Local SES rescuer ready

ACTION VOLUNTEER: Dirk Nicholson said being an SES volunteer provides many exciting learning opportunities, as well as getting you out in the community. Picture: Tyler Redway.

Jeff Huddlestone

IN times of emergencies, it is reassuring to know that there are highly trained and skilled people in an organisation which can render a timely response to specific needs.

Locally, that is the State Emergency Service (SES) Mount Gambier and District rescue unit.

Based at 170 Jubilee Highway East, the SES has an impressive range of vehicles, equipment, and trailers to respond strategically to a variety of emergency situations.

The fleet includes a specialised storm damage and flood response truck, a road accident rescue truck and two four-wheel-drive vehicles, all of which are deployed as required.

The trucks are comprehensively decked out to handle situations and double as on-scene communications command posts to coordinate activities and liaise with other agencies which are involved in the emergency responses.

The unit has a communications centre, which is the heartbeat of the organisation, with other rooms set up and ready to respond to any event in the district or help SES units and co-operating agencies elsewhere in the State.

Dirk Nicholson is the operations coordinator who was appointed to the role a year ago after being involved with the SES for seven years and having a security and policing background.

He is ably assisted by District Officer Brad Flew, who oversees units in Mount Gambier, Millicent, Kingston, Keith, and Bordertown.

The local SES has about 35 members.

“It is a volunteer role, so it is always a challenge for recruitment to get new people on board and to keep them,” Mr Nicholson said.

However, as people’s situations change, some find that they then have time to volunteer.

“And they are really looking for something to do, they want to give back to the community,” Mr Nicholson said.

The volunteers respond to many incidents including fires, floods, storm damage, such as felled trees on roads and at homes, traffic accidents, marine incidents, and vertical and horizontal rescues.

Mr Nicholson said the Mount Gambier unit provides the necessary logistical support.

“All the bits and pieces they need to maintain the unit; we are a big team environment to make sure everything is ready to go at a moment’s notice,” he said

Mr Nicholson said members attend many different incidents.

“In the last few weeks there was a search and rescue for a missing person and a marine rescue when a boat capsized,” he said.

“A truck accident where we assisted the CFS in the extrication and rescue of a driver.

“An animal rescue of a bird stuck in a tree and a bizarre vertical rescue when someone lost an item down a cave.

“That turned out to be a training event with the Metropolitan Fire Service, which was really good.”

Earlier, the local SES responded to the Coles and Mount Gambier centenary tower fires.

It also helps other agencies, including police, ambulance as well as the two fire services.

A recent successful recruitment drive has secured eight new members.

The volunteers are broadly representative of the community and include among the ranks a doctor, psychologist, police officer, information technology people and mill workers.

“We have members who can bring their skill sets from their primary employment to their volunteer roles,” Mr Nicholson said.

“Volunteering can also be a stepping stone to paid employment in emergency services.”

There are various levels of nationally accredited and transferable training courses, ranging from basic level one to senior specialist roles.

Volunteers can undertake the type of training which best suits them.

“We are very flexible with our training and accommodating to our members,” Mr Nicholson said.

He was impressed with the calibre of the latest recruits.

“We have just seen some very enthusiastic and keen members coming through that are showing exemplary skills sets,” Mr Nicholson said.

“As time passes, they are going to be really superb members.

“At the end of the day, the best part about volunteering is that you get to assist the community in times of need.”