It takes a special sort of person to not only keep their head but also put their life on the line in an emergency situation.
That’s not to say that emergency services work isn’t incredibly fascinating and rewarding, but recruitment can often be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Bowraville Fire and Rescue brigade commander Max Duncan said it’s even harder at a station like the Bowraville one where the limited number of incidents only warrants keeping part-time staff on.
“So finding someone local enough who is available in emergencies, but also has some other work to sustain them is really difficult,” he said.
So, with his Jaanymili Bawrunga (Bowra Solutions Brokerage) hat on, he devised a cunning plan.
Last week saw 14 Valley hopefuls participate in a Macksville TAFE-funded and facilitated emergency services boot camp at Bowraville Central School in an effort to give young locals a taste of the industry and an awareness that there is an available path to a career.
The diversely-aged group of participants from Bowraville, Macksville, Nambucca Heads and Scotts Head had a three-day intensive with professional trainers from Diamond Protection – emergency services operators who specialise in occupational health and safety procedures in mining, maritime, aviation and industrial sites.
They learnt a range of confined space and small-scale emergency preparedness and leadership techniques like navigation through a smoke-filled room, vertical rescue via ropes and pulleys, CPR and first aid, and hazardous material response; working with extinguishers and breathing apparatuses.
On the final day the students worked towards a qualification in confined small place work emergencies.
“Plus we’re generally trying to get the kids enthused about a career in emergency services – they can often earn good money, and a lifestyle that a lot of people can only dream of,” Diamond Protection’s Ray Bell said.
Max said the enthusiastic response from the students had been incredibly heart-warming.
“We had two girls come on board, and half-way through their first day they said ‘how good is this work!’ – they’re just really pumped,” he said.
“Even if they don’t join up with us in Bowraville, then maybe Nambucca or Macksville Fire and Rescue will benefit from having them join up.”
One of those girls was Indi Lipscombe who heard about the course from her teacher at TAFE.
She said her favourite part of the experience was the search and rescue in the smoke-filled room.
“We had to go into the room fully kitted up and search for occupants. It was like a real experience, you couldn’t see anything and you felt half of what they would feel in that situation,” she said.
“I’m really glad I did this, because I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m actually thinking about pursuing a career in emergency services work in a couple of years’ time.”
Iesha Torrens has been blown away by the experience too and plans to connect with the Nambucca Heads Fire and Rescue crew.
“I never thought I would be, but I’m so into this – the last few days have been amazing,” she said.
“Listening to what these guys get up to, it’s clear that there’s a lot of emotion involved in a job like this. But there’s also a lot of opportunities too. Like, they’ve just sent some trained firefighters over to help with the aftermath of the Indonesian earthquakes. That would be an incredible experience.”