Rallying as One…
The snow sport industry and the tribe who worship the thrill of “freshies” and the exhilaration of flying down a snow covered slope, or skating the XC trails, are a unique bunch.
I’ve spoken before of the way the community rallies behind a cause or rises to an occasion…all you have to do is ask!
Heading into the 2016 winter season the entire community rallied to support having a permanent police presence on the mountain for the duration of the winter season and these actions were very clearly vindicated with circumstances that prevailed in the last week with the perfect storm.
That perfect storm hit with a vengeance. An enormous cold front blew in, temperatures plummeted, it puked snow and winds erupted at gale force. Add in a few problems associated with essential service delivery challenged by falling trees cutting off power supply, the occasional road closure needed to clear said trees and then throw in a little bit of search and rescue. Hence, it was very comforting to know the full emergency service contingent was on mountain.
All great communities have a core of volunteers, most of them unsung heroes who provide their time, undertake training and dedicate themselves to assisting in the protection of the community and forming the backbone of it’s resilience. The glue that binds this core of volunteers are the professional emergency service agencies. Each agency has a different coordinating role in the event of certain emergencies and the one most often at the core is the police.
On Tuesday 12th of July, shortly after a coordinated and collaborative effort was launched to return skiers down the mountain as winds halted lifting operations, that was then followed by a village wide power outage, the "rule of three’s" kicked in and a search and rescue operation was launched for an 8 year old boy, missing in one of the most severe storms many have seen.
Emergency management planning, protocols and policies often sit in a white folder, on a shelf, get reviewed a couple of times a year and it’s hoped are never to be needed. Being a remote community, high in the Alps and where weather events can go from blissful to chaos in a heart beat, where the tyranny of distance is amplified by a 30 kilometre road that winds up to an altitude of 1600m and where the pristine Alpine National Park offers both beauty and many threats, the necessity to have a highly attuned emergency response process isn’t shelved, but sits at the ready to implement to ensure the safety of the community and mountain users.
Hence, having an active CFA, SES, Alpine Search and Rescue and other voluntary emergency service members, combined with assets like Falls Creek Ski Patrol, Ambulance Victoria, VICPOL and the Falls Creek Medical Centre come into their own when needed and are second to none in their professionalism and application.
Watching the team at the incident control centre, aka the Falls Creek Police Station, as all agencies rallied together, meticulously checking off protocols, search grids, broadcasting comms and coordinating the efforts of all those in the field, it was a well oiled and highly trained team.
The call out to the community, across numerous networks and with the assistance of Falls Creek Ski Lifts bought an army of people out into the village, leaving no stone unturned in the effort to find the lost little boy. The collective rally and call to action was the embodiment of what makes Falls Creek an amazing village.
I don’t usually like to single out employees of Resort Management, but I’m extremely proud to recognise Operations Manager Scott Mann and Director of Infrastructure and Mountain Response Callum Brown, who on a hunch, perhaps a little intuition, maybe "local knowledge", they began a search on the downside of the resort, across BHP road, beneath the Waste Water Treatment Facility. The discovery of faint tracks along the mountain bike trail, a discarded green toboggan disc found resting on the banks of the creek, resulted in the intensification of the search and a concentration of effort on the area…. A young child’s life was saved.
The community rallied, the emergency services agencies executed with precision and collaboration and a tragedy was averted. Well done to all…
Now get out there and have some fun.
Stuart Smythe - CEO Falls Creek Resort Management