Volunteers rush to rescue trapped motorists as Traralgon floods

Volunteers rush to rescue trapped motorists as Traralgon floods

15/10/2021, 4:54 PM

From 5pm last night, Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) Morwell Unit began to receive an elevated number of calls for flooding and property damage, as well as four calls from persons trapped in floodwater. 

Receiving approximately 100 calls for help in total, 60 were received over a 90 minute period, between 5pm - 6.30pm, corresponding to the most intense period of storm activity.

At this point, VICSES Morwell Unit established an Incident Control Point (ICP) for the local area, nominating an incident controller and radio operator to triage each job, in order of priority, as well as assessing the risk of exposure to the Covid-19 virus. 

With the thunderstorm centred over the northwest end of Traralgon, VICSES Morwell Unit Controller Raelene Billingsley set up a select team she relies on, to log and acknowledge all the calls and assign volunteers based on their skill set out to each job. 

Crews attended properties damaged by downed trees and flooding, and even a house struck by lightning. 

With twenty volunteers in two four-wheel drives and two rescue trucks, working over a period of five hours, VICSES Morwell Unit volunteers managed to answer all requests for assistance before 11.30pm. 

Quote attributable to VICSES Morwell Unit ICP Manager and Covid Field Advisor Heather Hadgkiss:

“An ICP means you have a lot of jobs which need to be coordinated an prioritised to get the best outcomes for the public. We do this by matching the skills of the volunteers to the kinds of jobs that come up.”

“Unfortunately, despite having four major floods this year, we had to perform four rescues last night as these folks had tried to drive through floodwater."

"All were thankfully uninjured and able to self-extricate but, apart from causing a delay in our response to other calls, it could have easily been a different outcome.”

“I don’t think in my 25 years I’ve seen a house hit by lightning.” 

Quote attributable to VICSES Morwell Unit Controller Raelene Billingsley 

“Have empty sandbags and a pile of sand on hand, just in case. We’re going to be concentrating on the life-threatening events like cars stuck in water, so we may not get to calls for help with property damage unit they are cleared.”

“One road turned into a river and the storm water drains could not cope. The areas that flooded four months ago, in June, had no problems last night. It really was quite an intense and unexpected event, but you can take steps when you see those weather systems coming in, checking downpipes and gutters and reporting obstructed or damaged storm water drains to your local council.”

Quote attributable to Gippsland Region Duty Officer David Bartley:

“Our VICSES volunteers are so dedicated to step outside of their normal lives and respond when they community needs them. They spent six hours in heavy rains making sure their community was safe.”