Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 2 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 483..
The emergency coordination centre at the ESA headquarters was stood up on four occasions during 8, 11, 12 and 18 January, and during this time representatives from all ACT government directorates were in attendance. There were liaison officers in attendance from external agencies, including Defence, ACTEW Water for electricity, water and gas, the National Capital Authority, the commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and Telstra. Emergency alert operators were placed on standby. Incident management teams were activated for six days, with a total of 64 staff working over the 8 to 18 January period.
There was a strong media messaging presence during this time, including regular updates from the ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer as well as the issuing of numerous alerts and updates via the ESA website and through its social media presence. The ESA also proactively took the decision to significantly upgrade its website capacity eightfold to allow the ESA website to have the capacity to handle over two million visits per hour should the demand increase to that level.
Of course we have also seen ESA personnel deployed to assist with recent fires in New South Wales and interstate, and I commend all the personnel engaged in those very important operations. (Time expired.)
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Dr Bourke.
DR BOURKE: Minister, what differences in operational preparation and fire readiness were employed this January compared to January 2003?
MR CORBELL: I think the most telling difference for me, having watched and observed the response of our emergency services personnel during the period over January, was the very clear and definitive strategy of early and aggressive attack of fires in the Namadgi national park. You will recall that we saw multiple fires commence in the Namadgi national park, and members may also recall that it was anticipated that within three to four days of those fires commencing there was going to be very severe fire danger weather with strong north-westerly winds, dry conditions and high temperatures.
I commend the efforts of the ACT ESA and all of its services—the Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue, the SES and Ambulance Service—in aggressively tackling those fires. We saw immediate and strong attack, including deployment of vehicles on the ground, including overnight presence. We saw the immediate deployment of bulldozer and other earthmoving appliance resources. We saw the immediate deployment of aerial firefighting appliances—helicopters—to waterbomb those fires early and aggressively. We also saw the deployment of our now very experienced and highly regarded remote area firefighting teams—or RAF crews, as they are known—being helicoptered in to one of those remote fires and tackling it early.
As a result, we got all of those fires out. We got them out quickly, promptly, before they could grow, particularly under those very adverse conditions that were anticipated in the next three to four days. For me as minister, if we talk about nothing else, the efforts of our personnel on that ground to aggressively attack early those