The first fires for the summer season Australia-wide were here on our islands.
It started with the Macleay Island fire a little over a month ago, and was highlighted again in the national media with a major fire on Russell Island just a bit over a week before Christmas.
It was the Russell fire that tested prior planning and outcomes, particularly as many island families literally had to vacate their homes for emergency accommodation.
It was thought that the prevision of the relatively new Resilience Centre would prove of benefit, but not necessarily to those it was supposedly meant for.
There was some confusion at all levels with the fire a great test for the Redlands City Council’s Disaster Plan and for all services and resources.
Some misinformation and lack of local island knowledge by some of the services, compounded the situation and the authorities will certainly learn from this event.
An original police notice that was sent out instructed islanders who had to leave their homes to go to the ‘Russell Island Community Centre near the Jetty”
This caused considerable confusion as the Russell Island Community Centre is in Jackson Road.
The police intended to identify the Russell Island Recreation Hall which is the designated collection point ‘Evacuation Centre' for island residents if evacuation is a possibility, as identified in the Redlands Disaster Plan.
Because of location, the Resilience Centre at the Russell Island sporting complex was not a consideration.
This did not stop many heading to the Resilience Centre because considerable publicity during its building and opening process had indicated that it was for the ‘use of island people for accommodation in emergency situations’.
It was commandeered by the emergency services, accommodating visiting fire, police and SES groups, of which there were many.
Hence the confusion when island residents who went first to the Resilience Centre, were sent to the Recreation Hall.
Because of the threat of evacuation, the hall comes into play as the official 'Evacuation Centre' because of its close location to ferry jetty.
The only problem is, that the Recreation Hall does not have the necessary amenities to cater for a large group of people.
Cr Mark Edwards believes it may have to be ‘upgraded’.
“We will have to look at this and the meeting on the Saturday during the fires at the Rec Hall addressed some of these issues,” he said.
Questions that need to be asked:
• So when does the Resilience Centre get to be used by the island population in time of emergency?
• Is it to be used just exclusively for visiting emergency service crews only?
• Should additional amenities be added to the fire station, police, SES and Fire Station to accommodate visiting crews etc
• Or should another accommodation concept be considered?