Home after relief effort
Victoria State Emergency Service and the Wimmera have welcomed home Stawell Unit volunteer John Hooper after his two-week deployment as part of an international response to devastating fires in Greece.
The community welcomed him back to the Wimmera with a VICSES ceremony in Stawell on Friday.
Mr Hooper went to Greece as part of a national multi-agency response team, providing emergency relief after fires near Athens killed at least 90 people. He was one of 10 Australians who formed a national Disaster Assistance Response Team.
The skilled team helped the Greek fire brigade with rapid damage assessments to fire-damaged buildings, where they worked 12-hour days in hot weather.
Mr Hooper’s qualification and extensive training in urban search and rescue, where he is a category-two operator, allowed him to be part of the response team. Urban search and rescue technicians train in advanced rescue operations and search equipment, tunnelling and shoring.
The technicians complete this extensive training every two years, training that includes locating and removing trapped and often injured live casualties from partially or totally collapsed structures or environments and providing emergency medical care.
Mr Hooper, part of Victoria State Emergency Service for almost 40 years and based mainly in the state’s mid-west, was the first VICSES volunteer to train in this qualification and was the first category-two trained member to be deployed overseas.
He said he was fortunate to have his qualifications and had always been passionate about urban search and rescue.
“It was an absolutely wonderful experience to be there helping the grief-stricken communities of Greece. It was very heart-warming to see their relief and appreciation for us when we arrived,” he said.
VICSES assistant chief officer Ste- phen Warren said it was fantastic to see specialist multi-agency skills put to use.
“John is one of our more highly skilled rescue operators and has made VICSES very proud,” he said.
“There is so much opportunity at VICSES, and so it is always gratifying to see VICSES volunteers involved in some of the more diverse aspects of the job, and see their skillset grow.”
The Disaster Assistance Response Team was made up of members from Fire and Rescue NSW and Victoria fire and emergency services and had support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Emergency Management Australia.