News & Media

CFA’s Ben deployed to Philippines

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Operational Information

  11.35 AM 5 December, 2013


Location: General

Views: 2462

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, new CFA member Ben Schmidt was deployed to the Philippines with AusMAT (Australian Medical Assistance Team) Bravo last week. He is working in hard-hit Tacloban out of Camp Kookaburra.

Ben is a former leading firefighter with the Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service who has recently moved to Victoria to continue his career with CFA. He has been a member of NT AusMAT for two years where he developed the specialty of purifying water, vitally important in AusMAT operations along with other logistics skills.

“We landed safe and sound in Tacloban after leaving Darwin on a C17 Globemaster to Sebu before boarding a C130,” said Ben. “It is hot and wet and destruction everywhere. The hospital is seeing around 190 patients a day and doing some pretty amazing operations. 

“We’re currently required to produce about 30,000 litres of water per day. We get the water from Red Cross and our desal units. It is pumped into two 5,000 litre onion rings where we flocculate it and filter it through charcoal and three filters at 20, 10 and five micron respectively. We don't have to go any lower because the turbidity of the water we're getting is pretty good. Once it’s through that system, we chlorinate it and pump it through a series of UV filters which can produce about 70 litres a minute.

“The water is drinkable and we are providing to the local community and the hospital although the locals get a bit wary if the chlorine goes over one part per million.”

Team Bravo is the first fully multijurisdictional AusMAT with every state/territory represented including six from Victoria. Their deployment will last 14 days.

Before deployment, the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) provides all AusMAT team members with the essentials for living in an austere environment. Red kit bags include everything from tent and sleeping gear to water purification tablets and rations. Psych assessments and heat acclimatisation also take place before deployment.

Ben and his team will pack up the camp next week and should be back in Darwin by the Friday of that week, then back to Victoria.

There is a mandatory four days rest before return to work.

The NCCTRC has a Facebook page with pictures and information about the deployment of Team Bravo.

Ben has an Applied Science degree in psychology and exercise physiology and a post-graduate Bachelor of Education degree. He is currently completing a Masters in Emergency Management. With a passion for helping people in need, he was the founder of the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Darwin.

Ben would have graduated this week from the recruit firefighters course at Fiskville if he was not otherwise occupied in the Philippines.

Last Updated: 06 December 2013