Myall Way emergency planning more pertinent than ever

The well-attended meeting featured representatives from the Red Cross, surf life saving groups, State Emergency Service, Hunter New England Health, MidCoast 2 Tops, the NSW Government, Hunter Local Land Services, local media and the Rural Fire Service.

EMERGENCY planning among the Myall Way villages, in light of recent weather events, was once again proven paramount, as discussed at the Myall Way Emergency Planning Group (MWEPG) meeting at Hawks Nest Community Hall on Thursday 9 May.

Representatives from State and Local Government disaster recovery offices joined Stroud State Emergency Service (SES), Tea Gardens Red Cross, surf lifesavers, Pindimar/Tea Gardens Rural Fire Service, Pindimar/Bundabah Community Association, and Midcoast2Tops Landcare to consider lessons learnt.

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After recent flash floods closed the Myall Way itself last week, and the Pindimar fires less than a month prior, there was plenty to update and discuss.

Chief topics included the total loss of direct communications during the fires, and a golden opportunity taken by Bundabah residents to successfully test their budding ‘Hub House’ project.

“One serious concern was that locals in Pindimar could not download updates on their area via the Hazards Near Me app, despite finding out later that relatives in Sydney had been able to at the time,” MWEPG leader Jo Pearce explained.

“Fireground people occasionally reached the top of the hill and could make calls to relay information, but nothing was getting in from outside the area.”

In the wake of the recent fires, Pindimar and Bundabah have seen a marked uptick in locals’ interest in the Hub House concept.

Hub Houses hold important responsibilities, and must meet criteria, including some mobile reception on their property for outside contact, as well as being adept at accessing different sources of information to disseminate locally in times of crisis.

Realities surrounding non-urban landowners and occupiers were also brought to the fore, since communication with many such residents can be scattered at the best of times, but they are also the most vulnerable.

The subsequent flooding rains have also presented very real learning opportunities, according to the SES.

“We need to seek information from certain sources of truth, like Hazards Near Me, and the app has improved with input after such events,” Stroud SES Deputy Commander Greg Snape said.

“Our biggest issue is the abuse the SES cops when the Myall Way is cut off by floods.

“People are unaware of the history of the area, where flash floods occur, and the fact that after an hour or two, the water gets away.”

Other updates included the addition of Hunter-New England Health’s Psychological Recovery services to the Group, and the positive, forward-looking results of recent Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW fire-fighting groups’ joint training, which will hopefully take on a regular schedule.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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