WightSAR enhances its life-saving role with award from SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund

A new incident vehicle, financed by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) Resilient Communities Fund, is now helping a local organisation to carry out vital search and rescue operations across the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight Search and Rescue (WightSAR) applied for £20,000 of funding to enable them to buy the 4 x 4 and enhance their team’s rapid response to calls for assistance. While the vehicle has a primary purpose of transportation of the search team members and their equipment to remote areas, it will also be used for casualty extraction, when necessary. In times of adverse weather conditions, WightSAR has previously faced difficulties in not having a suitable vehicle to be deployed. As this is the time when the volunteers are most likely to be called to action, the new 4 x4 will ensure the team has a round-the-clock capability, whatever the weather.

In addition to the teams’ day-to-day role, WightSAR is part of the Isle of Wight Emergency Resilience Forum with a memorandum of understanding, that allows the team to be deployed by the Isle of Wight Council when there is a concern for human welfare. Part of this role is to assist NHS staff and patients in adverse weather, and help conduct welfare checks on those who live in isolated rural areas.

WightSAR also covers emergency helicopter landing sites across the Island for the Ministry of Defence and the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service. This means that volunteers can be deployed at very short notice to prepare a site ready for aircraft landing and the new SSEN funded 4×4 vehicle will have the necessary equipment on board to set up a cordon in preparation for the landing site.

Ian Drummond, SSEN’s Head of Region for the South East where WightSAR is based, said: "The work of WightSAR is much appreciated and well recognised across the region, so it’s wonderful to be able to further boost the essential service its teams provide by using the SSEN Resilient Communities Fund to help them purchase this vehicle.

"The benefits this new vehicle brings to the Isle of Wight’s residents and visitors can’t be underestimated. Our goal through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund is to help our customers build their own resilience; this is an excellent example of how the funding can be used and, for SSEN, it’s another way of showing our customers that they really are at the heart of all we do."

Since its recent purchase, WightSAR has already used the vehicle in a three-day search operation for a missing person on the island. As well as transporting the volunteer team members to various search points, the 4 x 4 was used to carry essential drone equipment for the three teams taking part in the search.

Dean Terrett, Chairman of Isle of Wight Search and Rescue said: “We are delighted to receive this generous grant from SSEN, which has allowed us to purchase a 4 x 4 vehicle that will be of great benefit to the Island’s community and will further improve the capabilities of our search team. 

“The addition of this vehicle will allow us to be more efficient, enabling us to access rural locations with our search assets and ultimately this will mean saving more lives.”

Set up in 2014 as a two-year pilot scheme, SSEN has pledged to extend the fund to 2023 using a proportion of the income it receives from the industry regulator Ofgem in relation to its stakeholder engagement performance.

Guidelines and applications forms are available on SSEN’s website: www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/England/ with a full report on the fund available here - https://www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/

The 2019 fund is particularly focused on projects helping vulnerable or isolated people living in SSEN’s network areas, with applications of up to £20,000 to be considered by an independent fund panel. The closing date for applications is 17 May 2019, with decisions on awards to be made by September 2019.