A year of responses in one week

A year of responses in one week

22/06/2021, 9:32 PM

"We have volunteers still out there, working, who are experiencing the same pain."

It has been a historic week for the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES), with over 9,300 requests for assistance across the state with almost three-quarters of those requests from Central, North East and East regions.

Five units exceeded their yearly average in the past week, with VICSES Lilydale unit doubling their annual average, topping out at nearly 1,250 requests over a seven-day period. VICSES Woodend, Hepburn, Maroondah and Rosedale units have also exceeded their usual yearly totals.

To assist with the workload at Lilydale, VICSES set up three divisional command points at Woori Yallock, Ferntree Gully and Frankston.  Woori Yallock command took in the Lilydale area; Ferntree Gully encompassed Emerald, and Frankston focused on the southern part of the Peninsula. This allowed the agency to separate the requests into different sectors, and to assist with every request that came into the VICSES Lilydale unit from the storm event.

Incredibly, VICSES has answered all requests for assistance from the storm event itself, but fresh calls keeping coming as people return to their homes. “Some of the trees we are finding have been uprooted or have already experienced damage which takes a while to become apparent,” says Dimity Lynch, the Regional Duty Officer for Central Victoria.

“We created 42 composite crews who went out on Thursday and Friday last week. Who were ably assisted by the CFA, FRV, Forest Fire Management and AusNet and other independent contractors.”

Recounting that first, stormy night, Dimity and her colleagues were concerned for the safety of volunteers in the field. “We had crews out who were stuck. Members were sleeping in their units; at CFA brigades; in other members’ homes, even when they were not there.

“The question became, at what point do we pull the pin and get our crews out?” She continued. “Even responding to priority one events (rescues, trees falling on houses and trapped people) became dangerous because the trees were falling on our vehicles.”

With further heavy falls in the coming days expected in parts of Gippsland - areas still experiencing flooding - further calls for help are expected, with the inclement weather likely to put stress on already damaged trees, adding to the extraordinary number of hazards in the east of the state. However, the Bureau of Meteorology is not expecting similar downpours to those last week.

With so much work still left to do, it is worth remembering who is doing that work in this extraordinary period for the agency. “We have volunteers still out there, working, who are experiencing the same pain as those who have called for help,” says Dimity.

“Many of our volunteers have not yet been able to return to their own homes to asses the kind of storm damage with which they have been assisting Victorians.”