MAJOR TASK: SES controller Eddie Cowie shows Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk around the Local Disaster Co-ordination Centre in Rockhampton following Cyclone Marcia. Sharyn O’Neill
MAJOR TASK: SES controller Eddie Cowie shows Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk around the Local Disaster Co-ordination Centre in Rockhampton following Cyclone Marcia. Sharyn O’Neill

Orange Army to the rescue as Cyclone Marcia bore down

When Cyclone Marcia started to threaten Central Queensland in the final weeks of February, a stir of preparation swung into action across the eastern seaboard as the system approached.

SES groups from our local government areas, already trained and equipped to respond, took notice and planned for what could be.

Several days later Cyclone Marcia, as a Category 5 system, smashed her way across the communities of Byfield, Yeppoon through Rockhampton and surrounding areas, before heading generally in a southerly direction towards Biloela and beyond.

Wide areas were impacted with almost everyone exposed to damage or disruption within our local areas as a result of her fury.

The outcome for our local communities was a disaster.

With approximately 5000 'requests for assistance' logged to local SES Groups by the 132 500 SES emergency line and requests into the Local Disaster Coordination Centres, local SES resources were quickly stretched to our limit and the request for extra SES deployment teams was made to SES at the state level strongly supported by our Queensland Fire and Emergency Service colleagues.

For some members of the community there was only so much SES volunteers could do to offer emergency repairs or emergency assistance as the damage to homes or property was just too great for what SES was able to do.

As predicted, our 'Orange Army' stood up and supported the efforts to assist in the response of a damaged Central Region.

With approximately 709 SES from every regional SES area in Queensland responding, including 200 of our finest local SES members, the response was, at times, overwhelming.

With an almost identical 2500 tasks in each of the SES Units of Livingstone and Rockhampton, SES jobs were everywhere.

Not to be missed in my reflection of assistance are the other services that assisted SES such as our follow volunteers of the Rural Fire Service who played a tremendous role in our response and who also responded in their hundreds to bolster the efforts of SES in cutting and clearing thousands of trees from roads and residences, allowing the community to get back to some normality sooner than expected.

Cyclone Marcia, like most disasters, was met with challenges and issues which either worked well or could have worked better, but like all disaster events our team of SES volunteers always had a plan to work around these issues and like many in our community they showed resilience and adaptability almost naturally to get most of the jobs done.

Behind the scene a committed team of Incident Management volunteers working in our Emergency Operation Centres worked through each task and prioritised how SES should respond to requests.

Finally, I would like to thank sincerely those SES volunteers who live in our region and who selflessly gave their all to help those that needed support, along with those SES and other services that came to assist the SES Units of Livingstone and Rockhampton for the event of Cyclone Marcia and gave their all to support our communities in trying conditions.

This thanks also goes to the Local Disaster Management Groups, Liaison Staff and Local Government Officers who supported all operations 24 hours a day while the height of the event was unfolding.

Most of all, we need to thank the community who stood up and supported SES when we needed help, with the many cakes, bottles of water and just a word of thanks from everyday people right through to equipment donated by small and large businesses and individuals to make our tasks just that bit easier.

Thank you to all who helped.