IRONING OUT THE ISSUES: Yeppoon SES volunteer Dean Gibson outside the Yeppoon cyclone shelter.
IRONING OUT THE ISSUES: Yeppoon SES volunteer Dean Gibson outside the Yeppoon cyclone shelter. Christine Mckee Rokcmshelter

People hid from Marcia safely after inspection found faults

IN UNPRECEDENTED and largely unpredicted circumstances, Yeppoon's multi-million-dollar cyclone shelter was put to the ultimate test on February 20 this year.

Two thousand people were safely evacuated during the early hours of the morning, however without an inspection instigated by the Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) in November last year, the outcome could have been very different.

The inspection was part of Livingstone Shire's pre-cyclone season preparation procedures and unveiled a number of serious and potentially life- threatening maintenance issues and design flaws.

Livingstone mayor and LDMG chair Cr Bill Ludwig said if the council and the LDMG had not been proactive last year, a different disaster might have unfolded when Cyclone Marcia struck.

Inspections revealed significant maintenance issues and design flaws in the cyclone shelter at Yeppoon State High School.

They included an emergency generator engine sump full of water, insufficient fuel and incorrect water fire extinguishers at the main electrical switchboards.

A foreshadowed audit of state and local disaster management arrangements has been welcomed by CrLudwig. He said the audit, which was recommended by the inspector general of emergency management, would improve emergency management systems in the future.

"It's great we have these shelters and everyone is trying very hard," he said.

"Ensuring effective procedures are in place for the operation and staffing of the state-owned and controlled, purpose-built cyclone shelters is particularly important.

"The lessons learnt during Cyclone Marcia will be integral in making sure that Queensland communities, who find themselves in similar circumstances in the future, can further improve on the exceptional effort that our region's disaster management and response teams displayed in the lead up to, and throughout this extraordinary disaster event."

Livingstone Shire Council raised and documented serious concerns around the urgent need for a specialist operations team to manage shelters in major disaster situations.

The LDMG made a decision to activate the cyclone shelter as a precautionary measure at 6am, the day before the cyclone hit.

Cr Ludwig said the decision was questioned by state authorities at the time but proved to be the right one.

Deteriorating conditions meant no specialist cyclone shelter management team was able to get into the region and Cr Ludwig said the local LDMG team did an outstanding job under exceptional circumstances.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Works said officers would be joining with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to visit all cyclone shelters in Queensland next month.

They will also meet with local councils to ensure operational readiness of their designated cyclone shelters.

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