We’ve all seen the tragic images.
Buildings in ruins. Lives lost.
Byron Shire locals have looked on in disbelief – as have people around the world – at the devastation following the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Not that long before, Australia as a nation held its collective breath as Cyclone Yasi ripped through Far North Queensland, we shook our heads as bushfires destroyed homes in Perth, and could hardly believe the inland tsunami which swept through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley.
And, in each natural disaster, there is a common feeling in the broader community of wanting to help – whether it be to throw a few coins in a donation tin or gather goods to donate to survivors.
Two volunteer organisations in Byron Shire are currently calling on people to sign on so they can be available to help in a hands-on way if natural disaster strikes the local area.
It could be as a shoulder to cry on with the Red Cross, or actively rescuing those in danger with the Byron Shire State Emergency Service Unit.
Tweed-Byron Red Cross emergency service liaison officer Kodie Alderton said many people thought these kinds of natural disasters couldn’t happen here.
“All these things (natural disasters) could happen here,” she said.
“Everyone thinks that it’s not going to happen to us – but it could happen anywhere.
“A lot of people want to help, but they don’t have the skills.”
The Red Cross works as part of the overall emergency response to disasters at evacuation centres, registering names and personal details of evacuees.
The Red Cross is holding a free emergency services training course in Byron Bay on March 11.
Participants in the course will learn how to deal with listening to stories of tragedy, interview techniques and be given an overview of the roles of other agencies in an emergency response effort.
Volunteers trained in emergency services meet about once every six months, with refresher courses every three years.
Ms Alderton said there was a desperate need for more volunteers to be trained in emergency services across Byron Shire.
The training will be held at the Depot Training Rooms, Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate, from 9.15am to 4pm.
To register, phone Carolyn Forbes at Red Cross on 6622 3361 or 0407 321 596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, nine members of the Byron Shire State Emergency Service unit, based at Mullumbimby, held swift-water rescue training at the Coral Avenue causeway on the Brunswick River the weekend before last.
Local unit controller Noel McAviney said the unit had 34 active members, with five volunteers trained to rescue people from the bank of a waterway, and two who are able to carry out rescues in the water.
Mr McAviney said the SES unit was always on the lookout for more volunteers.
He said the unit currently was planning an open day to be held later this year.
In the meantime, anyone interested in joining the Byron Shire SES can phone Mr McAviney on 0418 663 836.
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