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July 20, 2024

Marine Rescue trains up for future flood rescues in Northern Rivers

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Marine Rescue trains to work with SES in future flood events. Photo supplied

When the 2022 floods hit it became blindingly clear that the Northern Rivers emergency services did not have the ability to rescue the people who were stranded in their homes or on their rooves and it was the community who came to the call in their boats, jet skis, kayaks and on their paddle boards to ensure people didn’t drown. 

Recognising the importance of increasing the capacity of emergency services to both respond to and coordinate their skills in response to floods Marine Rescue NSW has held its first-ever multi-agency flood rescue and operational readiness exercise. The Service is enhancing its flood rescue capability to support NSW SES (State Emergency Service) and other agencies during significant weather emergencies across the state.

SES and Marine Rescue’s first-ever flood rescue readiness exercise. Photo supplied

After receiving $3.7 million in state government funding following the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry, Marine Rescue NSW developed a State Operations Group (SOG) with volunteers undergoing specific flood rescue and support training on the Service’s newly acquired multi-purpose vessels and associated vehicles and equipment.

Marine Rescue NSW Northern Zone Commander Darren Hulm said a real-time exercise was held at Copmanhurst to test Marine Rescue NSW’s flood rescue and support capability.

‘With involvement from NSW SES, a Marine Rescue NSW coordinated flood-specific exercise was conducted to see how our training supports a real-life scenario.

‘The learnings our volunteers had from working alongside NSW SES members were priceless and will better prepare us for a real deployment.

‘This exercise has quantified that our flood response training and capability is in line with NSW State Rescue Policy and the expectations of NSW SES who is the lead agency on flood response.

Marine Rescue trains to work with SES in future flood events. Photo supplied

‘We will continue to develop and enhance our State Operations Group to ensure when NSW SES requests our assistance we are best prepared to assist with any on-water flood rescue and support operation.

‘Communities across NSW can feel assured that Marine Rescue NSW’s SOG volunteers and assets (boats, vehicles and equipment) can be deployed statewide when requested by the NSW SES. For example it is possible that a Marine Rescue NSW volunteer from Point Danger could be deployed to a weather event at Condobolin on short notice,’ Zone Commander Hulm said.

Marine Rescue NSW Capability Manager Dave Bowing said volunteers involved in the Copmanhurst exercise were activated to simulate a real-time out of area deployment.

‘To make the exercise as real-life as possible, volunteers were tasked to assist NSW SES with a Tropical Low set to drop excessive rain on the Upper Clarence and Orara catchments.

‘The mission was for our crews to work with NSW SES teams to safely conduct evacuations, resupplies and rescues as requested in the Copmanhurst area.

’14 Marine Rescue NSW volunteers from five units (Point Danger, Brunswick, Ballina, Evans Head and Port Macquarie) supported by operational staff, three Marine Rescue NSW multi-purpose vessels and one inflatable rescue boat took part in the simulated exercise.

SES and Marine Rescue’s first-ever flood rescue readiness exercise. Photo supplied

‘NSW SES also had 14 on and in-water operators and multiple assets to support the exercise.

‘Together, members launched and retrieved vessels, located and retrieved manikins and simulated live victims, navigated hazards and conducted resupply operations,’ he said.

Mr Bowing said Marine Rescue NSW’s newly acquired multi-purpose vessels performed well during the exercise.

‘These six metre vessels have a low draught and can travel in very shallow water allowing them to navigate through challenging areas.

‘They can also be launched and deployed in difficult locations which is most likely during a real-life flood response.

‘The bow loading door on each vessel also allows our crews to safely move people and supplies on and off.

‘This exercise was the first of its type Marine Rescue NSW has ever conducted and it has informed refinements to our activation and deployment model,’ Mr Bowing said.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.


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