Councils in training for emergency relief

Published on 31 October 2023

ERC exercise.jpg

After fires, floods and a pandemic in recent years, Corangamite, Colac Otway and Surf Coast shires are taking a new approach to keeping communities safe.

The three councils are good neighbours that regularly back each other up in times of crisis. Each year the municipalities hold a joint emergency relief centre (ERC) exercise to practice for when the inevitable happens.

The 2023 exercise was held at the Theatre Royal in Camperdown on Thursday 26 October.

About 120 staff from the councils and agencies including Victoria Police, the Department Family Fairness and Housing, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Victorian Chamber of Churches and Emergency Recovery Victoria.

Corangamite Shire Manager Environment and Emergency Lyall Bond said this year’s exercise took a new approach.

“In the past we have worked on a scenario such as a fire, flood or gas leak. Because emergencies are so unpredictable, there’s a need to be flexible and respond to immediate and changing needs,” Mr Bond said.

“This year’s exercise will help build the skills that apply over a wide range of contingencies, without getting tunnel vision on a particular scenario.”

“The focus was on communication and cooperation, so the community know what tools are available to them, and that they are not alone.”

Mr Bond said running an ERC was a bit like a team sport.

“It takes a lot of people power and collaboration. Like any team, it is important that we train and practice, so we are race-day ready. This ERC Exercise was ‘practice match’.”

One of Council’s roles during an emergency is to operate ERCs where people affected by an emergency can gather for information and assistance with their immediate needs, such as temporary accommodation, financial assistance and counselling.

“Hopefully we don’t have to use our ERC skills anytime soon, but the reality is the next emergency will happen sooner or later.

“It’s important that we have people trained up on running ERCs so we are ready to go when needed.

"Participants walked away from The Collaboration Games feeling more confident that they can help run an ERC to support our communities.”

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