A grant from Somerset Rivers Authority has helped to buy an automatic sandbagging machine for the Somerset branch of the Rapid Relief Team.
Rapid Relief Team members have previously used shovels for the back-breaking job of filling thousands of sandbags to protect people and properties in Minehead, villages around Taunton, and – in 2014 – the Moorland area of the Somerset Levels & Moors.
Cllr John Osman, Chairman of Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), said: “Somerset Rapid Relief Team members have made some superb contributions as volunteers, turning out in quite extreme conditions to help local communities. The SRA grant for this new machine means they’ll be able to work even more effectively, to protect people and properties.”
Tom Martin, Taunton-based RRT Team Leader, said: “I’ve done the actual filling of the bags, loading them with a shovel, and it is really hard, back-breaking work. This machine will make life a lot easier. We’re very pleased with it, and very thankful to Somerset Rivers Authority for its support.”
The machine has been imported from the USA. Mr Martin said: “After a lot of research, I thought it was the best value for money, also simplest to use and easiest to transport around.”
A dumpy bag of sand can be emptied into the hopper at the top of the machine, then a foot pedal is used to control the flow of sand down into a bag. Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow visited Wellington, where the machine is stored, to have a go.
She said: “It really will help speed things up. It’s quite difficult to handle slightly wet sand, but having it coming down this way through a hopper, should make things quicker and more efficient, and you can get quite a big team going. And it’s portable, so it can go round to the riverside, or to the properties that you think are going to be in most need soonest, and they can park it up, and start working, so that also seems like a very, very efficient way to do it.
“I think we’ve got a very good plan in place now in Somerset, lots of lessons have been learned. Let’s just hope we don’t get any floods to try it out!”
The RRT is one of 21 voluntary agencies that belong to the Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group (SEVAG). SEVAG is a Sub-Group of the Avon and Somerset Local Resilience Forum.
Nicola Dawson, Chair of SEVAG and Leader of the SRA’s Building Local Resilience workstream, said: “As part of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan, we’re always looking for ways to improve what local people can do, and this new equipment is a welcome addition to an ever-increasing armoury.”
IN THE PHOTO:
Stepping up the pace: Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow (left) tries out the Somerset Rapid Relief Team’s new automatic sandbagging machine, which can help fill up to 500 sandbags an hour. Ms Pow went to see the machine in Wellington with (second left) RRT Team Leader Tom Martin, Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group (SEVAG) Secretary Lesley Knight and Nicola Dawson, Leader of Somerset Rivers Authority’s Building Local Resilience workstream and Chair of SEVAG.