Meet Joseph a volunteer for the NSW State Emergency Service (SES)
2020 has been nothing short of biblical. Fires, floods and now a plague. And while it was Sydney’s wet weather which finally extinguished the Gospers Mountain 'mega-blaze', the torrential rain, flooding and clean-up was largely left to the State Emergency Service (SES). The SES is our lead response agency for floods, storms and tsunami. So, what inspires someone to volunteer to risk their own life to brave the worst that nature throws at us, all in the name of helping others? And is there a way we can help make their lives safer? Joseph and his wife joined the SES just 6 months ago.
Q: What made you join the SES?
“I grew up in South Africa and through the church we always helped our neighbours and the local community to prepare for storms or clean up after wild weather. I had no idea that a proper organisation like this even existed, until we emigrated to Australia. I signed up immediately and on the very first night we joined the muster, I just knew from that moment on, this is how I want to give back. Its an incredible group of people who do an incredible job. I wear the uniform with great pride. I am still classified as a newbie but there’s no better feeling than helping someone out.”
Q: What is it about helping others that makes you put yourself in dangerous situations?
“The more you do, the more you want to do. I’m a big bloke, I'm 1.96m – so I feel that God gave me this muscle for a reason. The physical side can be tough and yes it can be dangerous, but when people are in trouble – how can you not help? The organisation is run so well and of course we are trained to assess danger. The feeling of helping get someone out of harm’s way is the most rewarding feeling there is.”
Q: Tell us about your experience this Summer?
“Earlier this year, we had huge rainfall in the Southern Highlands, with the sleet and all. There were a couple of trees that had uprooted -so we had to go cut and move them away. People’s roofs were clogged up, there were so many leaking roofs. In Robertson, houses were being sandbagged. We started working on removing a massive tree from a driveway and worked for hours. It was below freezing, the wind was howling, it was freezing cold. It was tough going and intense conditions – but this family was literally trapped in their home – we had to get rid of this tree. They were so grateful. Being a newbie, I still haven’t done many search or rescues yet, no accidents – but of course it’s part of the job and it will come.”
Q: When you’re called to danger what goes through your mind?
“We just want to help, stay focused and get the job done. We continue to assess the situation and communicate – especially about changing weather conditions. The protection of life is our priority. Our focus is on removing the danger. You have to try to remove any emotion.”
Q: What can we all do better, to help the helpers?
“Listen to the authorities, heed the advice such as don’t drive through flood waters. More than that, get prepared. And for goodness sake clean your gutters -most of the time we’re called out -they are clogged. The storm season waits for no one. I also recommend people download the SES emergency App because you just never know when you’re going to need support. And of course, you can always volunteer with the SES.”
For all the days we felt we couldn’t help them, Now there’s a day we can. Let’s dedicate the First Saturday of every month to protecting First responders by doing one task to make our homes safer.
It’s not a chore. It’s Help.
To find our more visit www.nrma.com.au/firstsaturday.