Monday, 25 July 2016

La Vie en Orange

Hi everyone,
The last week or two have been fairly orange-heavy.  As that’s one of the more exciting parts of my life I’m doing a recap (it’ll be embed-heavy I’m afraid).
The other Monday one of the unit’s Deputy Controllers and I borrowed a truck from the SES’s regional office and drove up to Wagga Wagga.  There was a furniture dealer there who was selling some second-hand office furniture which would be ideal for the unit’s overhauled Operations Room.  He was keen to be rid of it and we bought about $3,000.00 worth of material for about $600.00.  It felt kind of surreal to be in a delivery truck with lights and sirens fitted; we spent part of the drive hoping we’d come across a road crash so we could turn up on scene in the most unlikely of vehicles!
On Thursday two of the Deputy Controllers and I went to do some community education for the pre-schoolers at a daycare in Mooroopna.  So, we explained (very basically – the way you do for 3-4 year olds) what SES does, and how you can be safe near floodwater, and so on.  It went pretty well, although I think the nicest part was when the kiddies went out to have a look at the truck and all the things on it.  There was one little girl, maybe 3 years old, who was shy and didn’t want to be involved and cuddling up to one of the daycare workers.  I smiled at her and tried to show her some brightly coloured e-flares, but she wasn’t interested.  Then one of the DC’s fired up the lights and sirens on the truck and her face absolutely lit up in the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.  After that she wanted to climb up into the cabin and look at what was in all the lockers.  Who’d have thought that a howling siren would be what she’d love?!

The Unit itself is doing well.  We had a sensational attendance at last week’s training – about 15 people which is basically our entire active membership.  The exercise that night was cribbing-and-lifting, a technique for extricating a casualty from underneath a collapse.  Whatever is crushing the casualty has to be lifted without overbalancing or tipping (dangerous for both the casualty and rescuers).  It’s lifted at three different points with some combination of a high-lift jack, an inflatable airbag and a hydraulic spreader.  Further, cribbing (blocks) have to be put in underneath the load so that if it falls it only drops a minute distance (also for the safety of the casualty and the rescuers).  Managing a safe lift and effective cribbing requires very strong co-operation and communication between the 6+ members of the crew.  The team did a great job in training and it was sensational to see everyone from the newer members to the veterans working as one.

The weather’s been crummy lately and the low ground near the road at the farm is underwater – the other day it was nearly over the road as well -
On Friday the weather got even crummier and resulted in a couple of callouts at about 2200.  The three Deputy Controllers and I turned out.  The first job was to tarp a leaking roof in Tatura for an elderly lady (she was surprisingly happy that we dug up part of her garden to fill sandbags – she said we’d weeded it for her!).  The second was to go out to Byrneside and cut up a tree that had fallen across part of the path of the Midland Highway.  The tree itself was old and dry and pretty hard – I understand that a truck had it hit and kept going; he must have been pretty keen because I think he hit it hard.  It was a satisfying job to attend though – solved with chainsaw and muscle.  I got home that night at about 0100 on Saturday morning.

On Sunday I had a really satisfying piece of community education to do.  A Unit member’s son was having a 9th birthday party.  The lad is obsessed with SES, and he’d specifically asked if the truck could come over.  So, come over we did.  I gave him one of our plastic helmets – the ones that are issued to probationary members – and he was stoked.  We gave him and his mates a tour of the truck and let them climb through the cabin and sit in the driver’s seat.  They were good kids and well behaved – they didn’t touch the radio or the sirens, and the only mishap was one of them accidentally bumping the siren button when he was moving around.  I discovered that you can keep kids entranced for an hour-plus with casualty-handling drills.  I showed them how to log-roll a casualty and move them onto a spineboard, and then to put them into a stokes litter and carry it, with one person controlling the head and neck and giving the orders.  The kids were super excited to take turns playing at being the casualty and controlling the neck and everything.  I wish I could get our members that excited about casualty-handling drills!
Today was perhaps the sharper end of SES life.  My pager went off at about 0430 to advise of a person trapped following a road accident.  As the accident turned out to be a fatality, I don’t think I should go blathering on about my personal view of it.  The summary released by Victoria Police sums it up well enough -
Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding a fatal collision which occurred in Harston. It is believed the two cars collided on Tatura-Rushworth Road just before 4.30am. The male driver of the ute has been transported to hospital with serious injuries. The male driver of the light truck was transported to hospital but died a short time later. Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives are investigating the cause of the collision.
The Shepparton News has shared some footage of the scene about daybreak, which is about when we left the scene.

The only personal comment I’ll make is that I’m very sorry the chap died.  I hope, perhaps, that it was some comfort to him in those terrible moments to know that as soon as things went bad, people really, really wanted to help him.
So there you have it: my life in orange.  Sometimes you do things that are awesome, like teaching children or helping the elderly.  Sometimes you do go out to jobs that are sad.  But everytime you do something, you know you’ve got a good chance of making a difference when someone is having the worst day of their life.

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