March 2019 | Hayley Manning
THE TASMANIAN Government, in association with Tasmanian Fire Service and local councils, opened evacuation centres for those areas impacted by fires or threatening embers.
Meander Valley Council’s Social Recovery Coordinator, Patrick Gambles, in response to guidance and direction from Tasmanian State Emergency Services (SES) and other emergency services, activated the Westbury Town Hall Supper Room as an evacuation centre several times during the recent bushfire threat.
“Our role is to help the community get back on its feet by providing access to personal support, shelter and information. It could be as simple as come in and let us know you are safe and we will register you. We can help with immediate needs and for more substantial support we will bring in services like Red Cross, financial or health services, and ultimately, if people need somewhere to sleep, we have contingency plans to turn a hall like this into an overnight evacuation centre,” Patrick said.
“Regrettably, Council does not always have the time or resources to door-knock during an emergency situation so we work in partnership with volunteers from our six local service clubs, who can provide low-risk support, check on people in their home, help with clean-ups and do minor repairs.”
Patrick says the Council emergency management team has a strong association with Red Cross, and they appreciate the support of agents with training in psychological first-aid, evacuation centre management and all forms of disaster impact experience.
Emergency Services Manager Tasmania, Howard Colvin, says Red Cross staff help people complete a ‘Register. Find. Reunite.’ national registration service that informs Tasmania Police, other emergency services and loved ones of evacuation details (according to permission indicated at the time of register) – in the event that communications are compromised.
“In my experience, Meander Valley Council is one of the most switched on councils in Tasmania when it comes to emergency management,” Mr Colvin said. “They have engaged with Red Cross in emergency management, adapted some of our emergency management operational practices, and worked with us to train a range of community organisations in the joint recovery effort that follows.
“We see the benefits every time they respond to an event and the community can take comfort from the hard work the Council has put in.”
Patrick says while it is heartening to receive offers of goods and volunteer assistance, it is not practical due to the unpredictable nature of events.
The best way people can help is by registering to volunteer. To do so, please visit www.volunteering tas.org.au.