Fire action impeded

Fire action impeded

01 April 2013

published by

Australia — AN emergency agency at the centre of Tasmania’s January bushfires says there was a lack of control at evacuation sites and communication failures that hindered the response to the disaster.

Dodges Ferry Sea Rescue Tasmania’s report on the bushfires says an adequately resourced critical incident centre had been needed.

Sea Rescue Tasmania is a volunteer marine rescue group, an auxiliary to Tasmania Police, used primarily for marine search and rescue response and for civil emergency assistance.

Tasmania Police asked the Sea Rescue team to help in the emergency on January 4 as road closures cut off access to coastal communities from Forcett to the Forestier and Tasman peninsulas.

Sea Rescue said darkness, heat, smoke and marginal conditions for helicopters meant the only practical and safe means of evacuation and getting provisions and emergency personnel in was by water.

“This situation continued until limited police escorted road convoys were conducted late on the afternoon of January 7,” the report says.

The Sea Rescue team has told authorities the emergency graphically illustrated the difficulties experienced when communications failed and inadequate information and misinformation was provided in a crisis.

“Difficulties were experienced by Sea Rescue in contacting the police radio room, a critical incident controller and senior police officers,” it said.

“The role of SES, police, SLST and an emergency plan was not obvious to Sea Rescue.

“Most activities were ad hoc and communication between local authorities became the norm.”

The organisation said there also appeared to be a lack of control and command at evacuation sites.

It said questions were frequently raised about army, navy and air force resources.

Sea Rescue Tasmania said an adequately resourced critical incident centre may have been able to offer timely information to volunteer organisations.

It suggested its own operational base may have been better utilised.

Sea Rescue now wants to be formally recognised as part of the solution in future.

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