Stroud Rural Fire Service (RFS) is confident that dealing with another emergency on the scale of the Hunter Valley flooding last year would be much easier, and the community would be safer, thanks to new mobile radio equipment.
Twelve months ago, the biggest worry for Stroud captain Jason Donkin wasn’t rising floodwaters - it was the communication blackout hindering emergency services.
Stroud RFS worked through the night rescuing motorists trapped on flooded roads, but with phone lines and mobile networks down, communication was difficult.
“It’s extremely important in a small town that emergency services like the ambulance service, SES, and RFS are able to communicate,” Mr Donkin said.
“We need to constantly update each other on the ground.”
“During the 2015 flood, the problem for us was that the radios were fitted to our vehicles, but most of the time we weren’t working in a vehicle.
“To get the job done, we had to keep running back and forth to the radios, but you can’t always do that in an emergency.”
Over the following weeks, Stroud RFS volunteers played a big part in the clean-up effort, which included damaged properties, fallen trees, and vehicles and machinery that had washed away.
Mr Donkin says emergency responses have been significantly improved since they upgraded their radio equipment.
“We now have two private mobile radios (PMRs) that allow us to communicate with the main RFS stations in Gloucester and Great Lakes, and 10 hand held UHF radios for Stroud RFS people on the ground.
“The PMRs mean our response can be coordinated with head office and the hand held radios allow us to update each other while running a job without interfering with that main communication channel.”
The new radio equipment was bought with the help of $6000 from the National Australia Bank (NAB) Community Relief Fund.
Stroud RFS has dealt with several emergency incidents since last year’s flood, and Mr Donkin says the new radio equipment has greatly improved the service they provide to the community.
“The better the communication you can get during an incident, the better the response. And this equipment gives us that,” he said.
NAB’s Community Relief Fund provided grants to 37 community organisations in the three months following the 2015 floods, to a total value of $300,000.