SES chief hits back at critics

The chief of the Lismore SES Unit has hit out at critics of the service during the recent floods, saying attacks were unwarranted and damaging to the morale of all SES volunteers.

Lindsay Matterson was responding to recent comments in letters columns and radio talkback shows where some people expected SES volunteers to do extra duties such as carrying out permanent repairs to their storm-damaged roofs or to transport feed to stranded stock.

Mr Matterson said this was not the job of SES volunteers.

The primary role of SES volunteers is to provide short-term emergency help that reduces the risk of personal injury and damage to property during and immediately after floods and storms the repairs to buildings made by SES volunteers immediately after storms are temporary repairs only, aimed at providing residents with some immediate relief and time to organise for permanent repairs to be carried out by themselves or professional builders, plumbers, etc, he said. There are a growing number of Lismore residents that unreasonably expect the SES volunteers to return time and time again to their damaged, poorly maintained properties to make adjustments to SES fitted tarpaulins and repairs to roofs damaged weeks/months ago.

Sadly, SES volunteers are being abused both in the field and over the phone by residents that have an unrealistic expectation of SES volunteers role and responsibilities during and after storm events.

Mr Matterson said some residents were not storm-proofing their properties adequately and they then expected the SES mop-up the results of poor owner maintenance.

This is placing an unnecessary burden on SES volunteers resources, time, energy and patience, he said.

Mr Matterson said other emergency agencies such as Red Cross or Centrelink provided follow-up help after major floods or storms.

He urged all residents and property owners to carry out regular general maintenance to minimise the risk of storm damage. He said people could do simple things like cleaning out leaves from roof gutters, replacing broken tiles, guttering and/or sheets of roofing iron, and painting metal items to extend their life.

If you cant do the above maintenance jobs yourself, get an extended family member or friend to do them, otherwise hire someone dont expect SES volunteers to perform these tasks in addition to their already heavy emergency workload, usually carried out in very extreme weather conditions.

Mr Matterson said he was proud of the service provided to Lismore residents by the Lismore SES volunteers, who had responded to over 1300 call-outs for help over the past three months.

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