'Exercise a boost for Qld/NSW'

ENHANCED relationships, better communications and a greater understanding of interstate disaster operations resulted from a cross-border exercise in Goondiwindi earlier this month.

Exercise United Front was held on December 6 after local disaster management authorities realised a need for better inter-agency cooperation along the Queensland/New South Wales border.

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) Assistant Director-General Bruce Grady said Local, State and Federal Government agencies spent the day reviewing current operations during disasters and discussing ways to better deliver services to the community.

"There was a clear view among cross-border agencies that we could improve our communication and understanding of each other's operations," he said.

"The State Emergency Service (SES) in Queensland operates differently to the SES in New South Wales and neither completely understood the intricacies around operations of the other agency. During a disaster we all have different reporting methods, modes of operation and types of response which can be confusing for those operating near the State border.

"This exercise addressed these topics and resulted in a number of key outcomes including better communication between agencies, updated points of contact throughout the region and visits between Local Disaster Management Group members in Queensland and Local Emergency Management Committees in New South Wales to learn about the other's operations.

"This was also a fantastic opportunity for all agencies to meet face to face and build strong working relationships going forward through the storm and cyclone season."

Mr Grady said these outcomes would lead to enhanced emergency management operations near the State border during disasters.

"The 67 participants involved in this exercise now have a much greater understanding and awareness of each other's roles during disasters which will lead to a more streamlined service to the community," he said.

Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor Graeme Scheu said it was pleasing to see Goondiwindi chosen as a venue for the meeting.

"These cross border issues are a constant restriction to those living in the border areas," he said.

"This is not only confined to emergency services with everyday life impacted by the existence of the border."

"It would appear to me that a buffer zone of some sort is required to get around the problem properly."

Southern Downs Mayor Ron Bellingham complimented EMQ for facilitating the meeting and said he was pleased with the results.

"Emergency services personnel from all areas were able to raise concerns about issues that straddle the state border," he said.

"It became obvious that there is much work to do on cross-border disaster response, but with the clear goodwill on both sides I believe outstanding matters will be resolved."

Bureau of Meteorology Senior hydrologist Paul Birch said the exercise gave their agency a chance to evaluate forecasting activities between two states.

"The exercise highlighted the issues faced by communities living on opposite sides of a river, which is also a border between two states who manage emergencies in different ways. The Bureau was able to identify some improvements to flood forecasting activities in both states that will better inform emergency management activities and the community," he said.

Mr Grady said EMQ was committed to fostering a collaborative approach to disasters with interstate agencies into the future.

"EMQ will be continuing to conduct exercises and meetings with cross-border agencies in the future to continue to enhance disaster management services in this region," he said.


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