LOCAL SES CREWS IN STORM ACTION
By Dave Kirkpatrick THE sheer scale of the disaster in the Central Coast and Hunter regions has left an indelible impression on Geoff Mapstone, of Lismore SES.
Since Saturday the crew from Lismore and another from Mullumbimby have been in the area evacuating residents from their homes and helping them to overcome the extensive damage caused by the storms.
And, in a first for the region, the SES's headquarters in Goonellabah have set up a 'virtual' call centre to handle the overflow of telephone inquiries from the stricken area.
Both emergency teams are due to arrive back in the area today, exhausted but elated about the role they have played in one of the State's biggest emergencies.
"It has been an extremely large-scale operation with a huge number of SES units from all over the State involved," he said.
"There's been a lot of storm damage and lot of evacuating people from homes and rescuing people from homes. There's been a lot of door-%knocking and sandbagging.
"The scale of it and the resources needed puts it on an equal footing with the 1989 and 1974 floods for us up there [in the Northern Rivers]. The size of the operation is so large because of the size of the population down here."
After arriving in the disaster zone late on Saturday night, the two local SES teams were kept busy sandbagging the Maitland railway station on Sunday, then evacuating residents from Raymond Terrace on Monday.
"There were probably around 50 people [at the Maitland railway station] including SES, metro fire brigade and rural fire brigade. I think everyone just pitched in. The council brought in pallet after pallet of sandbags. We must have gone through thousands," Mr Mapstone said.
The Lismore SES team consisted of three people, led by Melinda Rosewarne, and the Mullumbimby team of four was led by John Farley.
They are due to arrive home today after being sent for a 48-hour deployment only.
"We have been getting some rest, but it has been some long days," Mr Mapstone said. "They have rotated the crews through and we are feeling pretty good at the moment."
The SES's Richmond/Tweed regional controller, Scott Hanckel, said it wasn't only on the front line that local SES members were contributing to disaster relief.
A small team have been operating a 'virtual' call centre at the SES's headquarters in Goonellabah almost non-stop since Saturday.
"You can appreciate the large volume of people trying to contact the SES by phone. This is the first time ever a virtual call centre has been set up in a regional headquarters," Mr Hanckel said.
Calls taken in Goonellabah were logged into a central data system that could be seen and acted upon by units operating at the Central Coast.