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John Chatfield rewarded for 20 years with SES

Published 30/07/2012

John Chatfield with SES CEO Mary Barry and Deputy Chief Officer Operations Tim Wiebusch

During his time with Victoria State Emergency Service (SES), John Chatfield has moved from volunteer to staff and back again. He credits the service with sparking a lifelong passion for emergency management.

 This week John was presented with his Long Service Medal, recognising 20 years with SES.

 He started as a volunteer with the Springvale Unit in 1991 and spent some time with the Knox Unit before taking up a paid role in 1998. He worked in Operational Communications in SES’ State Headquarters for nine years. When he moved on to the role of Senior Performance Monitoring Officer at the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner, John didn’t say goodbye to the SES, rather signing back on to volunteer with the State Support Unit.

 “It feels like I have done a lot,” John says, “but not everything.”

 “In the early days I performed the usual volunteer duties around floods, storms and rescue, and Knox exposed me to road crash rescue.”

 Back then John worked for the organisation now known as ESTA, taking and assigning emergency calls. His experience as a volunteer, and the large amount of training undertaken with the unit, served him well. When he started working in State Operations with SES, John leveraged both experiences to help establish a modern communications platform for the organisation.

 “Having a volunteer background and already being in an emergency management communications role was valuable. Part of my role was liaising with ESTA to build partnerships and that understanding of emergency services was of benefit,” he says.

 “In my current role I am measuring emergency management performance and knowing how services operate means I’m not just looking at numbers and data.”

 As a member of the State Support Unit, John provides operational and administrative support during emergency operations, bringing his considerable experience to mentor others and support community safety.

 It’s quite a different role to his first crack at volunteering and John says he’s happy to have stood back from the front lines.

 “I will say your enthusiasm fluctuates and changes over time. I really did enjoy that part of it, but I am happy to be behind the scenes now.”

 His passion for emergency management has never wavered.

 “SES is what got me interested in emergency management. My love of volunteering led to me wanting to make it my career,” he says.

 “I very much support an all-agencies approach, which is something I’ve seen flourish over the 20 years I’ve been here. It brings a benefit to the community as they get a faster, more effective response, and there’s an economic benefit as well.”

 A keen cyclist and golfer, John is a regular competitor in the Police and Emergency Services Games, having picked up a gold and bronze medal in golf and a bronze in cycling along the way.

 In the last few years he has started co-ordinating the games’ time trial event; typical behaviour for such a dyed-in-the-wool volunteer.

 “I used to compete in it, so now I can put something back in,” he says.