Geoff Bird takes over as unit controller at Lorne
GEOFF Bird’s first months as the new unit controller of Victorian State Emergency Services (SES) Lorne Unit have posed many challenges, but his experience has held him in good stead.
Mr Bird has been with the unit for almost 40 years.
Having recently retired from teaching, Mr Bird was set for a four-month holiday overseas. Coronavirus quashed those plans, but Mr Bird said this meant the time was right for him to take over the role, particularly given the personnel he will be working with.
“I’m very lucky, I’ve got really good support with deputy controllers, two of those, Adrian Sleep and Phil Walsh have been past controllers. So it’s fantastic to have them on board, I’ve got really good support there.”
Taking over during a pandemic is a difficult task, but former Lorne Unit controller Adrian Sleep said Mr Bird was well-equipped for the role.
“He knows the ropes. When I took over as unit controller he was the admin officer, training officer, he’s out on the jobs and probably one of the most capable guys, if not the most capable bloke that we’ve got there. He’ll do really well.”
Mr Bird said the unit is presently adapting to the limitations caused by the coronavirus.
“With the pandemic, it certainly changed how we were doing things. We had to do a lot of things remotely, we couldn’t train properly… it created a number of challenges, but we slowly worked our way through those and now we’re back to training in limited numbers, but it’s good to get back together again.”
While coronavirus has been a unique experience, Mr Bird has dealt with plenty of large-scale emergencies before. He began with the Lorne Unit in 1982, just before the Ash Wednesday fires.
Mr Bird said since then he has been part of a wide range of operations with the unit.
“We’ve had search and rescues and assistant ambulance, trees down on roads in the middle of the night, car accidents, the whole gamut of sorts of things that we do, which require a whole heap of skills and training.”
The Lorne Unit has a mixture of new blood and experience, but Mr Bird said they are always eager to welcome new members.
“We’ve had some growth in the last year or so, which is fantastic.
“We’re pretty keen to have some more people come along, especially in the 20-30 year age group, just to broaden out the range of people we’ve got available.
Mr Bird said being part of the SES was a great experience.
“You learn a variety of skills, a lot of practical sort of skills which can be handy for doing things at home. You get to work in a team, you learn how to operate under a little bit of pressure and sometimes you don’t get that in everyday life, you certainly get access to a lot of equipment and support from the SES, and it’s a good thing to give back to the community.
“That’s one of the reasons I joined the SES, I thought if I got lost in the bush or I was in a car accident, I’d really like someone to be able to come out fairly quickly and efficiently and with some sort of training and get me out of my situation.”