From four men in a pub to a national charity, Wessex 4×4 Response has had an incredible journey over the past 2 decades. It all started with a vision to utilise the capabilities of 4×4 vehicles and their owners to provide essential support during emergencies and adverse weather conditions.
The concept of Wessex 4×4 Response began to take shape when the organisation’s founder, with previous experience as a Special Constabulary Section Officer and a Town Councillor, realised the need for a network of “friendly” 4×4 owners who could lend their vehicles in times of crisis. Maintaining a dedicated fleet of 4×4 vehicles was not cost-effective for emergency services, so the idea of harnessing the power of willing volunteers with off-road capable vehicles emerged.
In September 2002, during a visit to the Land Rover show in Peterborough, a chance encounter with an organisation called “4×4 Response” sparked the inspiration to establish a similar team in Somerset. With enthusiasm and determination, the founder emailed the Emergency Planning Officer in Taunton to gauge interest and seek support for setting up a team.
Within a short span of 48 hours, the founder received an encouraging response, including an invitation to a meeting and assistance in establishing Somerset 4×4 Response. Gathering like-minded individuals passionate about off-road vehicles and community service, the team held its inaugural committee meeting at the Lord Nelson in Ilminster in October 2002. With only four members present, they set out on their journey.
The first year proved to be a period of rapid growth and learning for the nascent organisation. Through active promotion on 4×4 forums, the team attracted new members, resulting in a membership of 16 within the year. They also engaged with local authorities and attended several meetings to demonstrate their capabilities and establish relationships with professional bodies.
However, it soon became evident that Somerset 4×4 Response faced a challenge. While emergency services recognised the potential value of their assistance, there was understandable hesitation in fully utilising an untested organisation. The team needed opportunities to demonstrate their abilities and build trust.
By their first anniversary, Somerset 4×4 Response had established itself as a recognised entity. With membership cards, identifiable vehicles, and acceptance into SVAG (Somerset Voluntary Agencies Group), they were making significant strides in their operational structure. Drawing inspiration from the Police, Fire Service, Red Cross, and Cave Rescue Group, they developed a command and control structure comprising Bronze, Silver, and Gold teams.
As Somerset 4×4 Response gained momentum, their reputation spread beyond Somerset. They started collaborating with other 4×4 Response teams nationwide, discussing common standards and working practices. The original “4×4 Response” organisation rebranded itself as “Norfolk and Suffolk 4×4 Response,” paving the way for a national umbrella group under the name “4×4 Response.”
The third year marked a turning point as Somerset 4×4 Response expanded its reach beyond county boundaries. With a growing membership spanning Avon, Devon, Dorset, and Wiltshire, the team became a registered charity. Their declared aim was to supplement and support emergency services by providing equipment and vehicles, preserving and protecting human life.
Year four brought new opportunities for growth and recognition. The team’s involvement with emergency planning led to an invitation to the National Emergency Planning College in Easingwold, where they obtained a basic qualification in emergency planning. They also adopted the name “Wessex 4×4 Response,” encompassing the various county teams and strengthening their collective identity.
In subsequent years, Wessex 4×4 Response continued to establish partnerships and formalise agreements with various organisations, including the police. They demonstrated their capabilities during significant incidents such as the Gloucestershire floods in 2007, where they provided crucial support in distributing supplies to the affected areas.
Through dedication, flexibility, and unwavering enthusiasm, Wessex 4×4 Response proved their value time and again. Our members went above and beyond, driving thousands of miles on numerous taskings, ensuring the welfare of the elderly and vulnerable in challenging conditions.
From its humble beginnings, the organisation had grown into a respected national charity with a solid track record of service. With a network of committed volunteers and a strong operational structure, Wessex 4×4 Response remains prepared to support emergency services, aid communities, and make a positive difference in times of need.
Join us in honoring our history, embracing our future, and becoming a part of this incredible team. Together, we can continue to provide vital assistance and contribute to the safety and well-being of our communities.