It takes years for a city to prepare to host the Olympic Games. After careful evaluation of existing facilities and services, old venues are upgraded, new venues are built, transportation services are expanded, hotels and restaurants are spruced up, and entire cities are given a good “spring cleaning”. All of this is important to the success of the Games, but equally important are the preparedness and response plans designed to keep athletes and spectators safe.
It’s no surprise that the British Red Cross spent years creating a preparedness and response plan to handle the enormous influx of people into the already massive city of London, England.
Said Simon Lewis, the British Red Cross Head of Emergency Planning and Response: “The Olympic Games pose an unprecedented challenge to the UK, its emergency services, and its statutory (police, fire, and ambulance services) responders. The size and impact of the games is the equivalent of the Wimbledon final, London Marathon, FA Cup final, and Notting Hill all taking place at the same time.”
Like the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross is able to provide services because of the generosity of volunteers. An important piece of the British Red Cross’s preparation for the 2012 Summer Games was a focus on volunteer recruitment, which would in turn strengthen the organization’s ability to respond and recover if and when faced with an emergency.
The British Red Cross also developed a unique “Major Incident Response Multilingual Phrasebook” to facilitate more effective communication between emergency responders and individuals for whom English is not their first language.
Now that the London Olympics are underway, British Red Cross volunteers are working closely with emergency personnel and are on hand in five of London’s busiest train stations, the sailing site in Dorset, and multiple venues showing the events to provide first aid support to spectators. The British Red Cross is also holding first aid training sessions for Londoners who live in the host Olympic boroughs; with thousands of visitors in their communities, it’s more important than ever for local residents to be trained in and have the confidence to use life-saving skills like CPR and first aid.
It is estimated that British Red Cross volunteers will work at least 225 hours each day, combining for a grand total of more than 3,835 volunteer hours throughout the 2012 London Olympics. I’d say that kind of service deserves a gold medal, wouldn’t you?