South East Relief Force (SERF)
We offered our assistance as a Fire Service organised charity to Norfolk Fire & Rescue and the North Norfolk District Council to assist them with the Relief effort after the Surge tide in December 2013. The whole of the East Coast was hit hard and in particular an area in Norfolk called Walcott and Bacton really were smashed with many people stranded in their homes. Our offer of assistance was grabbed by the Norfolk Fire & Rescue and the NNDC and after many hours of planning we set off taking firefighters, fire officers both retired and serving from London, Kent and Surrey Fire Services. We meet at the then RVP at the Kingfisher Fish Bar and Café on the Walcott sea front. Had a cup of Yorkshire Tea – who again supported us and a sausage and chips from the Kingfisher and reccé’d the area looking to set up a Command post that we could get our operation up and running and then be able to hand over to the local community once in a position to do so. We planned a ten day operation so that we could set up a structure and be able to achieve as much as possible and set up the way that the Villages could continue to work. Initially the village was a little sceptical however once we set in and got working people warmed to what we were achieving and the plan. We prioritised what was urgent and potentially could either be dangerous or become dangerous. As well as demolishing structures that required and clearing out mud and sand and shoring up windows, we also went door to door and talked to people letting them know we were there and were able to help and offered them a Proper Brew (Yorkshire Tea) at the Village Hall where they could get advice, some donated food, and clothing and actually share their feelings with their neighbours and also be in a warm and friendly environment, all be it very loud with all the Firefighters and the fireground banter……
Everyone that was there with us wore their Fire gear or our own T2T Fire gear and the public began to realise how many of us there was and that we were from all over the country, the TV and press came over and took several interviews and pictures and even met our Fire Dog Dylan the springer Spaniel. Work was being carried out all across the villages and the atmosphere was so friendly and became more and more positive as each day passed. The Firefighters that came spent one, two, three or more days – booked in at the Village Hall and booked out as they left, we all stayed at the Castaways Holiday Camp in very luxurious static Homes and we were all fed by the Kingfisher Cafe in the morning and the Kingfisher Fish Bar for lunch and then this culminated in an evening meal prepared and given to us at the Grasshopper pub every evening. I can only say that I watched Firefighters (serving and retired ) leave the Village Hall when they were going home not actually wanting to leave because the camaraderie and work ethic was so good – Banter was at an all time high….. we were doing what we do best – Work and as teams/crews to put right what had gone horribly wrong for many…….
We should also say that the Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service were absolutely fantastic and the Chief was truly a Chief and for the period that we were there no matter what Fire Service they came from we became his Firefighters and he our Chief….When he came out to visit the crews he was taken back by the work undertaken and was greeted by us for coming out and supporting us.
By our efforts we enabled the NNDC and the Norfolk FRS to be able to retreat into their day to day role while we took up a Disaster Recovery Plan in a way that we and they understood. For me I would like to thank the NFRS, NNDC, Yorkshire Tea, the businesses and the Villagers of Walcott and Bacton for their support. We felt we were wanted and we hope we achieved to assist you all in getting back on your feet. So that’s New York and Norfolk…….where next ??? We’re up and ready to help anyone, any place, anytime in their Disaster Recovery or any other Humanitarian efforts………