It’s been a year since I have joined the State Emergency Services (SES) in Victoria. They are an Australian volunteer organisation that provides emergency help during and after declared (natural or otherwise) disasters. The SES is also the primary or secondary agency for emergencies, such as storm damage, flood damage, building damage, traffic hazards and road crash rescue. In other scenarios the SES may provide a support role (such as search and rescue) to other agencies, particularly police and fire. The SES is operational 24 hours a day.
The Civil Defence Service began in Australia in 1955. It was formed as a precaution to any potential attacks on Australian soil. The name was changed to the “State Emergency Service” (abbreviated to “SES”) during the 1970s, to reflect a change of emphasis into providing emergency help related to floods, storms and other natural emergencies. Every state and territory in Australia has its own State (or Territory) Emergency Service, and there are 43,000 volunteers spread across the country. Each state or territory is broken into regions, then units, and finally groups or teams.
One of the best things with this organisation is that you get the best possible skills to prepare you for most situations. And honestly, I would prefer to be near one of these trucks if things ever went really bad. The other aspect I love about it is knots. Lots and lots of knots. It’s like Scouts for Adults! Once armed with this knowledge you start becoming acutely aware of risky situations around you. I’ve even found myself to be randomly picking up tree branches when it’s fallen across a footpath. I wonder why I do it. Because, like with anything there is a hidden downside.
In a way, I would liken the downside to Doctors where they only ever tend to see people in bad situations. And this can bring out the crazier aspects of the human side. My number one annoyance – “Do we have to pay?”. No, you don’t need to. You don’t have to. But if you appreciate it, a donation is always welcomed. The reason why I dislike it, is because their behaviour changes dramatically. Some have told me to do my “damn job”. Others have left us to our own devices. A couple have even gone so far to turn electricity back on when we are in their roof trying to fix missing tiles. No one asks us to do this. We all volunteer our time.
Of course there is the good side of people’s relief when we are on scene to help. Sometimes it’s even in their eyes, the pure sense of relief that people have come to help. My favourite memory comes from our local area’s Christmas festivites where I actually got choked and even got a little misty eyed. At this event, I was part of the area that helped the lost and found children.
A Dad asked his young daughter (5/6): “Do you know who these people in orange are?”
“They are the SES”
“SES” (trying to repeat what her Dad said)
“That’s right honey. If you get lost or are in trouble, just go up to one of these people and they will help you. Because that’s what they do. They help people”
And she smiled. And I was choked.
The Dad concluded with “Thanks for all you do Nigel”
I couldn’t say anything but smile. True appreciation and gratitude. Hell, I got choked just writing that.
So when you hear about storm events in Australia, or missing people or any sort of emergency, you know for a fact that the SES and the many other organisations are there to help. And I am grateful for all the people that volunteer their time.