It now has a state-of-the-art headquarters – but that’s not the only change at the NSW State Emergency Service (SES), as the organisation embarks on a new era of emergency management.
As the new Wollongong base was officially opened in front of a large crowd on Friday morning, SES Commissioner Mark Smethurst also revealed an overhaul of the service’s volunteering model and a plan to significantly bolster its membership.
An initiative, dubbed “Volunteering Reimagined”, will see three new volunteer categories – corporate volunteering, community action teams and spontaneous volunteering – added to the core volunteering roles.
Read more: SES starts fitting out its new headquarters
Commissioner Smethurst said the move was part of a two-year action plan to “transform the NSW State Emergency Service” and was aimed at giving potential volunteers greater flexibility.
“More people are wanting to help their communities, but often feel they can’t because they are either time poor or believe they don't have the physical capabilities to do some of the emergency tasks that SES responds to,” he said.
The SES currently has 8235 volunteers across the state, but has set itself a goal to increase that number to more than 20,000 over the next two years. “NRMA have already committed with us; they’ve got 5000 workers,” Commissioner Smethurst said.
“We’re going out to community organisations, like sporting clubs and community groups, and getting them to be a part and have the community own the problem with us.”
SES volunteers have responded to more than 30,000 requests for assistance statewide in the past 12 months and the opening of the new headquarters comes just ahead of the storm season.
The new HQ includes an upgraded state operations centre that, when compared with the previous Regent Street facility, has increased its capacity from 45 to 145 positions.
Commissioner Smethurst said the centre would be manned by SES staff and, in times of declared events, by multi-agency liaison officers and other support personnel.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant, who unveiled the plaque during the official opening ceremony, said the potential relocation of the SES’s state headquarters had been considered.
However, parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said: “We weren’t going to have any of that”.
“We made sure that this facility stayed here, expanded and we’ve of course invested to make sure that this will be here for a very long time to come,” Mr Ward said.
About 235 SES personnel are based at the new headquarters, which brings those previously working from offices on Regent Street and in the Crown Street Mall together under one roof.
For more information about the roles available as part of Volunteer Reimagined, visit: ses.nsw.gov.au