Saturday, 13 August 2016

Orange Intensity Redux

Hi everyone,

It's been another intensely orange week for me, with a tincture of red and a purple flourish.


I had a call on Monday from the SES Peer Support manager for my region asking if I could go and provide post-incident support to an SES unit that had gone out to a really bad job.  For confidentiality reasons I won't give details.  It's enough to say that the job was one that's on my personal list of 'nightmare scenarios', and some members of the crew that turned out looked a bit rattled.  I'm glad we could go out there and make sure they were doing OK and provide support to them.  They're a strong and experienced unit, but I hope it was still helpful for them to know the organization was there to support them.


Tuesday turned red with a trip to the Blood Bank in the late afternoon.  It's a stupid thing, but I still flinch every time the needle goes into my elbow.  But what makes it worthwhile?

Bugger saving lives: this is all about the cookies afterwards!

Wednesday & Thursday

On Wednesday afternoon a pager message came out advising that the Murchison SES Unit would be offline for a fortnight.  They're a smaller unit, and I think a couple of their more experienced operators are away.  My Unit as well as units from Euroa, Seymour, Shepparton and Rushworth will be covering part of their area.  No worries, I thought to myself, most likely things will stay quiet out there anyway.  What happened at 0210 Thuesday morning?  My pager went off to say we'd been requested by police to assist with a search for a missing person.  I was unit duty officer that night, so I called the regional duty officer and the police officer in charge, got a quick briefing and then activated the Tatura Unit, including our boat.

To cut to the chase, the news release prepared by Victoria Police News after the search advised that -
Police divers have recovered a body during their search for a missing Murchison North woman.
The deceased woman was found during a search of an area in and around the Goulburn River this afternoon.
The death is not being treated as suspicious.
Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

Because the search ended in tragedy, I'll follow my usual approach and not discuss details of the search.  I just don't feel it's appropriate to do so.  It's enough to say that I'm very proud of how my Unit performed.  Because only two of us who turned out are boat-qualified (me being one of them), one of our younger members had to step into the role of SES Commander at the incident control centre, and be in charge of the entire SES part of the response.  After daylight, that response included not just our unit, but also Seymour, Benalla, Rushworth, a Regional Support Unit and a parallel service from Shepparton.  The member in question had to step up bigtime and he absolutely distinguished himself.

I couldn't have been more impressed with his performance.  When the bad news about the lady came through, he came into the lunch room where the search teams were eating and announced it, and his bearing was different to how it usually is.  He was speaking to about thirty-five SES personnel, most of them older and more experienced than him, but he was as confident and matter of fact as the oldest veteran.  I was proud he was part of our unit.

For my part, in the morning (as in from about 0400 to 0830) I was out on the boat doing a river search with our most experienced coxswain.  I can tell you that the Goulburn is cold in the small hours of the morning.  He took us downriver and I brought us back up.  I'm pleased to say I remembered a good deal of what I learned on the coxswain's course.  In the later morning we joined the team doing line searches.

As I said before, the search didn't end how anyone wanted it to.  There's not much you can say about that: it's a terrible outcome and that's all there is to it.  I detest the word 'closure' for this sort of thing, but I don't have a better one.  It's better that she can be put to rest decently than not at all.

Because a lot of members of the unit had been at the search since the small hours, many of us were at the end of our duty time limits.  We cancelled training that night and gave everyone the night off.


Fairly predictably I slept late on Friday and spent a decent whack of the day going though a blizzard of unread emails and looking for jobs.  When I was going to bed, though, I checked out my Facebook feed and saw a bunch of purple flood warnings for Louisiana.

I texted the ex to confirm everyone is OK over there (they are, although Baton Rouge and points west are getting smashed) but I went to sleep feeling guilty.  My girls are there - and other people I care about are there - and I'm here.  Moreover, I'm here when I could do something to help there.  As improbable as it sounds (to me as much as anyone), when the clouds get black and the weather turns to crap, I know what to do.

I guess this isn't unusual - I expect firies, police and amboes have the same sensation - but it's different when your family are involved.  It's like having a shoe with a polished upper and a hole in the heel.

No more for now.  Hope you're all doing OK and that life is a bit quieter at your end than it is at this one!

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