Connected & Prepared – Community Emergency Response

About

The MVA took the initiative in 2019 to develop a Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) to be implemented in case of emergencies, such as isolating floods and fires, in addition to more localised emergencies such as power and communication outages, fallen trees etc. 

In our role of lobby group, a key part of this plan is to continue to put pressure on outside agencies (Council, BoM, Endeavour Energy, Telstra etc) to remind them we exist. We need flood mapping completed by the Council and proper collection, forecasting and dissemination of flood information by BoM about the Macdonald Valley. 

Wardens

We are setting up a team of Wardens to manage small areas within the five sectors of the valley:

  1. St Albans Road / Webbs Creek
  2. Settlers Road / Wrights Creek
  3. St Albans Village
  4. Wolombi Rd
  5. Upper Macdonald Road

The wardens are currently part of a Whats App group that proved very successful in the recent 2022 flood events. Information can be disseminated quickly and then passed by wardens to isolated neighbours to ensure everyone is connected and looked after.

The result of this warden network so far has been a demonstrable improvement in communications with, and action by, The SES, Council(s), Local Police, Endeavour Energy and even Telstra.

Now we are getting UHF Radios in place (see below) this communication task will become much easier and more reliable, not needing to rely on generators and satellite internet to communicate.

Useful Information and Links
Bureau of Meteorology 
 
This is the ultimate source of weather information which is then disciminated by other agencies
SES 

Local SES and RFS Facebook sites
which do carry some localised information for provisions and welfare:
* Wisemans Ferry RFS – https://www.facebook.com/WFRFS
* Lower Macdonald RFS – https://www.facebook.com/lowermacdonaldrfs
* Hawkesbury SES – https://www.facebook.com/seshawkesbury
* Hills SES – https://www.facebook.com/TheHillsSES

Council

Macdonald Valley Community
Rainfall and River heights 
 
Electricity
Ferry & Roads 
 
For emergency help in floods and storms, call NSW SES on 132 500. If life-threatening, call 000 (Triple Zero). 
Useful Resources and Reminders
    • EmergencyPlus app – https://www.emergencyplus.com.au The Emergency+ app is a free app developed by Australia’s emergency services and their Government and industry partners.  The app uses GPS functionality built into smart phones to help a Triple Zero (000) caller provide critical location details required to mobilise emergency services
    • Fires Near Me – https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/stay-up-to-date and remember to set a Watch Zone locally or if you are travelling.  You can select a radius to keep watch on.and this means you’ll receive notifications for that distance from the location you drop the pin.
    • BOM – http://www.bom.gov.au/app/ BOM Weather app for access to hourly and 7-day forecasts, radar and warnings
    • SES – https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au
    • RFS – https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au 
Grant Funding

In February 2022 the MVA heard that we were successful in our bid for $280,227.00 in federal funding under the Black Summer Bushfire Grant Program.

This funding is to be used over 2-3 years to build a more resilient and better equipped Macdonald Valley community, to better cope with the impact of emergencies and disasters.  The project aims to address major communication problems highlighted by the he 2019/20 bushfires and subsequent major flood events. We will:

  1. Create A Residents UHF Radio (CB Radio) network and equip each property to enable an alternate valley-wide communications relay conduit.
  2. Provide Emergency Kit Bags, ready with items that will help residents survive and sustain initial recovery from a disaster.
  3. Provide a unique Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) to each property.

The Grant application was prepared by the MVA’s Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) sub-committee members Lewis Adey, Stephen Brown, Peter Hunter and Veronica Hunter, with input and expertise from the RFS, SES and many members of the community.

In February 2022 we announced: The MVA welcomes the investment in this simple lo-tech, community run, potentially life-saving solution. This will go some way to address significant communication issues in our valley; no mobile coverage and power dependent landline and internet . These inadequacies were critically exposed during recent fire and flood emergencies.

In March 2022 we received the first funding from the government and have now appointed a Project Manager (Stephen Brown) and Technical Advisor (Brad Stapleton of ESSCOM).

There is a grant sub-committee comprising Stephen Brown, Peter Hunter, Len Dragsund and Lewis Adey.

Residents Radio Network

UHF radios have proven themselves as a useful communication tool during emergency events and telecommunications failures throughout the various valley areas.

The MVA Connected and Prepared Team aims to promote their use and improve the UHF infrastructure for future emergency and communications blackouts.

We’ve seen how useful they have been already:
• Adopting UHF Channel 9, used in welfare checks from RFS crews to local householders, during the 2019-20 bushfires
• Neighbour-to-Neighbour networks in parts of the valley for catch-ups and chats
• Relaying of messages when phone lines have been out in parts of the valley
• Safety at home when out and about on your property
• Promoting UHF Channel 9 potential for SES to connect locally in flood activities

So, why not voice your support and contact us or your local Warden if you can help the radio testing and mapping team in June 2022 with your local knowledge.

 

Residents Radio Network Rollout
 
During May and June 2022 the Technical Team mapped the valley to identify locations for base stations and potential network capability.
 
125 UHF handheld radios have now (July 21 2022)  been distributed to the most isolated and vulnerable permanent members of our community, along with instructions. Wardens will be training all residents in there areas in the set up and use of these radios. Or see the videos below.

This is just the beginning: we have also ordered base stations which will act as relays and become the backbone of the network. However these are not currently available but we are told they should arrive in a month.

Our next funding is due to come from the Government in November 2022, unless we can get them to release it earlier. Then we will buy radios for the remainder of the valley, as well as emergency grab bags. We will also then prepare unique Community Emergency Response Plans (CERPs) for every property.

Community Meeting 24 Sept 2022

Over 50 community members attended this forum along with 18 speakers and support staff representing

  • Hawkesbury City Council – GM and Directors
  • SES – Hawkesbury command
  • RFS Captains
    • St Albans
    • Lower Macdonald
    • Wisemans Ferry
  • NSW Police, Wisemans Ferry and Hawkesbury Commander
  • GSLLS,
  • Peppercorn,
  • Endeavour Energy,
  • Department of Primary Industries,

Thanks too to Hawkesbury Councillors, who stepped in during their community visit.

A strong message came through from all speakers and from the discussion:

Being Connected and Prepared supports our valley community, and helps us as individual residents become safer and more resilient.

Some key messages came out.

  • Get prepared– do not think an emergency won’t happen – floods, fires, storms and blackouts will occur.
  • Reach out– If you need support or assistance getting better prepared, reach out – the MVA website and our regular communications contain links to information and Get Ready
  • Make yourself aware– follow information from emergency agencies, Council and the Bureau of Meteorology. Don’t rely on hearsay. In emergencies the MVA endeavours to share verified information from these sources too, but make yourself familiar with where to get information – the MVA website and Facebook page carry links to information sources.
  • Being prepared– means having supplies for isolation and independence – generator, fuel, food, medicines, animal feed. Do not rely on re-supply drops.
  • Act early– accommodation venues’ guests and local residents should be prepared to go before situations escalate and ferries are out of service.
  • Community resilience– our MVA Wardens and our community UHF radio network are focused on neighbours supporting neighbours, improving our ability to communicate and to connect in times of need. Remember, we are not replacing the emergency services.

We’ll be sharing Lessons Learnt and more Get Prepared information, look out for this on MVA Facebook and website in the weeks ahead.

After the community meeting representatives and wardens met to discuss in more detail the operation of the warden system in conjunction with all the support agencies. The use of UHF radios was supported by all as a great assistance, and it was agreed to hold a trail emergency run in the near future.

  1. UHF Update

Final funding arrived in the MVA bank account on 23 September (brought forward by negotiation from March 2023). We ordered the remaining handheld UHF radios the same day. Our budget for radio purchase has increased, found from a big saving in technical support budget. This is because wardens / community members organised by Len Dragsund have done most of this work themselves.

delivery of remaining 247 x IC-41Pro Hand Held Radios due at the end of October 2022 and delivery on the 20 x IC-410PRO homestead (base stations) radios mid to late November 2022. These are to be placed in strategic houses including most wardens houses

  1. Mapping

Linda Hanlon (Land Care) is helping us with mapping. Aim is to have Mac Valley base map annotated with Warden areas, Helicopter landing places and land drop locations.

  1. Grab Bags

Stephen working purchase of bags and contents appropriate for the valley – to be delivered by end of year. These are to include a plan showing information known about each property (from survey data and warden knowledge, including lat / long info

  1. Redi-Plans

Continuing publicity to encourage community to prepare these, with assistance from Peppercorn and Red cross / utilising the Community Hubs.

COUNCIL RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS

Can be found here 

Survey

In late 2021 we produced a survey to help with our knowledge of the valley and the areas that become isolated. This has informed the creation of sectors, sub-sectors and islands, resulting in the Warden system being set up to look after these local areas.

The information will also be used to prepare unique Community Emergency Response Plans ((CERP), to be provided to every property along with an Emergency Grab Bag and UHF radio.

Privacy
Privacy of Information is paramount. All information is held in confidence on a single secure password protected spreadsheet, accessible only by key MVA Wardens and one SES official. Information can not be shared or downloaded and will only be supplied to nominated local RFS and SES officials as required in an emaergany situation. They will not have access to the spreadsheet. Information will not be shared with Council.

You will of course have access to all information relating to your own property and can share it with whoever you wish.

How can I help?
We are asking you to help us identify how you and your immediate neighbours become isolated in emergencies, what safety procedures you have in place (such as a fire plan) and what backup systems you have in place in case of an isolating emergency (if any). We are asking you to provide us with some basic information by completing the attached survey.

You can still help us to help you by completing the Emergency Response Survey if you have not done so already.