Myall Way Emergency Planning Group makes strides with government and local support

These plans, put together by Jo Pearce and Myall Way Emergency Planning Group representatives, could save your life one day.

THE first quarterly meeting for the Myall Way Emergency Planning Group (EPG) was held on Thursday 15 February at Hawks Nest Community Hall.

Representatives from government and emergency services organisations attended, including the Rural Fire Service (RFS), State Emergency Service (SES), Fire and Rescue NSW, Red Cross, Hunter Local Land Services and the NSW Reconstruction Authority.

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“Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the Myall Way EPG is the prospect of improved communication across all groups, not remaking the wheels, but attaching all the wheels to the same vehicle,” group chair Jo Pearce told NOTA.

The main topics covered were the development of a Bundabah Hub and Pindimar-Bundabah UHF radio network, and a new local website.

The Hub concept, in simplest terms, is a hyper-local strategy to be followed during a major emergency, delineating a central address to and from which all communications will be efficiently routed when all other systems have failed.

The Pindimar-Bundabah UHF network trials continue, designed to test the viability of using said devices when the severely limited mobile phone reception inevitably fails altogether.

“The recent trial evacuation at Bundabah was challenging, mainly because there is just one wharf, and its ownership is not clear,” Jo explained.

Jo is also working on a local emergency planning-specific webpage, seeking ways to utilise software to create an effective communications stream, incorporating the ‘Small Communities Supporting Each Other’ program.

Other issues discussed were the significant population increases during holiday times, and that many residents and visitors have unrealistic expectations about what is possible during a real emergency.

“Follow the messaging, do not gain a false sense of security that you can stay – get out when told to get out,” Stroud SES Deputy Commander Greg Snape aptly summarised.

“It is not a matter of if, but when an emergency occurs, and emergency services resources can’t assist everybody, so people have to take responsibility and realise they are living in the bush now.”

The need for all local residents to be informed and responsible, is, indeed, the whole reason for the EPG’s formation.

Non-local EPG members were impressed to see the depth of local knowledge that locally-based representatives had, those being mostly from the local emergency services.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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