Emergency work a family affair

HELPING the community in times of flood, storms, accidents and other emergencies is in the blood of the McCormack family.

Three generations of McCormacks have been stalwarts of the Woodburn SES unit.

Jim McCormack has been the controller of the unit since 1991, after taking over from his father who served the SES for 25 years.

“My father, son, brother, wife and daughter have all been involved with the SES - it's a family affair,” Jim said.

“I think our involvement comes from dad's role-modelling.

“He was the controller at Woodburn SES from 1974. The SES headquarters were on the front veranda of our house in Woodburn Street.”

Jim has been on location to assist the Northern Rivers community during numerous natural disasters, including the 2001 Casino storm where he was in charge of coordinating the volunteer rescue response.

“The storm that hit Casino in January 2001was one of the worst electrical storms the town has experienced,” Jim said.

“The huge winds had sent debris from houses and trees crashing all over Casino and electricity was out for three or four days in sections of the town.

“There were concerns about the sewerage system, too.

“Our first priority was to ensure the safety of people and then liaise with other emergency service teams, numbering between 200 to 250 emergency personal.”

Woodburn lies on one of the most dangerous stretches of the Pacific Highway in NSW, keeping Jim and the other members of the Woodburn SES busy attending traffic accidents.

“Our primary role at the scene of car accidents is to get trapped people out of the car,” he said.

“The latest job was an accident between Woodburn and Broadwater where four people were trapped in their vehicle.

“To get to the car we had to remove some trees and we used hydraulic rescue gear - the Jaws of Life - to get them out.

“The ambulance takes over at that point, but we stay until the patients are removed from the scene by emergency services.”

Not all jobs Jim and the other SES volunteers are called to are serious.

“We got called out to this guy on the Richmond River who was somewhat inebriated and had fallen out of his boat while the motor was going,” he said.

“We had to lasso the out-of-control boat, which kept going round in circles.”

Jim recently retired from his job as principal at Modanville Public School after 11 years' service.

When asked why he still dedicates himself to helping others through his role at the SES, instead of playing golf or walking on the beach, Jim said: “There is a genuine desire to assist people in their time of need.

“The unit is a real family and you get to meet and mix with people from all walks of life while learning new skills.

“People should get involved with their local SES unit.”

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