Drivers of 4×4 vehicles from across Sussex are to help police deal with major emergencies in the county.
An agreement has been signed by Sussex 4×4 Response, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and Deputy Chief Constable Giles York that will see the charity’s members support officers at some major incidents.
Emergencies such as the heavy snow that has fallen in the county over the last few years have shown the benefit of having an extra fleet of all-weather vehicles available to the emergency services.
Under the new agreement, members of Sussex 4×4 Response will volunteer to help with transportation in difficult conditions at short notice around the clock.
The roles could include trips such as taking key staff to work so they can do their jobs or delivering supplies or equipment to officers involved in operations, or help with search & rescue operations.
It will not involve the volunteers taking on police roles or dealing with 999 emergencies.
Sussex 4×4 Response already helps NHS staff including doctors and nurses to get to work or to patients in bad weather or during emergencies when they might otherwise be unable to get their safely.
The idea was trialled successfully by Sussex Police during the sudden snowfall in the county in March when Sussex 4×4 Response volunteers helped get 999 control centre staff to their offices to keep the emergency telephone system working.
Inspector Andy Kundert, Sussex Police’s head of emergency planning, said: “The Sussex 4×4 Response volunteers could be of great help in an emergency”.
“They will allow us to help more people by reducing the logistical problems that can be caused by extreme weather or difficult ground conditions, such as in more rural locations”.
“For example, instead of officers being tied up getting staff to the 999 control centres, they will be able to stay out on patrols helping members of the public while the volunteers transport the workers to where they need to be”.
“We will be able to concentrate on doing our job of making sure people stay safe”.
Volunteers will have to undergo first aid training, learn advanced driver skills and be given health and safety guidance before they can get involved in the scheme.
They will also vetted by the force and would have to sign a health declaration and confirm their vehicle is in good working order.
Each will carry an ID card confirming who they are and what their role is.
In an emergency, senior officers would contact the charity’s co-ordinators who would mobilise as many volunteers as is required.
The volunteers will not be paid but can claim expenses for any mileage they do and for basic maintenance on their vehicles on operations.
Mike Cook, the Chairman of Sussex 4×4 Response said “The signing of this agreement is the culmination of months of negotiation between Sussex 4×4 Response and Sussex Police. We are very pleased that our member’s hard work, dedication and professionalism have been recognised by the Police and Crime Commissioner and we look forward to helping Sussex Police in the service of our community”.