A TANKER lies on its side as 70,000 litres of diesel push against the filler hatches. The nearby drain runs down to a protected wetland at the bottom of the hill. The latches are holding, at least for the moment. I check for the driver ...
Police officers often step into the worst moments of someone’s life. First on the scene, we become the controlling agents for unfolding catastrophe. Depending what happens next, police may hand control to the CFA, Parks Victoria, the EPA or Phillip Island Nature Parks as their teams arrive on the scene.
As a Bass Coast councillor, I’m a member of three council committees that create systems to manage risk and return the affected area to normalcy as swiftly as possible.
The Bass Coast Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee’s quarterly meetings fill the old Wonthaggi Post Office building. This very professional group includes representatives from Ports, the local surf lifesaving clubs, the CFA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. It plans for every conceivable incident. Through their actions, Bass Coast is much more prepared than many other councils. Some metropolitan areas don’t even have a co-ordinated emergency plan.
The Bass Coast Municipal Fire Management Committee includes reps from the CFA, SES, Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks and the Police, while the Bass Coast Community Road Safety Committee includes representatives from the Police, Ambulance, VicRoads, SES, CFA and council officers.
These experts and stakeholders from across the shire formulate policies and procedures that protect our community and our environment. It's a team effort, as is the implementation of these measures. Council staff co-ordinate their activities, supplying expertise and equipment while keeping track of resources in other areas.
Working as a police officer informs me about our level of preparedness and I often see our procedures tested.
Regular drills ensure that Bass Coast is prepared. That capsized tanker was merely a collection of witches hats and some imagination.
We are also often tested in reality. Emotions are put on hold while everyone performs their tasks but, in a rural area like Bass Coast, people attending an incident often know the people involved. This can weigh heavily. We always put our best efforts into it, although some outcomes are hard to accept.
Several years ago I attended a car accident and recognised a friend of mine as one of the drivers who had died. When her husband arrived on the scene, my uniform sent the message as I walked toward him. I still had to say the words. She was gone. You can't forget something like that.
Last month I was called out to a fire at Bass. People gathered on a footpath as a siren ripped the night in half. The Finn family’s home and caravan were completely destroyed. All their possessions were lost in the flames.
A week later, as I commenced my councillor day, I was greeted by Mr Finn at the rear of the council building in Wonthaggi. He was on his way into the offices and he talked to me about how much support and kindness had been shown to his family since the fire. In the aftermath of this physical and emotional devastation, the whole neighborhood had rallied in support. The Bass McDonald’s restaurant and Silverwater Resort both helped, and the Red Cross provided ongoing comfort and support.
Our staff had co-ordinated the efforts of agencies who were able to lift some of the burden. Mr Finn asked me to thank the council for the fantastic helping hand given to this family in their time of need.
I was honoured to pass on the message on behalf of Mr Finn, our community and my fellow councillors. The compassionate hard work of our staff and officers needs to be acknowledged more often.
Bruce Kent is a police officer stationed at San Remo and a councillor for Westernport Ward.