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St John staff step into breach during wintry weather

Aerial photograph of a snowbound M20 with Operation Stack in full flow
Aerial photograph of a snowbound M20 with Operation Stack in full flow

The response of ambulance teams to the demands of the cold snap was unprecedented.
That’s according to Martin Phippen, commissioner of St John Ambulance in Kent, who has praised “breathtaking” team-work between his staff and South East Coast Ambulance Service.
SECAMB has also praised the dedication and support of St John Ambulance Service, the British Red Cross, community first responders and 4x4 vehicle owners.
Between 7am and 9am on Wednesday January 6, SECAMB saw a 37 per cent increase in calls on previous day and 20 per cent increase in incidents, and a “major incident” was declared.
St John Ambulance based its control team at the SECAMB control centre in Coxheath, so that the response could be co-ordinated.
Mr Phippen said: “St John works with SECAMB on a regular basis, but you then get winter pressures. They say 'shoot, we can’t get all our vehicles out, can you help?’
“The next stage they say this is almost an emergency because we can’t get to all areas of the county and we need equipment.
“We did things that were not first aid because it was something that was needed.”
Mr Phippen visited Coxheath on Friday to see the teamwork at first hand.
“It was absolutely brilliant.
“At one point we said to an ambulance in Canterbury 'will you get to Faversham?’ Within ten minutes it came up on the screen saying there’s been a problem at Dunkirk, where they would be travelling. We immediately contacted them and said: 'right, turn around and go to a different job’, then we contacted someone else. This was happening all over the place.”
Mr Phippen said St John’s minor units in Sheppey and Deal were kept open throughout the weekend and staffed by SECAMB and St John Ambulance workers - a first for both teams.
St John Ambulance also sent 4x4 vehicles out across the county, including Cranbrook.
But Mr Phippen added: “It’s not what St John did; it’s the way everyone worked together.”

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