Port Macquarie SES dominate in national rescue challenge competition

THE BEST: Port Macquarie SES members in Tasmania where they beat teams from all over Australia.
THE BEST: Port Macquarie SES members in Tasmania where they beat teams from all over Australia.

With over 50 years’ experience in general rescue, road crash rescue, and flood rescue between them, the Port Macquarie SES team showed they were the best scoring a first place victory at the prestigious National Disaster Rescue Competition on November 11-12.

The Port Macquarie team consisted of Michael Ward (Team Leader), Scott Witchard (Deputy Team Leader), Michael Brumby (Deputy Unit Controller and Medic), Mark Anderson, Sereena Ward, and Alfred Portenschlage.

After the win there was a great sense of camaraderie and respect among the teams, but also a sense of fierce competition according to Michael Brumby.

Competitors were faced with eight realistic rescue scenarios designed to test skills in navigation, casualty handling, steep slope recovery, vehicle recovery, sandbagging, protecting and preserving a scene, and storm damage.

During one challenge the team had to pull a car from the beach.

During one challenge the team had to pull a car from the beach.

The challenge was based over two days with a focus on 'Back to Basics' skills, equipment, and rescue techniques with teams from all over Australia going to Tasmania to compete on the picturesque shores of the Derwent River.

“Our team felt honoured to have won NSW state selection at Bathurst a month ago, and were looking forward representing NSW at the National competition. 

“The team rose to the challenge presented at each scenario and put our regular unit training to the test in a sometimes tense, time-critical, and physically demanding activities.

“Securing first place in the competition after completion of the final challenge was icing on the cake,” Mr Brumby said.

The highlight of the weekend competition was being able to utilise skills used in everyday rescues.

“The best part of the competition, aside from the friendly rivalry between teams, was being able to use the broad range of skills we use in regular training and apply these in the challenges presented.

“It was really rewarding to be able to pull all the various elements from our training together and get the tasks completed within the allotted time limit.

The entire team worked hard all weekend to secure victory.

The entire team worked hard all weekend to secure victory.

“Successfully completing each scenario before time ran out gave the team a real boost,” he said.

The team was challenged by the physicality of Saturday afternoons' scenarios starting with a vehicle recovery requiring the team to manually winch a deeply bogged vehicle and boat trailer from off a beach onto a 4WD track.

This was shortly followed by a race to complete a sandbag wall/bund to contain a 'toxic' spill from reaching a nest of penguin eggs.

“The weekend has helped the team bond even closer together, building a sense of trust and reliance on each other.

“While the theme was 'back to basics', it certainly gave us some ideas that we can use to implement similar training scenarios back at our Port Macquarie unit to further develop the skills and expertise of our local volunteers enabling us to continue to save lives, and protect our communities,” Mr Brumby said.

NSW SES Mid North Coast Region Controller Anthony Day said Michael Ward was also was recognised as the most outstanding Team Leader of the competition. 

“Michael’s calm and quiet attitude was praised by the judges, as was his analytical management style that allowed him to keep full control of the situation, whilst ensuring his team were confident in their direction,” Mr Day said.

Michael Ward said he was incredibly proud of the entire team. 

“I am exceptionally proud of the Port Macquarie team and the entire Port Macquarie SES Unit – we could not have achieved the result without the support of the entire unit,” Mr Ward said.

Securing a storm damaged house was part of the challenge.

Securing a storm damaged house was part of the challenge.