FOR more than 40 years, Gary Hickson has been keeping a close watch on the weather, knowing that any change could see him called into action.
Mr Hickson is one of a hard working team of about 80 Sate Emergency Service volunteers who help out around Ballarat in any emergency, be it storm damage, or an accident or even just providing a cuppa at driver reviver post.
Beginning his volunteer career in the early days of the SES, Mr Hickson has seen plenty of changes to the role.
“I started in 1977 and I joined at our headquarters in a loft above the carpark in Doveton Street,” he said.
“There’s a lot more gear now, a lot more equipment and a lot more training. In the early days it was mainly searches and storm damage and you were trained as you went. Now we can pretty much be called out to anything.”
My Hickson said one of the joys of his role was training new volunteers.
“It’s great to see the new ones coming through and the enthusiasm they bring,” he said.
“You learn some great skills in there as well, everything from chainsaw operations to map reading, to working in a team, all those sorts of things.
“If you can help someone out, there’s always a satisfaction, it’s certainly good for a cup of tea.”
One of the new recruits is Kim Bush who joined with her 17-year-old son Jordan in August last year.
“I’ve wanted to join for a while and my son is doing Duke of Edinburgh and was keen to get SES as his community service aspect, so we joined together,” Ms Bush said.
“We train every Tuesday night, and there’s a requirement to commit to a certain percentage of training nights.
“Training is a lot of fun and I find it’s a really great opportunity to have a night out during the week.”
Ms Bush said she never envisaged the work she was doing.
“You learn to tie all manner of knots, things like starting generators, how to jack and lift heavy loads, search and rescue, map and navigation, so there’s many aspects to it.
“You never know what you’ll be doing form day-to-day. We had a trampoline on a roof once. The camaraderie of the orange family is something that I do enjoy.”
Ms Bush said the opportunities existed for a long lasting career.
“When you join an emergency service as a volunteer the opportunities are endless,” she said. “For my son who is one of the youngest here it’s provided him an opportunity to build a career in the emergency services.
“It’s a great environment for teenagers to be in and they get job and life skills that they won’t get anywhere else.”
The SES has two intakes of volunteers every year. To learn about the units or to register your interest in becoming a volunteer go to the Ballarat SES website and fill in the online form. You can also call on 9256 9000.
As part of National Volunteer Week next week, Wednesday has been declared Wear Orange Wednesday where workers and school children will be encouraged to wear orange throughout the day to say thanks to the work of the SES.