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Training exercise gets units ready to deal with disasters

DIGGING IN: Army reservists Gibson Carragher and Tim Higgins load sandbags during a disaster response exercise at Byron Barracks in Lismore.
DIGGING IN: Army reservists Gibson Carragher and Tim Higgins load sandbags during a disaster response exercise at Byron Barracks in Lismore. Nolan Verheij-Full

EMERGENCY Services personnel from across the Northern Rivers are even better equipped to tackle a natural disaster after Exercise Bellingen wrapped up on Saturday.

The week-long multi-agency disaster response training held at Lismore's Byron Barracks involved more than 50 Army Reservists from the 41st Battalion as well as personnel from the SES, Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire and Rescue and police.

Brigadier Allan Murray, Commander of the army's eighth brigade said the training scenario was based upon a local response to a flood or fire in the region.

He said the focus of Exercise Bellingen was co-ordinating the response to a disaster.

"For the past five days we have been rehearsing an activity in which we would support NSW Government agencies to respond to a disaster situation, primarily a flood or a fire," he said.

"The overall principal is that the NSW Government agencies are the primary responders in the event of a disaster and the army comes in to assist."

Brig Murray said the defence forces were on hand tosupport the community where immediate action is necessary to save lives and prevent extensive damage to animal life, property or the environment.He said members of the eighth brigade had helped combat the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires and have in the past been deployed to Victoria to battle bushfires.

"We have the skills and the equipment to assist government agencies and we like to maintain them with annual activities like Exercise Bellingen," Brig Murray said.

SES Richmond Tweed region controller Kaylene Jones said Exercise Bellingen had been invaluable for SES volunteers.

"Inter-agency activities like this are critical," she said.

"If we exercise together then when the emergency happens we can perform at a lot higher level."

Fire and Rescue NSW superintendent Greg Lewis said the exercise enhanced the relationships between agencies.

"It's invaluable that all the emergency management arrangements that are in place across the Northern Rivers are practised and planned for," he said.

"Having the army trained in the event of a disaster gives us a further backstop in the event that they need to be called upon."

Topics:  natural disasters



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