Remembering the charities that support our emergency services
On the 14th June 2017, London awoke to see a billowing cloud of smoke rising into the morning sky. As the news of the 129-home tower block’s fire swept across the world, the scale of the tragedy slowly emerged: 72 men, women and very young children perished in Grenfell’s burning prison – the deadliest fire in the UK on record.
One year on, Grenfell Tower’s burnt-out husk stands sentry to the 60-hour blaze, a symbol of the trauma that survivors, families and locals still suffer day after day; a shadow of tragedy that continues to loom over the sight and mind of everyone affected.
Unrelenting in its reminder of the failure to protect the 350 people who lived in the 24-storey building, Grenfell’s shadow is a monument to the injustice faced by its former inhabitants. With the commemoration hearings taking place last month, the poignant memorials to the 72 could not have provided stronger evidence that the fire’s damage was so much more than collateral. Yet it was the collateral itself which sparked the tragedy: the aesthetic cut-price cladding on the walls; the exposed gas pipes on the single stairwell; the faulty firefighting lift; doors that were not compliant with fire safety standards. In fact, a recent 210-page interim report has shown that without these factors, no one need have died.
In the face of such horror, there is no escaping the cloying sense of injustice that hallmarks the tragedy. The Tower rears its head over one of London’s richest boroughs, a reality-check that can no longer be avoided in one of the most economically-divided countries in Europe. Yet with at least 306 residential blocks still covered in fatal cladding – failing government safety tests – across England, Grenfell’s victims could have died in vain. On this day of remembrance, therefore, it is important to recognise the community of heroic individuals who came together to save, support, and fight for them.
At 12:54am, the first call to the emergency services was made. Just six minutes later, the first fire engine arrived, soon to be joined by 39 more – bringing more than 250 fire fighters to the blaze.
At 1:14am, the first flames began to lick the outside edges of the Tower. Rapidly spreading upwards, the fire took on an unprecedented scale within minutes. No British firefighter would have experienced the likes of this inferno in their entire career, yet risked their lives to enter it; later falling to the ground, their eyes haunted, by what they saw. All had counselling after the incident, with the London Fire Chief publicly sharing how she has sought help following the fire. Such is the scale of mental health issues suffered by firefighters in England and Wales, that 41,000 shifts are lost a year.
The Fire Fighters Charity’s campaign video “I wish my head could forget what my eyes have seen” depicts the reality of the mental health repercussions of such a traumatic event. One of the many charities offering much-needed support in the wake of the tragedy, it offers services to firefighters such as psychological support and time away in a residential centre to work towards recovery. Turning 75 this year, it is running a celebratory #My75Miles Challenge campaign, for supporters to complete a 75-mile distance any way they wish for sponsorship; so long as the total mileage is reached by the end of the year. Now, halfway through the year, £21,835 has been raised.
With poor mental health rising amongst members of the emergency services – days off as a result have increased by 98% in recent years – the support provided by expert charities is becoming increasingly necessary. Yet with a climate of stigma facing them, emergency services members are less likely to seek support for their needs – meaning that specialist organisations such as PTSD999, where the majority of its Trustees, doctors and counselling staff have served in the Emergency Services and/or suffered PTSD, or have close ties with someone who has, are especially crucial. Mind, the mental health charity, also runs a Blue Light Programme for those who save lives – with an info pack, info line and a Time to Change Pledge challenging this stigma.
Today, on the 14th June 2018, as the sun rises over the charred skeleton of Grenfell Tower, the world will remember the injustice faced by too many in a building where nobody should have died. But it will also remember how people rallied together to help those in need – and how this tragedy is testament to the power of human solidarity.
If you know any inspirational ways to support our emergency services, then tweet us @OfficialCause4.
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