Recruitment begins for CQ volunteer army in 2021
Across the 58,708 sq km of the Isaac mining and farming territories there are 83 State Emergency Service volunteers, or an average of one person per 1107sq km.
It is a daunting challenge for the orange army to protecting a regional area almost as big as Tasmania
Local controller Daniel Deal said while the district was ready for disaster, he was always keen to invite new members to join.
“At the moment we’re on good numbers, but we would like more,” he said.
“We’re scattered across the whole of Isaac.”
Mr Deal said the largest groups were at Moranbah, Nebo, Clermont and the recently reopened Carmila unit, with smaller units in Dysart, Middlemount and St Lawrence.
“It’s my New Year’s resolution for Isaac to build membership,” he said.
By midnight on New Year’s Eve, Mr Deal hopes to have 130 members on his books.
Mackay area commander Selina Neill said Isaac’s volunteers faced challenges like no other orange army in the region.
Ms Neill said Isaac volunteers were more likely to be called to road crash rescues, rather than the more tradition SES work of storm damage response.
She said Isaac’s population meant emergency services operated with “skeleton crews”, leaving SES volunteers to step in to meet capacity gaps.
“We work like agency support,” she said.
Ms Neill said Isaac’s main industry also posed an unusual complication for the volunteer army.
As a mining-dominated region she said the population of many towns could “ebb and flow”.
“When they move on or mines shut down so does our capacity,” Ms Neill said.
Mr Deal said his greatest challenge was balancing the number of active volunteers with the demands of shift work.
He said if disaster struck at any time he was confident there were between 30 and 40 volunteers ready to respond.
“(But) some mines won’t let my volunteers out,” he said.
Ms Neill said employers could chose to not release their workers if the volunteer emergency service called.
“We’re finding more of a reluctance from employers to release their workers,” she said.
Ms Neill said this problem was not unique to Isaac, or the mining industry.