NO two floods are ever the same and it is impossible to predict just how devastating the impact will be, not just on the natural landscape, but also the psyche of an affected community.
NSW SES Mid North Coast community engagement officer Steve Lawrence has worked closely with some of the Hastings community's most heavily flood-affected residents in the 12 months since the February deluge carved a swathe of destruction across the local landscape.
Among the more innovative community driven strategies led by the SES is the formation of a flood reference group and "phone tree" initiative for the swift dissemination of consistent and reliable flood warnings and updates.
Mr Lawrence said from one of the region's worst natural disasters in three decades has evolved a solid, strategic and partnered approach to flood emergency activation.
"The flood provided (the SES) an opportunity to highlight some very valuable lessons and opportunities including the importance of a strong partnership with other emergency service providers in the area, the need for good operational planning and flood modelling and to look at our emergency operations response," Mr Lawrence said.
"We have built on partnerships we have in terms of how we work alongside council and their own emergency response to road closures and how that information is conveyed to the community."
Port Macquarie SES is a voluntary organisation with a manpower capacity of 60. Mr Lawrence said in times of crisis, when every resource is stretched to the limit, good relationships with other emergency assistance providers including the police, ambulance, fire brigade, rural fire service and maritime services improve their capacity to help more people in a collaborative way.
More importantly, educating the community about their responsibilities, how they can source information, protect their property and stay safe has been the driving force of an ongoing engagement campaign to raise flood awareness across the Hastings.
Thirty North Shore residents lost their vehicles in the February flood and many others battled against Mother Nature to protect their homes. From a post-flood forum hosted by the SES, the community has formed the North Port Macquarie flood reference group and been tasked with a range of strategies to ensure they are flood-ready.
The group represents more than 650 residents living on the North Shore, at Riverside, Maria River and Plommer and has the full endorsement of the Northside Progress Association.
Initiatives have included a "phone tree" network of coordinators who are tasked with receiving and sharing with their neighbours critical flood information as it comes to hand. Flood education signage has been installed in high risk areas, higher ground areas have been identified as flood free drop points for cars and other property while all new residents moving to the North Shore receive a flood-safe toolkit as a part of their welcome pack.
"Information is critical for people in these kinds of situations," Mr Lawrence said. "There have been lots of things we have learned from the last event and the key to how we move forward is in reinforcing and building partnerships."