Cushendall Resilience Group saw an urgent need in their community and used lottery funding to put a community emergency plan in place.
Cushendall is in an area renowned for its beauty. Local people are proud of where they live and there is a strong sense of community. Through the years, they have faced challenges created by nature – storms, flooding, heavy snow and tidal surges. It was one of the areas severely affected by heavy snow in March 2013, with drifts up to 18 feet high blocking roads and access to homes and farms.
Although rare, these events can have a big impact on people in the area. Chair of Cushendall Community Resilience Group, Paddy McLaughlin, said that although they are a tightly-knit community, they felt vulnerable and isolated. Aware that there were many local people with valuable skills who were willing to volunteer, a group came together to take action. Paddy said: “We have a great community, with great go ahead and great joined-up thinking – we don’t wait for someone else to do it, we do it.”
The group decided to put together one, co-ordinated emergency plan using the skills and resources they already had. He said: “This plan is built by the community for the community.”
They identified a piece of equipment that would be key to helping in a crisis – a generator. This is something that Paddy described as “vital”, as power cuts caused by storms and heavy snowfall in the area have sometimes lasted up to three days.
In October 2014, the Cushendall District Development Group, which the Community Resilience Group is part of, used an Awards for All grant of £9,990 to buy the generator and produce an emergency plan booklet. The booklet was shared with local people and contains key contacts to get in touch with in an emergency.
The booklet also identifies emergency rest centres. The Parish Centre is the main base, and here people will find heat, light and a warm meal, thanks to the generator.
The group have an overall safety and communication plan, and volunteers its main strength. Many of the volunteers are highly trained, as they are already closely involved with agencies such as the RNLI, Fire Service, Health Service and Mountain Rescue. Paddy said: “There’s a co-ordinated plan for whatever it is we’re trying to do.”
The group liaised closely with Northern Ireland’s emergency services and other agencies and the Cushendall plan complements the highest level emergency plans for regions across Northern Ireland.
Paddy said: “It reassures vulnerable people in times of need that there’s help there until the emergency services arrive.”
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