On 19 October 2015 Kyneton Group held a flood and swift water rescue workshop under the guidance of SES Operations Manager Mark Cattell.
The workshop provided the 34 participants with the knowledge required to work safely in support of SES and the police in their roles as the control agencies for flood and storm, and water rescue, respectively, under Victoria’s emergency management arrangements.
It provided basic flood, storm and swift water awareness to all first responders with the primary focus being responder safety and hazard recognition to seek the early activation of appropriately trained, equipped and skilled specialist resources to perform any complex response effort. The outcome of this training works in a similar way to CFA “Maintain Safety at a CFA Incident” training program and leads to a National Competency “Maintain Safety at Flood and Swift Water Incidents”.
The consensus after the workshop was that this was a valuable experience that prepared members better to approach this environment more safely and be better informed and how to keep safe and know when and how to seek appropriately skilled support and to know what can be done safely to assist in first response.
In 2010–2011 CFA and SES worked extensively together in response to flooding across large areas of Victoria. Kyneton brigade and Group had already developed good working relationships with the Woodend-Kyneton SES unit and quickly set up incident control and operational support facilities across the group and surrounding areas working with Romsey and Mount Macedon groups.
An initial incident control centre was established in the Kyneton Group Headquarters to support the SES incident controller, with CFA members filling other IMT roles. Later, this became a divisional command point. A sandbag-filling operation was also set up. CFA and SES vehicles were cross-crewed, led by SES personnel, in responding to many individual turnouts to assist residents affected by heavy rain and flooding over many days.
As well as providing trained leadership to crews, cross-crewing also facilitated radio communications between the two organisations. Kyneton Fire Brigade Auxiliary catered valiantly for CFA and SES personnel from local units and brigades as well as large numbers from distant units.
Kyneton Group Officer John Pearce says of that time, “The 2010 floods in and around the Macedon Ranges Shire demonstrated the value of all emergency agencies working together. Interagency rivalry was non-existent as everybody worked together efficiently to combat the emergency. The cooperation and cross-crewing between CFA brigades and SES units was excellent and the damage to many properties was minimised as a result.”
At the time this was considered a prime example of inter-agency cooperation and interoperability. This approach has since been promoted by Emergency Management Victoria and changes in emergency management policy and legislation.
Because events of this type are likely to recur with some regularity in the future, SES and its support agencies collectively agreed there is a need for some basic training to provide for greater situational awareness within the support agencies of the roles they might play, and how they can safely and effectively provide their support.
Kyneton Group Training Officer Greg McIntyre says that while this initial workshop is taking place in the Kyneton Fire Brigade as a pilot with representatives from other brigades in the group, it is hoped that other brigades and groups will recognise the value of this training and make it available more widely in CFA. Planning is already in progress to arrange further workshops in the grouip and surrounding areas. Mark Cattell would be pleased to hear from any other groups wishing to receive this workshop/training session.
Author: Greg McIntyre