DOZENS of Land Rover drivers are to ensure Edinburgh’s most vulnerable receive the care and medicine they need this winter after a ground-breaking deal was brokered with an all-action charity.
All-terrain enthusiasts will ferry care and social staff to the homes of isolated patients cut off by snow or ice after a contract was signed with Lothian 4x4 Response this week.
The charity, which boasts 33 volunteers, will provide logistical support and perform a range of tasks including collecting and delivering equipment or supplies, surveying roads and vehicle recovery.
It comes as the city gears up for an expected white-out, with the winter of 2010 – which saw the army clearing ice and snow from the streets – still fresh in the memory.
Forecasters have already warned city residents to have shovels at the ready this winter with a pattern of high pressure predicted from December through to February.
Malcolm Gibson, a 62-year-old IT consultant by day and a driver with Lothian 4x4 Response by night, said the charity was a “group of volunteers committed to using our 4x4 vehicles” to help others in need. In recent years, the group has helped distribute aid to flood victims, provide meals on wheels and courier care staff to isolated patients.
“We aren’t an emergency service or taxi firm but will do what we can to help,” he said. “When 18 inches of snow drops its a different story for care services and we can take key staff into hospitals but also assist with the care in the community. We can get to them when their Ford Fiestas can’t cope with the snow, severe wind or flooding.”
The volunteers all own Land Rovers but have had training in off-road driving, first aid and navigation. Walkie-talkies are used in place of mobile phones – a more reliable alternative if the weather turns ugly.
The council is not charged for the service, but it will meet fuel costs and expenses. Lothian 4x4 Response already has deals in place with local authorities in Falkirk, East Lothian, Midlothian, and the Borders.
Councillor Jim Orr, vice convener of transport and environment, said: “Our focus is on making sure we keep the city moving, whatever the weather has in store this winter. This marks an important addition to our resilience plans and we are delighted Lothian 4x4 Response will be on hand to help us if the weather becomes especially severe.”