Home af­ter re­lief ef­fort

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

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.

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