Callouts 7, 8 and 9 of 2018.
CALLOUT 07 / 2018 - 28th February - 3rd March 2018
'Storm Emma' and the 'Beast from the East' weather events caused a Metoffice Red Warning to be issued for a majority of the County of Devon and the southwest this week. As one of the agencies that forms part of the Haldon Hill Emergency Snow Plan' along with the ful-time emergency services, Devon County Council and the Highways Agency, we were placed on heightened alert for the duration of the expected disruption.
Following major incidents in 2009 and 2010 that caused 100's of motorists to be stranded on Haldon and Telegraph Hills, lessons had been learnt and all agencies were very well prepared for the expected snow and blizzards that arrived this time around. The A38 especially is a major artery into the southwest and every effort would, and indeed was, made to keep the road clear.
Our Search Managers were actively involved in planning meetings leading up to Thursday and in preparation, our Incident Control Vehicle was taken to Kennford on Wednesday in advance of the expected bad weather on the Thursday afternoon. Our team volunteers were on heightened alert and were deployed to 3 different rendezvous (RV's), at strategic points on the West and East side of the hill at noon on Thursday ready to be deployed where needed to keep the A38 flowing. Very quickly the weather deteriorated as forecast and 2 teams were deployed to the Haldon Forest Diner at the top of Haldon Hill around 2pm.
Almost to the minute, the weather deteriorated rapidly at 3pm as forecast and problems very quickly began to occur. Haldon and Telegraph Hills rise rapidly to their apex and it's this rise that causes the issues with traffic in snow conditions.
The emergency services closed the A380 Torbay Road quickly after the snow storm began as planned so that all efforts could be focused on the A38. Shortly after, lorries and cars started to experience traction problems climbing the hill and congestion started to form. In the 2009/10 events the gritters and snowploughs couldn't get through to clear the road as their progress was blocked by stranded vehicles. This time the emergency services released traffic in batches and, apart from a few issues, managed to keep the gritters and snowploughs running for most of the time which minimised the number of stranded vehicles.
Our role in the plan is primarily to undertake welfare checks on stranded motorists and make sure any medical events are highlighted for treatment and hypothermia is avoided. We also kept an eye on any abandoned vehicles to keep track on anybody who had decided to leave their vehicles and make sure they were safe.
As darkness fell limited traffic was still able to traverse the hill with considerable care although many vehicles did experience issues. From our base at Kennford and Haldon Forest Diner, our Landrovers were able to ferry team members to wherever they were needed to facilitate rescues alongside the Fire Service to help get stranded vehicles moving that were causing obstructions to traffic flow.
One particular area for problems was the westside of the hill on the Westbound carriageway heading down towards Chudleigh. Members and the Fire Service helped to get things moving again and the road was kept open.
Eastbound there were also problems from the Teign Valley/Chudleigh Knighton junction towards Harcombe bends on the hill which also proved a problem for HGV's with at least one jack-knifing.
Around 1am members were finally told to stand down and they faced their own challenge of getting back to their homes safely.
On Friday, members were then again deployed to help the Ambulance service with reaching patients in rural difficult to access areas before finally being stood down in the early evening.
Saturday began the task of getting team vehicles and equipment back to our base, equipment repacked and readied for the next callout, and members reunited with their vehicles.
Our Team Leader 'Keith Lambeth' wrote the following message to members, family, friends and supporters of the team about our deployment.
"It's been a long few days with team members being deployed in some cases from midnight on Tuesday through to today. Our main efforts have been welfare and safety checks on Haldon (as well as other tasks to keep traffic moving). Followed by a day of assisting SWAST with accessing emergencies in remote areas and team doctors assessing cases to reduce burden on ambulance and hospital services."
"I have three thank-you's to pass on.
Firstly Thank you to all of the team members who have answered every request made of them with cheerfulness and resilience. I am prouder than ever to be a member of this team and my colleagues constantly set a standard that I aspire to, even when communication isn't clear and conditions are poor their patience and stamina are awesome."
"Secondly Thank you to our Families and friends who make it possible for us to walk away from our lives to do this and then appear hours later for baths and showers! Our supporters in Dart2Zero who underpin all we do. Over the last three days, we simply couldn't have operated without the hospitality of Haldon Forest Diner, The Dartmoor Lodge and Moorgate veterinary practice thank you too!"
"Lastly and maybe most importantly thank you to everyone who made sacrifices and stayed off the roads when asked this week (yes, I know not everyone could)."
"The work hasn't finished for us just yet and today we are reuniting members with their cars, checking, cleaning drying and recharging equipment and then we will be looking for some quality time with families. Providng the phone doesn't ring..."
"Thank you all for support and kindness."
CALLOUT 08 / 2018 - 2nd March 2018
The team were deployed on Friday 2nd March to assist SWAST during the extreme weather conditions affecting the Southwest. 13 members were involved in assisting SWAST with 4x4 vehicle access in hard-to-reach areas around our patch for medical issues. One 85yr old gentleman was assessed and evacuated to RD&E; another 86yr old female was assessed and stabilised without having to seek hospital treatment by a team Doctor
Over the 1st and 2nd March, 40 members were involved in the snow incident.
CALLOUT 09 / 2018 - 12:32 4th March 2018
The team were called to assist an overdue kayaker at Newbridge on Sun afternoon the 4th March. The kayaker had come out of their boat whilst descending the upper Dart. Members started to head towards the RV at Beltor Corner to deploy into the Upper Dart Valley and begin a search. Within 15mins of the callout being initiated the kayaker phoned to say that they were safe and well having walked out and the team were stood down.