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Emergency group well prepared. "All I heard was mayhem"
A simulated flooding exercise the week before proved to be a godsend for members of Raynet, the volunteer emergency radio net-work, when the storm swept across Sevenoaks. Everyone still had the procedures fresh in their minds and when the full-scale of the catastrophe was realised the volunteersí were ready for action, Ashley Jones, then the West Kent group controller, said: "I was woken at about four in the morning by my wife. Caroline, and I immediately realised something serious was going on". I rushed to my radio room, just outside the bedroom and turned on the various radios. All I heard was utter mayhem". Luckily Ashley's radios were all ready to go, with charged batteries from the week before and so he decided to drive into the town with Caroline - and their sick cat, which needed to visit the vet! I hadnít been officially called out - but then all communications were down." said the BBC World Service Engineer. "We got into Sevenoaks at about 8:30 to 9am. I left Caroline and the cat at the vet and carried my gear into the emergency centre. "When I walked in everyone cheered - they had been trying to contact me and had even sent the Police out to bring me in. They were virtually set up, but had no communications." Ashley's next few days were spent "in the bunker" co-ordinating the chainsaw crews and relaying messages from the district council's chief executive Bruce Cova and the officers in the field. At one point he had to go on the roof of the council building to rig up an aerial for the police radio network which had been unable to get a signal from the council offices to the police station. "It was incredible fun; dreadfully exciting...We worked 12 hour days. By Monday, the situation was pretty much under control." Reproduced by kind permission of the Sevenoaks Chronicle © www.courier.co.uk