In part one of this series, I explained the role of 4x4 response groups and what sort of assistance they can provide - if you need a refresher, check it out here.
In this article, I'm going to talk you through my experience of joining Yorkshire 4x4 Response so that you can get an idea about what to expect if you sign up as a 4x4 responder. I'll cover the sign-up process, and talk about attending my first monthly meeting.
But first - a little background - how did I come to join in the first place? My partner Nic has started volunteering for the Samaritans, which is sometimes challenging but very worthwhile. I'm also aware that I couldn't do it - I'm an engineer, and I'm always looking for solutions and shortcuts to efficiency - not really what's required in that scenario.
I reasoned that volunteering seems much like exercise - if you're going to do it and stick with it, then you should try to choose something that you enjoy. I could have looked to do something computer-based, but I already spend enough time sitting at a desk so something to get me out and about seemed ideal - that's where the 4x4 response came in.
Initially, I contacted one group but didn't even get a reply so I found the Yorkshire 4x4 Response website and filled in their online application. I'll be honest here - I didn't get a reply from them either at first, and life distracted me for a while so I didn't follow up. Some weeks later, I received an apology - it turned out that there had been a lot of changes behind the scenes, and my application had been lost in the transition. Thankfully, they'd picked things up again and I was invited to attend the next local meeting.
The meeting was held in a local pub, but it wasn't a drinking session - most of the members had soft drinks, as they were driving. There were a few of us present, myself and another chap were both new to the group so we introduced ourselves and after some chit-chat, the others explained about the role of a responder and how the group is organised, etc. - see my previous post if you're unsure.
They explained that if we still wanted to become members, there is a small annual fee to cover insurance and the cost of equipment - at first, this means a hi-viz and a membership card, but in the future, there might be other items depending on what's needed. The group has stickers, winter coats, hats, etc. but for obvious reasons, they don't just hand everything out on the first day!
One of the things we spoke about is that the existing website is quite old and the system isn't as good as it could be. There's a new system being developed which is currently being tested and should be live in the next couple of months which is much improved. I'll admit that I did wonder when I applied, I wasn't overly impressed with the old website so it was good to hear that it was being replaced.
So, in order to become a responder, the following things were required:
- Payment of the annual membership fee.
- Proof of right to work status (passport).
- Proof of driving license, insurance, and MOT for your vehicle.
- Completion of SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) training.
You don't have to have them all immediately to hand - it's just that you won't be signed off to respond until everything has been provided. Once I'd agreed that I was happy, right there and then I was allocated a responder number and welcomed to the group - that concluded the induction process, nice and painless.
A few days later I received an email with payment details for the membership fee - I paid online and was asked to bring my supporting documents to the next meeting, at which we'd also be going through some training modules.
And with that, I was a member of Yorkshire 4x4 Response, although not signed off to respond to incidents yet.
In the next part of this series, I will share my experiences of the second monthly meeting and the training courses that we covered - please subscribe to be updated on new posts as soon as they're published.