Somerset Emergency Volunteers

"FileMaker has freed us to do what we are desperate to do; get out in the field and help families who are in desperate need of our assistance. Once the floods physically disappeared they left an enormous amount of work to be done and FileMaker has allowed a small core team of volunteers to manage this and provide the best possible support we can to our local community." - Paula Blight, Chief Executive, Mendip Community Support

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FileMaker gives Somerset floods volunteers two days extra a week to help on the front line

Rapidly implemented system releases workers from the office and simplifies insurance claims for locals


  • FileMaker has been used to manage the recovery effort after the flooding of the Somerset Levels


  • Not-For-Profit


  • The FileMaker system was developed within two weeks to manage volunteer activity and insurance statuses of local properties


  • Volunteers now have 2 extra days a week to help on the frontline and can mediate between displaced residents and insurance companies
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In the aftermath of the devastating floods that hit the Somerset Levels over Christmas 2013, local charities and volunteers rose to the challenge of spearheading the recovery effort. People from all walks of life came together to help rebuild the local community but the core team of volunteers and charity workers were faced with a huge task, one that only got bigger as the flooding subsided.

We can now act as a valuable intermediary in insurance matters for local residents, the cause of most distress at times like these. The ease of access and security of the data we hold means that we can assure families their problems will be dealt with accurately and efficiently which is priceless when you have lost so much of what you hold dear.

— Sadie Foster, Assistant Operations Manager, Somerset Emergency Volunteers
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The Challenge

Such was the immediacy of the need for aid once the floods had hit, that people just threw themselves into the relief effort, with over 2000 offering to help with the clear up. Beyond the initial efforts though, there was a long-term recovery project that needed to be undertaken.

The charities, South Somerset Association for Voluntary and Community Action (SSVCA) and Mendip Community Support (MCS) were brought in late in the day, in March, alongside the Somerset Emergency Volunteers. By this time they were already having to play catch up. The headquarters were without power and the activity logging was all paper-based, with forms piled high left, right and centre.

Several problems arose from a small core team having to handle such a large project on paper. Primarily, it proved very difficult to get a handle on activity that had been completed and what remained outstanding. For insurance purposes it is important to hold records of work that has been done to repair flood damage and with so many families relying on a regular team of around 30 people, it was very time consuming finding the relevant information when required.

The same applied to logging volunteer activity. Volunteers were signed in on paper and, in the immediate rush, it proved a real challenge to track who had volunteered, which in itself is crucial for the charity to insure against individual injuries.

Not only was all of this work time-consuming and stressful, with members of the team working 15 hour days, seven days a week, it also meant that vital records could easily be lost or destroyed. The need for database management was evident, however, upon approaching several companies, they were told that it would take 9-12 months to build a system that could handle the project’s needs. Such a time-scale was simply not an option.

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Faced with such a long wait for a solution, Mendip Community Support turned to FileMaker. Local developer Martin Bridges worked with the team to build a system within two weeks, buying the charities crucial time and allowing them to get even more out of their dedicated volunteers.

A relational database was built that allowed a wide range of data to be inputted, stored and pulled when needed, tracking volunteer activity and household insurance status amongst many other elements. Crucially, the database could be added to and refined with ease which was vital when things like insurance statuses are constantly changing.

In place of the paper signing in forms, iPads were set up in the charity’s headquarters, operating with FileMaker Go. At the beginning of a shift, volunteers would simply log in using the iPad and instantly make a record of when they worked and their key contact details, even asking them when they want to have their lunch.

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Using FileMaker has freed up the volunteers to offer real, practical help out in the field rather than spend time wading through forms, chained to a desk.

Having the instant access to relevant data, that working with a solution built on the FileMaker Platform provides, the charity can now act as a valuable mediator between insurance companies, property surveyors and residents. Being able to slice and dice the data as they wish the team can now easily update both the insurance companies and the families affected with how much work has been done to a certain property and how this affects insurance. They can tell instantly whether the house is under-insured, insured or not covered at all. This plays a massive role in making what is a very stressful time, more bearable. Being able to easily search the database also flags those properties and families in need of support the most and allows the team to open up the furniture warehouse to them, providing them with donated furniture to replace what they have lost.

With regards to the volunteers themselves, the FileMaker log-in system has saved huge amounts of time. Previously, one of the team had spent four days out of fourteen recording log-in details - now, those four days can be spent on the frontline while volunteers, check in on an iPad. This also means that volunteer details are stored safely, giving the charity a record of who has worked when, a great positive when it comes to dealing with insurance claims for those injured while volunteering.

Looking Forward

The system in place on the Somerset Levels provides a blueprint for future recovery operations, regardless of the type of disaster. It gives local authorities and volunteer organisations a template that can immediately swing into action if something like this happens again, therefore, ensuring that recovery operations can start from a solid base, rather than playing catch-up.

Martin Bridges
Oakridge Cottage
Oakridge Lane
BS25 1LZ

01934 782651


Somerset Emergency Volunteers