SES: Judy Valderi, membership officer, Neville Graham, Lismore field team leader with Lindsay Matterson, SES flood intelligence officer.
SES: Judy Valderi, membership officer, Neville Graham, Lismore field team leader with Lindsay Matterson, SES flood intelligence officer. Sophie Moeller

Time now to learn lessons of the flood

LIKE all the floods before it, the 2017 Lismore Flood is firmly part of the region's history.

It is now time to learn the lessons from this latest catastrophic event.

NSW SES has organised a series of post-flood forums to hear the experiences of all those in the community who were affected by the rising water.

There is consensus among the emergency services community, as well as business and council, that the length of time since Lismore's last devastating flood made many, and especially those new to the community, complacent about the potential scale of damage these events can deliver.

And as Neville Graham Lismore SES field team leader said: "This was the first time the levee over-topped, we've got a lot to learn about how this happened.”

According to facilitator of the forums, Rebecca Riggs, the forums are a necessary first step in a process to engage the community and support strategies that work towards the common goal of building resilience.

"We want to respectfully find out from the community what happened and get information from those most severely impacted in the region,” she said.

The aim of these forums is to enable the SES:

. to build an accurate picture of each community's experiences and perspectives during the recent flood events, and

. to discuss ways that we can work with communities, to continue to improve their preparation, response and recovery to disaster events.

Members from the council, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and other emergency services will be available at the sessions to answer questions.

According to Mr Graham "no two floods are the same”.

"We have identified certain things that need doing in the future but we want to get full picture to find out what the lessons are from all sides so we can treat this as education and training.

"It will be great to hear from those who handled the flood well: what worked and what didn't, so we can sit down as a group (emergency services, businesses and council) and work together to sort out ways we could do it better next time, if there is a next time, which no doubt there will be.”

Mr Graham said even though the water was rising up into The Wilson River "faster than anyone thought”, at one metre an hour, information from some sources "was slow and incomplete” and there clearly needed to be information gathered

on how flood warnings were issued and prevention measures implemented.

Ms Riggs acknowledged there would be "many different opinions in the room at the forums but that was important too”.

"It is important the community comes together to tell their stories. The hope is to capture all the experiences so we can share them and help people in other communities too,” she said.