SES crews search and rescue people who were stranded in the houses in North Lismore in 2017.
SES crews search and rescue people who were stranded in the houses in North Lismore in 2017. Marc Stapelberg

TWO YEARS ON: Emergency crews stronger, better prepared

TWO years down the track, the New South Wales State Emergency Service says it has learnt its lessons from Ex-Cyclone Debbie.

NSW SES region controller for Richmond Tweed, Mark Somers, said the organisation and its people were now stronger and better prepared than ever.

He said the recent weather events around Tropical Cyclone Oma, which deluged parts of Queensland, saw the SES put into action strategies they had created from the feedback they received from the 2017 Lismore flood.

"We have had our changes articulated in the past and we have tested most of these changes at events such as Tropical Cyclone Oma," he said.

"One change we have made is for better public information, as in the past we had one person in the information unit and for Oma we had seven, including a dedicated media officer, a dedicated community liaison officer and we have really improved the way we communicate."

Mr Somers said another key element the SES had introduced was their state control intent.

"The SES aims to protect lives and to inform the community and as a result the incident management teams are structured around information flow," he said.

"We have proven this works during TC Oma."

Another significant change Mr Somers pushed for was the complete restructure of how the SES manages weather and flood data coming in from the public and their members, who possess extensive local knowledge of an area.

He said they will use the observations of dedicated intelligence officers and liaise with the Bureau of Meteorology.

"During TC Oma we had five people focussing on information flow and this related to local knowledge and real-time observations and monitoring, rather than relying on BOM,"he said.

"The SES has strengthened our relationships with the BOM, we regularly liaise with them regarding issuing warnings.

"For example (this week) we did not have a flood watch issued as our local information showed we would not get this, whereas their BOM computer said it would, and they listened to us."

Mr Somers said he was proud of every SES volunteer.

"They have demonstrated their resilience and commitment to the community and still respond to all sorts of calls from cows in the river to floods and storm events," he said.

"But we also need the public to plan what they will do when a storm or flood comes along, we urge them to practice this so in the event of an emergency they can pack up and leave safely."

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