Wollongong-based SES tsunami chair leaves nothing to chance

TSUNAMI PLANNER: NSW SES emergency planner Nick Kuster says the TAFE NSW Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management) has equipped him with important tools of the trade. Picture: Georgia Matts
TSUNAMI PLANNER: NSW SES emergency planner Nick Kuster says the TAFE NSW Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management) has equipped him with important tools of the trade. Picture: Georgia Matts

The likelihood of a land threat tsunami happening on the coast of NSW is “very low”.

Nevertheless Nick Kuster and his fellow NSW SES emergency planners have strategies in place just in case.

The chair of the Tsunami Capability Development Group in the SES leaves nothing to chance.

Mr Kuster has been thrust into the middle of some of the state’s most harrowing natural disaster zones and knows the cost of not being prepared can be measured in lives.

That’s why his team is meticulous in its planning.

“There is a very low likelihood of a land threat tsunami happening in NSW but it is there and it is something we have to be aware of as an emergency service, as do other emergency services” Mr Kuster said.

“We divide the threat into a land threat and marine threat.

“A marine threat is where it doesn’t actually come up on land, you might get strong currents, some sections of beach washed away, that kind of thing.

“The advise is to get out of the water, tie up your boats those sorts of things..whereas the more rare land threat, that would come up onto the foreshore.

“If this were to ever happen, there would be obvious inundation and the consequences are quite high, so therefor the risk is moderate to high.”

Preparing a state tsunami plan is part of the role of the “combat agency” Mr Kuster leads.

“Realistically that kind of preparedness or response feeds into our response for other emergencies such as flood and storms,” he said.

“So getting people away from the coast during a big storm would be very similar as if there was a tsunami or a big flood so we are using similar preparedness and evacuation strategies.”

While the SES leads the planning, other agencies such as the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning CentreGeoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology play vital roles.

“If we did have a tsunami it would be an all agency response,” Mr Kuster said.

“We would lead that coordination but we’ve got to be relying on the marine rescues, surf life saving clubs, councils, police, Fire and Rescue and those kind of agencies.”

Mr Kuster said undertaking an Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management) at the TAFE NSW National Centre for Emergency Management Studies, has come in very handy.

The high-level course guides students through how to plan for the unthinkable: designing emergency management exercises, determining treatment options and strategically reacting to changes during an emergency to help save lives.

“It really suits my lifestyle because I can do most of it wherever, whenever I want,” Mr Kuster said.

This story Wollongong-based SES tsunami chair leaves nothing to chance first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.