Cobden volunteers get the job done

Cobden volunteers get the job done

20/09/2023, 11:00 AM

VICSES Cobden Unit volunteers attend a tree down at Cobden-Scotch Creek Road

More than half of the Requests for Assistance (RFAs) received by the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES ) on Friday 8 September came from the south west of the state, when 22 units, including Cobden, were mobilised across the region to assist with the large number of calls for help.

Requests for Assistance were spread almost evenly between trees down over roads and properties (312), and calls relating to building damage (294).

For Cobden Unit volunteer Trevor Robertson, the pager started going off at 7:30am, and didn’t stop until 5:00pm that evening.

Trevor attended all 18 Requests for Assistance received by the VICSES Cobden Unit, where he was one of a crew of eight members.

“We mainly had trees down over roads,” says Trevor. “Although there was one incident involving a tin shed with a roof that had blown off, threatening to peel away from its fittings on the back fence, into a paddock where there was a horse sheltering from the weather.”

“We pulled the rest of the structure apart with a battery-powered drill,” continues Trevor, “undid some screws and bolts, removed it from the back and side fence, and on to the ground.”

“I was out assisting with these incoming calls for help for nearly ten hours, and it was quite a violent storm. Particularly large limbs from a tree came down on Cobden-Scotch Creek Road (see photo above) and another out in Cobrico was blocking the whole road.”

VICSES volunteers on the ground were grateful for the assistance of traffic management by the local Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigade, of which Trevor is also a member, and Victoria Police.

“There are three of us at the unit who are dual volunteers with the CFA and VICSES,” says Trevor. “Which hat I put on depends on what’s going on! We have an excellent relationship between the emergency services locally.”

After the weather event, because the Cobden Unit members had attended so many jobs, they took the time to service the saws, refuel the vehicles, sharpen blades and chains and replace any which had broken, to ensure all equipment is ready to go for the next event.

The volunteers then fill out reports on the weather conditions, locations of jobs, distance travelled, job types, and the severity of incidents. They note whether they established a system for controlling traffic at incidents, the size of limbs and the obstruction created, the number of members mobilised, and other emergency services the Cobden Unit members had worked with throughout the day.

“I’ve been a VICSES volunteer for about 15 years,” says Trevor. “I do shift work, so it’s hard to get away sometimes and on deployment, but that severe weather event happened to be on my day off.”

“It would be good to get some more unit members to help out with coverage during the daytime,” continues Trevor.

“I’m 63, and in the middle of the pack, so it would be nice to have some  younger members to go out in the field, or some senior members to help maintain our fleet and equipment”

“I’ve learned so much being part of the SES,” says Trevor. “Learning how to fell a tree, patch up a roof, perform first aid, demonstrate leadership skills, learn to drive off road; everything’s provided in terms of training and equipment, you’ve just got to turn up.”

Would you like to join Trevor and the other members of VICSES Cobden Unit, to assist your community in the next big weather event? For your time, you receive nationally-recognised training with the opportunity to pursue specialist learning pathways such as community engagement, urban search and rescue, and much more.