VIDEO: New SES region controller reveals challenges ahead

POSSESSING a background across three different emergency agencies, new State Emergency Services Richmond Tweed region controller Mark Somers is relishing his recent move to the Northern Rivers.

Mr Somers, 51, was recruited from the Victorian SES here most recently he managed the Gippsland region in the state's south-east, to join its New South Wales counterpart and said he's excited by the opportunities the role offers.

He said his first four weeks in the role during the Northern Rivers storm season, have been extremely positive and he's impressed with the dedication and commitment from staff, volunteers and the local community.

After just one month in the job, Mr Somers said he believes the organisation, the Northern Rivers community, including other emergency services providers, are incredibly supportive and inspiring.

"The biggest challenge in regards to the SES, is going through a restructure on how we provide our services, as well as interact with the other agencies," he said.

"The SES and Commissioner Mark Smethurst are being very positive to bringing about effective change, including in the lessons learned from the Owen's Report, and this was one of the things which attracted me to the role."

Mr Somers who has been an incident controller and managed numerous flood and fire events, holds a Level 3 accreditation which is Victoria's highest incident controller qualification.

"I spent 25 years as a paramedic instructor with Ambulance Victoria, from road ambulances to rescue helicopters," he said.

"As captain of the CFA's Buxton brigade, we were heavily impacted by the Black Saturday fires in 2009."

Mr Somers said one of his key strategies would be backing local knowledge and expertise in future events such as floods.

"Clearly the Owen's Report noted this as one of the (SES) gaps," he said.

"Part of my role is to make sure not only is the local community engaged but we also provide structures for them through social media and their local SES unit so we can tap into those sources to make sure we have the appropriate information coming through."

Mr Somers said his job is also about working with the Northern Rivers community as the SES goes through a restructure to improve their resilience.

He said the SES is also about helping people to understand of how to help themselves and others in the instance of an event.

"We need to remember any community is made up of lots of individuals, so we need to be mindful when we talk about recovery it's not a blanket one-size-fits-all approach," he said.

"We want to offer the helping hand up, not a hand out. I noticed in my community in Buxton after Black Saturday, the people who had the hand out took longer to recover than those who had the hand up."

Mr Somers said the SES flexible Volunteering Reimagined campaign was a win-win for everyone involved.

"It's all apart of working to make the NSW SES the best emergency service in Australia by saving lives and protecting communities," he said.



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