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May 4, 2020

TR Australia Bushfire Response & Relief Operations

Team Rubicon Australia Operation Summaries
 
The end of 2019 and start of 2020 will not be forgotten in a hurry by any Australian, with many regions impacted by drought, then ferocious fires, and followed in some places by flood.  But the hardships of the last six months were a coming of age for TRA, as wave after wave of volunteers deployed from around the country and indeed the world in period of previously unseen high tempo for TRA. The excerpts below are from the State Commander’s Operational Narratives out of respective PORs.
 

 

Operation PARTRIDGE – Willawarrin, NSW
 
A successful operation, drawing on the recent bushfire recovery experience from Op Bugden to deliver a faster response and greater impact for the community.  The feedback from the Kempsey Shire Council clearly identifies the impact on the local community and the activities that are valued.
 
This operation put TRA closer to the event than ever before, with active fire fronts in the local area necessitating agile thinking, evacuation planning and real-time inter-agency collaboration.
 
It also allowed TRA to successfully trial satellite operations as well sustained operational deployments during periods of lower activity and lower volunteer numbers (notably Christmas), proving that there is value in running operations at a lower pace during these periods (from both a community engagement perspective and also for members), rather than closing down and then restarting.

Operation RYAN – Cobargo, NSW
 
Op Ryan was conducted over eight weeks from 25 January until 21 March. The Operation saw our members working alongside members from Norway and the UK, along with Corporate Volunteers from Minderoo Fire Fund and Allianz, as well as Spontaneous Volunteers.
 
Based in Cobargo, Op Ryan saw us return to the Bega Valley Shire, which was one of the regions heavily impacted by the bushfires in December 2019 and January 2020. We were supported well by the local community, notably  Cobargo Sportsground and Bega Valley Shire Council, as well as a number of other not for profit organisations, principally BlazeAid and Fire Relief Run.
 
Whilst attening work sites, Strike Teams were able to provide a level of ‘covert’ mental health support by lending a hand, an ear, and a shouler to lean on while completing the tasks at hand. Strike Teams were also bolstered by items of small plant and operators,  which had a considerable ‘force multiplier’ effect on task completions.
 
Notably, Op Ryan was the first TRA operation to be overseen by an appointed State Commander, who provided oversight, mentoring support and a single point of contact for the wider organisation

Operation HANNAFORD – Cudlee Creek, SA
 
For a first South Australian operation, Op HANNAFORD was extremely successful. High levels of community engagement and support were experienced throughout. The operation was well supported by the National Development team and the wider organisation. We also had the benefit of the presence and participation of International Augmentees from USA, Norway, and UK. The relationship between TRA and other stakeholders that operate in the disaster response/relief space, was enhanced with collaborative efforts conducted throughout. Of particular note was the close working relationship with the Australian Defence Force.
 
The operation was conducted over four weeks, with further liaison and IMT operations concluding on 20 March. The continued operation of the IMT allowed us to conduct post activity liaison and facilitated us in tasking and making referrals to other NGOs that we had been collaborating with in the area. The overall impact was significant, and feedback from members and stakeholders was positive.

Operation TIGER – Kangaroo Island, SA
 
Operation TIGER was an extremely positive yet challenging operation. With the impacted area being Kangaroo Island, we were presented with our own unique challenge. Through the coordination and joint effort of all departments across the organisation,  the forward movement and deployment of personnel was actioned effectively. Wave One set conditions and prepared the area for ongoing waves, including use of FULCRUM in order to conduct Damage assessments. TRA made efforts from the outset to embed our personnel in the Local Recovery Centres in order to create greater efficiency in the recovery effort. The coordination and liaison here ensured that we were tasked with activities commensurate within our means and capabilities throughout.
 
As the operation continued the scale and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect, government restrictions on movement and the phased closing of state borders meant the rapid demobilisation of not only TRA but other NGOs in the area was inevitable.  An accelerated demobilisation of personnel and assets was executed in line with impending restrictions. Although ending prematurely, the operation had a notably positive impact on the island, and prior to cessation of the operation, TRA were poised and ready to commence work on considerable projects with local government.  This represents a great opportunity to return and continue our work supporting the community in the area.

Operation Richter – Buchan, Victoria
 
On 21 November, a band of lightning struck across eastern Victoria, resulting in a large number of bushfire ignitions, which over the following five weeks combined to form three main fires in East Gippsland. The 30th of December 2019 saw worsening weather conditions result in a significant increase in fire behaviour, and over the following 48 hours the fire spread across East Gippsland, impacting a number of towns and causing widespread damage.
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Almost two million hectares of forest were destroyed, with over 300 homes lost, and thousands of farm buildings damaged or destroyed. Tragically the fires also claimed five lives; two community members and three staff directly involved in the firefighting effort.
 
TRA deployed a reconnaissance team to the area on 22 January,  with a focus on focus on the town of Buchan and the surrounding Buchan Valley, which had been affected by fire for the third summer in a row.
 
The generosity of Victorians from across the state resulted in a large amount of aid and emergency supplies being donated to the region, and the Buchan area alone received enough goods to fill the local SES shed and four shipping containers. The influx of goods placed pressure on the community to be able to distribute them appropriately and in a timely manner. TRA was able to take on this task, which meant that key community indviduals were then able ,to focus on their own recovery.  And so, with a clear mission and purpose identified, Operation Richter was launched.
 
Over the course of six weeks 70 deployed members managed and distributed $126,203.55 worth of aid supplies - from toilet paper to animal feed to clothing, across three different distribution centres. Not only did this provide a valuable service to the local community, but it demonstrated TRAs depth of skill and ability to remain flexible and agile in setting mission mandates.  In addition to this task, TRA contributed $333,555.75 volunteer hours to the community, and completed 75 work orders, including damage assessments, sifting to recover valuables in destroyed homes, and debris clearance. We were also able to clear the grounds of the Buchan Cave complex, which is the main tourist attraction in the area, expediting their reopening and contributing to the stimulus of the local economy.
 
Over the course of the deployment, TRA was fortunate to work with a variety of different organisations and agencies, including the local CFA, Forest Fire Management Victoria, visiting Canadian firefighters and the Gelantipy Bush Nurses. Wave One of the deployment was also joined by a team from Fancy Hanks, a Melbourne based BBQ restaurant. In addition to providing our members with fantastic meals, they held a BBQ for the local community, giving them a much-needed break from the endless tasks associated with bushfire recovery.
 
Our team achieved a huge amount on the ground in Buchan, and we were also able to acknowledge the sacrifice of our operation namesake. Operation Richter was named for Private Philip ‘Pip’ Richter, a local who grew up in the area before being called up to the army as a national serviceman in 1969. Deployed to Vietnam in December 1969, Pip was tragically killed alongside eight fellow diggers on the 28th of February 1970 during Operation Hammersley. It was quickly realised that the 50th anniversary of Pip Richter’s loss would fall during our operation in the area, and with that in mind a commemoration was organised. The event was held on at 11am on the 28th of February, 50 years to the minute since Pip’s death, and the event culminated with the unveiling of a memorial plaque in the Buchan South Avenue of Honour by Stephen Richter, Pip’s brother. Our CEO Geoff Evans spoke at the service, and there was a large attendance from members of the community, proof that the memory of Pip Richter’s sacrifice remains strong in the area.
 
While the current COVID-19 situation has meant that TRA has had to suspend operations in the Buchan Valley, we’re ready to return to the area to complete our work and continue to assist the community with their recovery as soon as it is safe to do so.
Mar 12, 2020

2020 Update: Team Rubicon Global

Dear Supporters,

2020 is proving to be a busy year for us all, and with your continued support our disaster relief teams remain active across the world.

As I write, the Team Rubicon Australia is actively conducting operations to aide in the coordinated recovery and relief efforts to those communities in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia impacted by the Australian Bushfires. Since early December 2019, Team Rubicon volunteers from the UK, Norway, and from all over Australia have been hard at work in communities, helping locals return to a sense of normalcy after such a catastrophic wildfire season. Volunteers have been conducting debris removal and chainsaw operations, sifting for homeowners valuables, and have been helping with the delivery of water and aid.


As we look ahead in 2020, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. With the pandemic of COVID-19 and its spread across the globe, the Team Rubicon Network is taking all the necessary measures to protect our volunteers and the communities we serve. While this poses a distinct challenge, the Team Rubicon Network nonetheless stands ready to provide relief and assistance when and should the need ultimately arise.

None of this activity would be possible without you - and we thank you for your continued support.

In Service,


Team Rubicon Global

Links:

Dec 17, 2019

International Disaster Response Operations

TR Responds in the Bahamas  - September 2019
TR Responds in the Bahamas - September 2019

With your support the Team Rubicon network was able to mount a rapid response to provide humanitarian assistance to the survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in September and October. Further afield volunteers from Team Rubicon Canada have responded to extensive flooding affecting communities in Ottawa. At the time of writing Team Rubicon Australia have launched concurrent operations as part of the relief effort in responsive to the unprecedented wild fires in Eastern Australia - particularly affecting New South Wales and Southern Queensland. Many fires have been burning uncontrolled for several weeks.

 

Hurricane Dorian.

 

On Sunday 1st September, Hurricane Dorian made landfall over northwest Bahamas near Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest hurricane in the Bahamas’ history. Maximum sustained winds of 295 km/h were recorded. Dorian continued moving slowly westward over Grand Bahama at approximately 1 mph, practically stalling over the island. As of 5:00pm EST, on 3rd September, Dorian finally cleared Grand Bahama on route to the eastern Florida coast.

 

More than 76,000 people were reported affected and in need of immediate humanitarian relief and as at 11 October, the official death toll in the Bahamas was at 61. The response to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas was led by the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), supported by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), with Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) established in Nassau, Grand Bahamas and Abaco Islands, Bahamas.

Teams from Team Rubicon consisting of international volunteers and specialists from TR UK, TR Canada and TR Norway deployed to the islands and joined up with medical teams already deployed from TR USA.

The initial mission was To provide last mile logistic support on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco in order to assist NEMA and other national and international disaster management agencies in order to provide life-saving aid to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. Follow on waves of volunteers joined the TR USA led recovery efforts.

Impact

TR advance teams arrived in the Bahamas on 4 September 2019 within hours of Hurricane Dorian’s passing and deployed 26 Greyshirts (17 veterans, 3 blue light services, 6 specialist civilians) over the next 32 days, working across 3 islands – New Providence, Abaco and Grand BahamaTRUK collectively, continuously assessed the needs of more than 30 affected communities, feeding this information back to the EOCs. They directly benefited 3,792 people most in need through the provision of over 142.3 tonnes of life saving aid, broken down into the categories of Food (47.3 tonnes), Water (42 tonnes), Shelter (8.4 tonnes) and Non Food Items (44.6 tonnes). The Teams from TR Canada completed 4000 hours of work orders as part of the recovery operation.

 

On Abaco our teams re-established power to critical infrastructure including the Government building complex, Central Abaco Primary School (key distribution centre for central and north Abaco) and Coopers Town Clinic (sole medical centre in northern Abaco). TR, alongside a partner NGO, were also able to conduct municipal water quality testing on Abaco and install/repair generators, conduct debris removal, erect tent shelters and fit tarpaulins to key municipal buildings, schools, churches, police stations, medical clinics, an airport as well as worst affected homes across both islands.

 

In November our final teams departed the islands – grateful to have been able to help the communities worst affected by Hurricane Dorian and we continue to monitor the region and develop plans for follow up work. None of these operations conducted in different corners of the world by volunteers who put their own lives on hold to help those affected by natural disaster would have been possible without your generous support of our donors.

Australia Bush Fires - impact report
Australia Bush Fires - impact report
 
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