SPIKE Townsend is no stranger to a crisis.

In his 29 years with the Metropolitan Police, he has been part of the response to some of the worst and most shocking events seen in the 21st century.

He worked as a family liaison officer during 9/11 and the Asian Tsunami in 2004, as well as being part of the counter terrorism response to the London underground bombings in 2005 and mass shootings in Tunisia in 2015.

So when he saw Covid-19 take a stranglehold in the UK and mainland Europe, he knew all too well that some difficult days lay ahead.

“I guess with my experience you see these things coming.” he said. “You get a sixth sense and know you have to start planning for a crisis.

“I could see quite quickly where this pandemic was heading.”

Spike, who is 54 and retired from the Met in 2016, began preparing for a lockdown some ten days before the Government enforced restrictions on movement and social interaction in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He got in touch with the landlord at his local boozer in Colne Engaine, the Five Bells, and struck a deal to use the pub as a command centre to co-ordinate a community response team.

He has set up an army of 70 volunteers to support residents in the village who are having to self-isolate or are deemed high-risk by the NHS.

A mix of former firefighters, ambulance staff and retail managers have been selected to help run the command centre and dish out instructions to the volunteers.

Spike said: “I wanted to choose people who have experience of making quick decisions under pressure.

“We have one person working in the pub each day to keep things running. Each person has to do a deep clean at the end of their shift, so that’s cleaning everything from door handles to tables.

“The pub was the perfect place to set this up because it has a ready-made phone line and email.

“I wanted to avoid using the village hall in case it needed to be used as a base by the NHS or council.”

In preparation for the lockdown, Spike ordered hundreds of leaflets to be printed and distributed to households which contained details of the emergency response team he was setting up.

He also had a large map of the village printed and it has now been set up in the command centre, showing the locations of vulnerable people and those who have requested help.

Word about the team was also spread on social media and it continues to grow each day, with more people coming forward asking for support.

“I love where I live and a fortunate to be somewhere where the community spirit is so strong,” said Spike.

“The volunteers are there to deliver essentials to people stuck at home. But they’re also there to have that interaction with those feeling isolated and check if they need anything else.

“We were able to get an emergency plumber out to someone who needed it.

“It’s incredibly important to have something like this here because it is quite a rural spot. A lot of outlying homes don’t have any immediate neighbours so don’t necessarily have that support network in place.

“It reminds you of the good people can do and shows there a positives even at a time like this.”

Spike is hoping his response team will be able to team up with the authorities and take over some of their delivery services in the village - thus freeing up key workers to help elsewhere.

He says he is still on the lookout for volunteers, particularly younger people who experts say are more resilient to Covid-19.

He added: “My message to our residents is do not sit alone in silence. If you need any sort of assistance, we are here for you.

“No matter how small or big the request is, we will do everything we can to support you and ensure you are not cut off.”

The response team can be contacted on 01787 224318.