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2.6 How are Emergency Responses Coordinated?


Emergency Management arrangements in NSW are enabled under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989. The act outlines which Emergency Service will be responsible for leading the response to certain types of natural disasters. This lead agency is known as the Combat Agency.  The Combat Agency for bushfires in NSW is the RFS and for floods, storms and tsunamis the combat agency is the SES. 

During natural disasters the Combat Agency works with affected communities, other emergency services, local government, non-government organisations and occasionally the federal government to save lives, protect property and return the situation to normal as safely and as quickly as possible.

The Combat Agency will advise affected communities of the possible consequences of predicted natural disaster threats and provide safety advice for affected communities. It is the Combat Agency that will advise residents on what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency. 

If the Combat Agency decides an evacuation is necessary an Evacuation Centre will be established by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). Several other public authorities may be involved in the emergency response and transition to recovery, including but not limited to MidCoast Council, utility providers, Public Works Authority, Resilience NSW, Transport NSW and other agencies. 

In major natural disasters an Emergency Operations Centre may be established under the direction of the Local Emergency Operations Controller (LEOCON) to assist the Combat Agency in coordinating the emergency response and the transition to recovery.  

Affected communities, community groups and individuals also play a critical role in the management of natural disasters. Communities are extremely effective in using social connections to pass on information and in mobilising people and resources to assist emergency services in efforts to save lives and protect properties. Communities also play a key role in providing the volunteers for the local emergency services units. We can help ourselves and others by taking time to understand our local hazards and risks, and by planning and preparing in advance for an emergency situation.

Harrington and Crowdy Head have a significant risk profile in terms of exposure to potential bushfire, floods, storms and tsunamis. In extreme conditions we may be isolated for many days with severely restricted or no emergency service access or assistance. In such circumstances, the initial response may rely entirely on people in the local community as first responders, with aerial emergency supplies and medical assistance flown in by helicopter. 

Following an emergency an official Recovery Centre may be established to provide face-to-face support for affected residents. A recovery centre is normally staffed by representatives of each level of government as well as providers of important commercial services (such as insurance and telecommunication), and welfare and community support organisations. 

A recovery centre provides information and access to such things as accommodation advice, replacing lost documents, mental health services, support available for businesses, clean-up services, financial assistance, insurance and legal support.

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