Donald Hughan jokes he was just in the wrong place at the right time when he was asked to join the local branch of the State Emergency Service.
“They picked me,” he laughs.
But his decision to say yes is certainly something he’s happy about.
Just three years on, he’s the Rochester branch’s deputy controller of administration and in times of crisis acts as the communications operator.
“As deputy controller of administration I make sure all our reports are done for call outs,” Mr Hughan said.
“Then, when there’s a crisis like a storm event, I’m the key communications contact.”
It’s a challenging role and Mr Hughan’s involvement is all voluntarily.
“There might be a storm event at 3am and we’ll all be helping out, as part of my role I could be liaising with the police, CFA and other emergency services to ensure everyone knows exactly what’s going on and where they’re needed,” he said.
“Volunteering is something I really enjoy. It’s giving back to the community and I think that’s important.”
Mr Hughan’s involvement in the SES is made possible through Goulburn-Murray Water’s (GMW) commitment to providing staff time to volunteer for emergency activities.
As GMW Customer Service Administrator in the Rochester, Kyabram and Tatura offices, he has taken time off to work at flood events in Echuca and Mildura.
VICSES CEO Stephen Griffin said that SES volunteers play an important role in influencing and supporting community actions and decisions before, during and after emergency events.
“The SES relies on the dedication and commitment of our incredible volunteers who form the backbone of our frontline emergency. Both volunteers and their employers embody the spirit of community service.”
GMW Head of Human Resources Michael Milburn said offering staff time to volunteer for emergency services was non-negotiable for GMW.
“We understand how important these services are to our communities,” Mr Milburn said.
“That’s because our customers and our staff are part of these communities.”