility of running the group. This committee needs to identify the key requirements of the group and ensure that someone is appointed to take responsibility.
A Chair is normally required if only to ensure that things progress, regular meetings take place and that everyone talks to each other. Someone must have an overall view of what’s going on.
A bank account in the group’s name will be required as a personal account will not be acceptable to prospective sponsors. The minimum number of signatories to the account should be two. Therefore a Treasurer will be required. They will the responsible for the safekeeping of the cheque book and the maintenance of the accounts.
If a User Service needs you, there needs to be a point of contact and someone to call-out the members. This position is normally referred to as the Controller. The Controller needs to have access to members contact details and a method of calling them out. Many groups use a web-based SMS Text system (www.sms-responder.com). They will also need to be able to contact both the User Service and the members during the call-out. This means they may have access to secure numbers not normally accessible to members of the public.
Training Standards need to be identified, assessed and maintained therefore a Training Officer is a good person to appoint.
Health & Safety is of critical importance although volunteers, in the eyes of the law your members are employees and as such there is a legal obligation to ensure their welfare.
Appointing a Health & Safety Officer is a good method of demonstrating the fact that you take the subject seriously and providing that all important ‘professional image’
A Secretary is a good idea and is normally a legal requirement if you ultimately want to go for charitable status.
Fear not though these jobs can be combined with more than one task being carried out by one person. Although the more you can spread the workload the better the group will run.
The group will need a Constitution which clearly outlines what the organisation will do and how it will conduct itself. This is signed by those setting up the group and will normally be required to open a bank account.
If you intend to run any events such as exercises where you are not working for a User Service you will need Public Liability Insurance. When on a Call-out you will normally be covered by the User Service Insurance.
How do you get members or volunteers? Firstly post on as many different forums as you can.
Canvas your mates, you probably know a few like-minded people.
Print some leaflets and ask if you can leave some (and some posters) at the local 4x4 dealers and garages (even the big franchise dealers are often happy to have some on their parts counter).
If you have the know how, set up a website.
Consider a 2 level approach to membership such as ‘Support’ and ‘Active’ with members becoming ‘Active’ once they and their vehicles have been assessed.
Depending upon local requirements you may have to insist upon character references and/or a Police check.
Members will be required to have Business insurance for their vehicles. 4X4 Response activities fall outside the definitions of Social, domestic or pleasure.
You will need a method of maintaining membership records with details of competence, vehicle capabilities and contacting.
Finally, with regard to volunteer selection; aim to create a group which is an “all makes” organisation. Restricting membership to one make of 4x4 is self-defeating – it’s the volunteer who will make the difference not the badge on the bonnet!
Making provision for training is very necessary for two important reasons.
* Firstly, there is a legal responsibility with regard to the Health & Safety of each volunteer. Sending an ill-trained team member into a difficult situation could result in loss of equipment, injury and litigation. Groups should undertake to make available all necessary training to minimise the risk to their volunteers, employees of the User Service and members of the public.
* Secondly, presenting the group as a well trained outfit ready for the challenge increases and demonstrates the “credibility gap”. The emergency services invest huge sums in training and re-training and there is no good reason why a 4x4 Response Group should not do likewise to set itself apart from, say, the local off-road club.
Depending upon User Service standards, available resources and funding training can range from in-house bespoke course to IAM Advanced driving, First Aid and formal off-road driving with an approved instructor.
All training should be recorded. Personal and vehicle equipment including hi-viz clothing will need to be purchased in line with H&S requirements.
Remember "Look professional, act professional and you'll be treated as a professional"
The committee will need to consider membership fees as a means of kick starting the finances of the group. Sponsorship and Grant Awards have been won by established groups which have paid for training, insurance and equipment. Applying to become a registered charity opens more doors as tax breaks are available to private and corporate donors.
Don’t forget the fun element in all the hard work! Strive to arrange regular social meets which aids the team building process and generates confidence in other members of the group. Exercises can be fun to. Navigation, problem solving, rescue, recovery, etc, etc, all of these can be fun to run and take part in.
National 4x4 Response Network Standards
The National 4x4 Response Committees have developed a set of 'best practice' capabilities it feels all groups should consider in order to provide a credible 4X4 Response service. For details of these capabilities join our forum where you candiscuss these with others already running teams.
This seems like a lot, and it is! But don’t be put off setting up and running a group can be a lot of fun and hugely rewarding. Links are now established across England, Scotland and Wales and most recently Northern Ireland with existing or potential groups. There is plenty of help and support. These links can lead to joint events and visits or as a minimum someone with local knowledge to meet up with if you go on holiday!
4x4 Response, (The National 4x4 Response Network) has been established to build upon these links to provide definitive assistance, templates and tools to help you. It acts as an umbrella organisation and if you have any questions do contact the Trustees for further help.
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