Volunteers to the rescue

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Volunteers won’t just climb ladders, cut down trees or jump into floodwaters.

As NSW State Emergency Service (SES) units across the Hunter Region start their recruitment for 2019, Maitland City’s community engagement officer, Alex Varley, says there are roles that cater for everyone.

“We take members from 16 [years of age] and there’s no such thing as, ‘I’m too old, or I don’t want to get on a roof’: we’ve got a job for everybody,” she says.

The NSW SES, which has more than 9,000 volunteers throughout the state, responds to flood and storm events, while it also supports other agencies like the Rural Fire Service and NSW Police.

Ms Varley says a statewide restructure created multiple options for volunteers outside of the call unit.

Three other ways to get involved include: a community action team, corporate or spontaneous.

“If you can’t commit to weekly training and a few weekends here and there, plus regular callouts, then there are other options available,” Ms Varley says.
“We have spontaneous volunteers who can register on the website at any time and then, in a big operation, like a major flood or storm, we can call upon them to assist.”

Ms Varley adds the Hunter Region’s booming population growth has also prompted units to push for more community action teams.

Volunteers within the group can use their existing skills and experience, as well as basic training provided by the NSW SES, to help prepare their community and keep people safe during severe weather events.

“We’ve got a group in Millers Forest who have made their own little association,” Ms Varley says.
“They’ve registered with us, we’ve worked with them for the last three years, and now they’ve got their own flood action plan and know what they are going to do.
“Having these groups, they might be on the outskirts of town, or places like Wallsend where there’s a high risk of flooding or flash flooding, will help these communities to be self sufficient and reduce risk, and therefore, impact.
“Reducing the number of lives or properties lost is obviously the key point that we’re all trying to achieve.”

Visit ses.nsw.gov.au/get-involved/volunteer to register your interest.

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