Theron King is UNE’s Emergency Management coordinator, but what does this mean? Pulse had a quick chat with Theron to learn more about his role.

What does your role entail?

As the emergency management coordinator, my day to day role is to develop policies and procedures that support a response to critical incidents here at UNE. I maintain both the emergency management plan and the business continuity plan.

In addition to this, we have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the NSW State Emergency Service and are also currently working on one with the NSW Rural Fire Service which will hopefully see a RFS station on site here at UNE. These reforms innovate as an operational resilience process for improved response to critical incidents here at UNE as well as providing sustainable volunteering with research and leadership opportunities for both staff and students.

What is the Emergency Management Plan and when is it activated?

The emergency management plan is the ‘what’ and ‘how’ we respond to emergencies. Within it lies the roles and responsibilities of specific personnel who are activated during an emergency.  Our Chief Wardens (the Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor) are the ones to declare an emergency and once this has been done an Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) is formed to support the University community as well as provide assistance to emergency services if or when required.

Can you tell us more about the recent role-playing exercise for the Emergency Control Organisation?

Plans need to be practised for gap analysis as well as keeping people in tune with their roles. It’s also an opportunity to increase staff awareness of the response capabilities that exist within UNE.  The recent exercise conducted in December was our major emergency control organisation exercise for 2018.  It was run in collaboration with an ITD disaster recovery exercise on the Callista program and saw a response from the University spanning across three operational rooms with about 30 key personnel working towards resolving the incident put before us.

When should staff contact you if something has happened in their business area?

Staff can contact me at any stage with regards to prevention and preparedness. I am always eager to explain the response structure of the University.  If what they have is an emergency then our protocol for response is to ring ‘000’ then Safety & Security.  Safety & Security are able to then escalate a response from the University if required through their chain of command.

Given the current spate of bush fires, what should staff do if there is fire on campus or one of UNE’s rural properties?

In these sustained hot dry conditions, time is of the essence. If any staff notice an uncontrolled fire of any type, ring ‘000’ immediately and Safety & Security on 6773 2099. Have location details handy, whether this is a physical address or GPS reading to relay to the operator along with a description of what you have seen.  You also need to alert those within the vicinity that might be in danger.  Livestock are also likely to be involved so contact farm staff.  The more people that know the better the response will be.

In a normal year Armidale averages 13 days over 30 degrees for the summer. This summer has now seen 48 days over 30 degrees since December 1st. The storms have also been sporadic with many districts including our farms at UNE missing critical rainfall.  These conditions have created unfavourable conditions with regards to bushfires.

Anything else you’d like to share with staff when it comes to emergencies?

All staff should have the UNE SAFE App on their phones. Not only does the App contain emergency reference material, contacts and support services, but it is also provides for real time communications to everyone during an incident.  This will assist in the UNE community being able to make informed decisions in regards to their safety & those around them.

Download the UNE Safety App here.