2 January 2024

Here's cheers to our heroes in orange – Wollongong's SES volunteers top the state for one type of rescue

| Zoe Cartwright
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A woman in an orange hi-vis vest and hard hat stands in knee-high water with her arm out. She is looking at a car stuck in the water

An SES volunteer from the Wollongong unit takes part in a flood response on Carrington Street, Woonona. Photo: NSW SES.

If you know a volunteer in orange, say thanks from all of us – Illawarra SES volunteers were flat out in 2023.

Statistics from the State Emergency Service show the Wollongong Unit was the most activated branch for flood rescue in the state, completing 17 such missions.

The unit, which does not include Dapto, Shellharbour or Kiama group responses, was the fourth busiest in the state and completed 623 tasks.

During 2023, dedicated volunteers across NSW responded to more than 24,800 incidents, with more than 4200 of those recorded in December as volunteers gave up their Christmas holidays to respond to severe weather across much of the state.

READ ALSO No holiday for SES volunteers as heavy weather batters coast

The busiest month, however, was February with 5100 incidents, and the busiest day was 9 February after severe weather impacted Metropolitan Sydney, the Illawarra and the South Coast.

In a 24-hour period on 9 February, NSW SES volunteers worked through 1315 incidents, including 64 flood rescues.

The four Illawarra units combined completed 26 flood rescues (three in Shellharbour, four in Dapto, two in Kiama and 17 in Wollongong) and responded to 1327 incidents (259 in Shellharbour, 209 in Dapto, 236 in Kiama and 623 in Wollongong).

Not only have NSW SES volunteers been busy on the frontline responding to unfolding emergency incidents, but 2100 have undertaken flood rescue training to enhance their capabilities.

Throughout the year, the highly skilled trainers and assessors at the NSW SES have also passed on their knowledge and skills to partner emergency services, including NSW Ambulance, NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Police, Volunteer Rescue Association, Marine Rescue and Surf Life Saving NSW.

NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York APM thanked the volunteers for their commitment to helping their communities throughout the year.

READ ALSO Dapto SES unit celebrates a decade of mateship

“Our hard-working NSW SES members have worked tirelessly at all times of day and night this year to assist their communities through emergencies,” Commissioner York said.

“Not only have our volunteers served their own communities, they’ve been deployed to South-East Queensland this week, and internationally earlier this year to assist Canada with the wildfire emergency.”

NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Training and Capability Daniel Austin said the service had worked hard to boost flood rescue capabilities even further this year.

“As the lead agency for flood rescue in NSW, the NSW SES providing a high standard of training to our emergency service partners is key for the safety of our personnel and the community,” Deputy Commissioner Austin said.

For emergency help in floods and storms, call the NSW SES on 132 500. In life-threatening situations, call triple zero (000) immediately.

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