Mike at Grenfell Tower

Mike at Grenfell Tower ©British Red Cross

Last year was one of the most challenging times in the history of the British Red Cross.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire and terror attacks in London and Manchester, we responded on an unprecedented scale.

This included raising £28m for the people affected, sorting through 200 tonnes of donations and managing a 24-hour support line. Overall, we helped almost 2,300 people affected by these terrible tragedies.

From this, the Red Cross and other organisations that respond to emergencies have learned important lessons about how we support people in times of crisis. One of these is that all organisations involved in a crisis must work closely together.

Working together more than ever

We are absolutely committed to rising to this challenge.

In the year since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the British Red Cross and many other voluntary organisations are working together to be better coordinated in a future national emergency.

Together, we are exploring the establishment of a national fund for emergencies.

The new fund would have the resources to deal with the huge scale of public generosity and enquiries that follow a major incident. This will help the public to feel confident their donations will make a difference to those in need.

New ways to support and volunteer

With partner organisations, the British Red Cross is working towards setting up a single support line. People affected by an emergency will then be clear on where to go for information 24/7.

We’re also using our international expertise to see how we can provide cash grants to people affected by crises in the UK.

When tragedies like these happen, we recognise that people want to help. Communities must be at the heart of emergency response.

Our new Community Reserve Volunteers programme will establish a national network of 10,000 volunteers. They will be prepared and ready to help at a moment’s notice, should a disaster strike in their community.

But there’s still more to do

We need the government to support these initiatives. First there must be enough resources, and statutory bodies should be guided to work more closely with the voluntary sector and community groups when crisis strikes.

It should do more to empower people with basic first aid skills to help in an emergency, by making learning first aid a mandatory part of the curriculum in all schools.

And it must also guarantee that people’s needs are met immediately in a crisis no matter who they are.

In times of national emergency, government, statutory bodies, charities, and grassroots community groups must act as one, and act swiftly to put the needs of people first.

Tackling some of these challenges will help us to be the best we possibly can be in the service of those in crisis.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross