After two years of hard work by State Emergency Service volunteers, the extensions and renovations of the SES headquarters at Katoomba were officially opened last Friday.
Almost $140,000, which was completely raised from donations and fundraising, was spent modernising the facility into a state-of-the-art operations and administration centre for the 100-strong volunteers to work from during emergencies.
“It was 20 years ago this week since we first moved into the emergency centre,” said John Hughes, local controller for the NSW SES, “and it was time to modernise the building to meet the challenges and needs of our community when we have a disaster to contend with.”
Mr Hughes said that within five days of taking on the controller’s role in 2011, the Blue Mountains experienced the worst windstorm in living history when more than 1100 properties were damaged, mainly in the Blackheath area. The SES co-ordinated the response to the calls for help and at the time the volunteers were dependent on a paper-based system with very few computers to co-ordinate such a large response.
“My predecessors had commenced a funding program more than 20 years ago as we knew we would need to upgrade the centre one day and 2011 proved that day had come,” Mr Hughes said. “So we spent time and visited other emergency operations centres to see what technology and improvements we could bring back to the Blue Mountains to make a better working environment for the volunteers.”
In 2012, Fire Rescue NSW who shared the emergency services complex with the SES and Rural Fire Service (RFS) had relocated to Newcastle which allowed both the SES and RFS to expand and renovate their operations centres.
“I worked closely with RFS district manager David Jones to use this extra space wisely,” Mr Hughes said. “Both the RFS and SES now have a modern operations centre including a major incident room so we can tackle any type of incident that our community requires assistance with, not just storms and bushfires.”