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Shepparton’s rescuers strengthen ties

Published 10/01/2014

The Shepparton community will have a unified and increased emergency response capability once Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) and the Shepparton Search and Rescue Squad (SSARS) sign an agreement of co-operation this week.

Victoria SES is the state’s control agency for flood, storm, earthquake and tsunami, managing response to these emergencies as well as helping communities to prepare for them. Founded in 1950 as the Victoria Civil Defense Organisation, the service includes more than 5,000 volunteers across the state but does not have a Unit based in Shepparton.

SES units in Tatura, Numurkah and Murchison have traditionally provided emergency response for storm and flood to the Greater Shepparton area alongside SSARS and this will now be formalised and enhanced under the new agreement.

Shepparton Search and Rescue Squad has provided rescue services to their community since 1972. The squad is an incorporated association and includes 22 active volunteer members. The groups have a lot in common and already work closely together, with both a part of Victoria’s emergency response arrangements.

The agreement brings about a higher level of co-operation between the two services and will enhance emergency response in the Greater Shepparton area for emergencies such as storms and floods. The new agreement was signed by SSARS President Steve Dempster and Victoria SES CEO Mary Barry on Thursday evening to formalise this relationship and facilitate a greater degree of sharing. SSARS MOU signing

SSARS President Steve Dempster said the squad had been active in rescue response for many years and has great relationships with all emergency services.

"Our members are keen to use their skills during other emergencies and formalising response in support of SES is a natural synergy. The squad will receive the benefit of SES’ resources as a statewide organisation, including communications equipment, storm and flood response training and access to the latest Incident Management systems.

"We are very excited to increase our relationship with SES and expand upon the rescue response we’ve provided for more than 40 years. We’re obviously passionate about our community and keeping the people of Shepparton safe - a vision that we share with the SES," he said.

"The ultimate beneficiaries of this agreement will be the people of Greater Shepparton, who will receive an enhanced emergency response."

Victoria SES CEO Mary Barry said the service would benefit from SSARS’ experience, skill and extensive local knowledge.

"We’ve been very keen on strengthening the relationship with SSARS as we’ve long recognised the excellent service they provide during emergencies," she said. "All of the volunteers from both agencies will continue their excellent work serving the people of the Greater Shepparton area and they’ll now have an even stronger backing in line with the ‘all agencies, all hazards’ approach’ to emergency response being rolled out across Victoria," Ms Barry said.

Shepparton is a point of focus for Victoria SES as it faces a high flood risk for a regional centre of its size. Shepparton’s history of floods includes events in 1870, 1916, 1974, 1993 and, most recently, in 2010, when 13 houses and 31 building were flooded and 620 houses were isolated.