Bushfire Support Special Edition #2
We know the RFS teams have had many busy weeks and are still working hard. The forecast is that heavy rain on Thursday should extinguish many fires and allow a move from emergency to recovery.
As lifesavers we generally have an important but relaxed duty. We walk up and down the beach, looking for someone in trouble. If we see them, we first check for danger to ourselves, bystanders and the patient, check for any response, and then we signal for help as we immediately act to save life.
On Friday 3 January, at about 3:00pm we heard the South Coast surf clubs were needing help after the fight with bushfires. Our beach was safe and fully manned for the weekend and the public of Bondi would be safe. We sought a response from these surf clubs but they were cut off or with no communications. We then signalled for help, a little post on Facebook at 3:42pm, and immediately started our lifesaving activity …
This “for help” post was picked up and over the week led to a social media storm where over 1 million people engaged with Bondi Surf Club. It resulted in a massive wave of donations that were received, sorted, packed, aggregated, loaded and delivered into evacuation centres and RFS stations to the south.
The Club’s actions resulted in:
- 30 loads sent south, to locations such as Cobargo, Wingello, Bega, Bermagui, Malua Bay, Broulee, Tomakin, Manyana, Nowra, Bredbo, Batemans Bay, Mogo and more
- 10 loads to donated warehouses in Clyde and Banksmeadow
- 90 pallets on three B-double semis now distributed by Convoy Missions Australia around Batemans Bay
- 76 pallets to two warehouses awaiting orders from South Coast surf clubs
The Main Hall was back to its normal business by Saturday morning as we started Thunder Bronze and BM4. On Sunday it was used all day for a Senior First Aid course. Our boatshed was emptied of the remaining pallets by Monday night. We still have 76 pallets of goods to send when surf clubs request them to rebuild their community.
These actions demonstrated that the Club can successfully engage with a wider community. We have more than 800 volunteer names listed of people who were not Club members and we worked with many community and business organisations over the week who helped us complete all these operations with no direct costs to the Club.
We are continuing to hear stories of people who have been touched by the support from the Club and community of Bondi. We will work with the Waverley Council and Sydney Branch to find other ways to reach out and assist the recovery and rebuilding of the south.
I have been incredibly proud of the club spirit in this initiative and of the many volunteers who worked at high tempo to ensure this project was a success. What this showed is that while we used the Club’s leadership, administration and capabilities, this initiative was owned by a much broader community. Our hall and boatshed were a funnel for the community to pour love and support south.
Our Hall Overfloweth
The generosity of the Bondi community, and Sydney as a whole, has been seemingly without end during this crisis.
On Tuesday night last week, after four days that had filled our Hall of Champions, the gear shed and several distribution centres on the South Coast, we posted on Facebook that we were putting a hold on donations. We let people know that if they had already bought items, they could still be dropped off at the Club and that we would still need volunteers to help move goods onto pallets and into storage until Friday but that there was simply no more space for more donations.
There were 12 pallets sent out on Wednesday morning and another was planned for the afternoon but the plan was that our focus would shift to packing pallets to be sent to warehousing in Clyde then sent to fire-affected communities as and when we received requests and it was safe to do so. Worsening conditions were also expected on Friday and Saturday.
Wednesday mid-afternoon’s update also included the information that communities on the South Coast were in desperate need of generators with hundreds of people on rural properties living without power.
As with everything to do with this relief effort, we were overwhelmed by the level of response and generosity of the community and the need of those affected changing the situation hourly.
Wednesday pm – By Request
By lunchtime on Wednesday we received a message back from Bondi Icebergs Vice Captain Shane Keys and Sam that the generator marked for an 82-year-old woman whose access to town had been cut off by a fallen tree on her driveway and whose husband had died during the bushfire crisis had been delivered. She would have power by the next day they were told.
Paul Wilson from MPA Projects and his convoy partner Jean Marc headed off in the afternoon for Batemans Bay with items that had been specifically requested by smaller communities.
Léna Le Rolland and Lucy Bannon also took a much needed and requested load to Broulee Surf Club using a van supplied by GoGet.
One last load left that evening at 5:30pm with plenty of volunteers staying back to help with the loading.
Obi Wan Keone and Natt Armstrong took charge of the load, heading off with specially requested insect repellent, energy drinks, medical supplies, cleaning products and P2 masks as well as cookies from Our Big Kitchen and some special presents from Bondi Surf Club.
By that evening, we were able to report that we had been able to get supplies to Batemans Bay, Eden, Cobargo, Mollymook, Wingello, Bredbo, Rosedale, Gungahlin Lakes, Manyana, Bega, Broulee, Bermagui and Nowra.
We continued to remain in close contact with emergency authorities to send only items that were needed urgently and ensure the safety of our volunteer drivers.
Again we let people know that we were no longer accepting collections and directed them to the RFS website’s How-You-Can-Help page.
We did, however, receive a special request from RFS brigades for steel-capped boots and, as had happened time and again during the week, someone knew someone and three loads of boots and shoes donated by Max of Max’s Shoes had been collected by the end of the day.
Thursday – Snowy Mountains Bound
Thursday morning started with a visit from Sunrise’s weatherman Sam Mac with our Nippers at 6:15am, then in the Main Hall with Brent at 8:00am. There were plenty of members volunteering in the background, sorting and packing donations even at that time of morning.
Nippers President Narelle Moore and Adam D’Angelo set off early taking a huge load of much needed snacks, toiletries and water to Bredbo RFS (in the Snowy Monaro region) using a truck supplied by Sydney City Rubbish. The items were earmarked for distribution to seven local stations including Jerangle, Angler’s Reach, Adaminaby, Nimmitabel, Shannon’s Flat and Anembo.
Obi Wan Keone and Natt Armstrong reported back that they’d made it into Moruya late on Wednesday night with a truck load of medical supplies and critical relief goods. They and the residents of Moruya were overcome by the appreciation, generosity and community support shown by everyone banding together despite widespread devastation.
By mid-afternoon Alex Lincoln-Dodgson and Paul Capper, in yet another van supplied by GoGet, had delivered a greatly appreciated and much needed generator to Manyana Beach, then carried on to Tomakin where Ken the president of Rally Recovery Tomakin was overcome with joy at the supplies Bondi provided.
Paul from MPA Projects and Jean Marc had dropped off a double load of supplies to Batemans Bay where Matt, who has been coordinating local efforts, had arranged Desire Flooring to provide extra warehousing and a forklift and Moruya Gym to help with unloading.
Another load left for Nelligen, just outside Batemans Bay driven by Sam from Bate Group Sydney who had also provided the truck for the drive.
Obi Wan Keone and Natt Armstrong backed up, taking a truckload of work boots and water to firies in Bredbo – the same boots that had arrived at the Club the previous evening. We were able to supply the steel-capped boots in the correct sizes and styles, as requested by each member of the RFS brigade.
Friday – Time to Get Back to The Beach
With reports that there were likely to be road closures in fire-affected regions on Friday and Saturday and a busy weekend of training and patrolling expected at Bondi, it was time to wrap things up on Friday.
Friday also brought news of generosity inspired by the community response evidenced at our Surf Club.
According to Ben Hall, Lucy Lord makes the best banana bread. So he offered to donate $100 to the RFS if she made him a loaf. A group of their friends then got in on the action and donated too, with one woman donating $200 and spending $350 on much needed medical supplies as well. Their total came to $2500. Ben was so heart-warmed by the response that he decided the firies should have the banana bread and sent it down to Cobargo RFS with one of our deliveries which also took the medical supplies.
We directed people to the RFS website and to the Spend With Them campaign which is encouraging people to visit and support small businesses in fire-affected communities once the crisis is over.
Deliveries arrived in Nelligen and Scott and Mitch Robertson headed off with another load there, to a nephew whose home was devastated by the fires.
The original six marked squares on our Main Hall’s floor were uncovered mid-afternoon and the team of volunteers continued to work from the gear shed to load everything on to pallets to be sent to warehousing in Clyde and Banksmeadow which had been arranged by Kevin Ryan and James Allison respectively.
The team from Woollahra Council were still moving pallets at 5:30pm.
Then it was time for a breather, to take stock and thank all those who had been part of this amazing community effort. Bondi Beach Brewing Company, The Bucket List, Shuk, Our Big Kitchen, Woolworths, Doughboy Pizza and Society Pizza Bar all chipped in so the Main Hall, now clear of donations, could instead be used to host our volunteers and donors for the evening.
Many of those same volunteers cleared up and made the Hall ready for the weekend’s lifesaving activities – starting at 6:00am on Saturday with 14 IRB crew trainees, 35 new Bronze Medallion trainees and a First Aid course on Sunday.
The Surf Club, the Bondi community and those who donated from across Sydney have had an impact. Our efforts have seen 30 trucks of requested items delivered safely with the help of emergency authorities. A further three B-Double trucks with around 90 pallets of donations are on standby and 76 pallets of donations will be dispatched to Surf Clubs in fire-affected areas when requested.
The message that our donations sent to those affected by the fires was equally important.
Annette Pavese, who had initially made contact with Bondi on behalf of the Bredbo RFS brigade, posted this comment on our Facebook page:
“Massive thanks on behalf of Bredbo RFS and our neighbouring smaller RFSs for your generous donations (three deliveries in three days). We appreciate your efforts and the major thing I have taken from this experience is that people do care and sincerely want to help in any way they can.”
And Sue Dunk, a resident of Malua Bay posted:
“Just want to let you know … your donations are so much appreciated. The homemade shortbread biscuits went down a treat. Also, if I could get a message through to the little person who drew this pic it will remain a treasure on my fridge forever. Your prayers were answered as we have had a little rain over the past 3 days. I know I will be supporting the lifesaving movement forever. xxxx”
On behalf of the Club, thank you all again.
Information to Answer Common Questions
Over the coming weeks, Bondi SBLSC members might be asked questions about our bushfire relief efforts, so we have taken the time to put together a quick Q&A to help you answer questions you might be asked by the general public. Please feel free to talk to any Director of the Club if you have any other questions.
Q: Why did Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club decide to coordinate donations?
BSBLSC is a voluntary organisation that assists the community, other surf clubs and any public authorities in protecting the safety of swimmers and members of the public on Bondi.
Initially members of the Club were invited on social media to drop off donations to the Main Hall as a place to centralise short-term relief donation efforts. The message was shared to over 481,000 overnight with 1,700 social media shares. The community responded and the Club felt it important to continue to provide the Hall and volunteers to support the community.
Like many volunteer centres over the same period, the high level of response by the community was unanticipated but welcome.
By working with the relevant emergency authorities, acting on direct feedback from affected communities and surf clubs, and mobilising public support to the specific items needed through the power of social media, Club volunteers were able to refine the process quickly throughout the six days.
When it was confirmed that the army and navy were actively deployed, the Club Board decided to wind down the short-term activities and hand over to the professionals.
The Club’s current volunteering focus is to support the South Coast surf lifesaving clubs to rebuild their local communities.
Q: What has been the result so far (as at 14 January 2020)?
With the help of more than 800 volunteers over six days, evacuation centres, RFS stations, surf clubs and other NSW communities in need have received requested and donated goods that were delivered in 30 trucks and three B-double semis.
Specific goods requested included non-perishable food, P2 masks, generators, water, mosquito repellent and tents.
A further 76 pallets of donations are stored in two warehouses.
South Coast surf clubs have access to a share spreadsheet that details the load on all pallets, so they can select goods to help rebuild their local communities.
To everyone that helped, thank you. Your efforts will make a difference.
Q: Who received the donations? How were these locations chosen?
A wide range of NSW locations have been provided goods, delivered to where roads are open and it has been safe for our drivers.
Thanks to the assistance of the RFS and other emergency authorities, the first four truckloads were delivered on Monday 5 January to the Cobargo Showgrounds, and on Tuesday morning more donations went to Batemans Bay.
The thirtieth truck was a specially-selected order to a very deserving family immediately affected by the bushfires, full of donations from a range of local businesses which provided them with age-specific and specifically donated gear.
Some of the locations where items have been delivered to include:
- Batemans Bay
- Mollymook / Milton Showgrounds
- Gungahlin Lakes
- Malua Bay
These locations were chosen on the advice of RFS coordinators or evacuation centre managers who had provided specific lists of needed supplies.
Q: How was the drivers’ safety ensured?
The Club worked closely with emergency authorities, delivering only to areas with open roads where we did not interfere with ongoing emergency operations.
The Club also looked out for the safety of our volunteers by ensuring that all deliveries had two drivers (at least one with First Aid training), ensuring they had direct communication support to both the RFS/evacuation centre and direct to the Club at all times with two-hourly check-in, and that they delivered only to major distribution points outside of fire zones.
One drive team (comprising two Patrol Captains of Bondi Surf Club) was diverted by the evacuation centre in Batemans Bay from the intended location in Batemans Bay to Manyana to deliver a generator on the way and then the remainder of the load into Tomakin.
Q: Were lifesavers taken off patrols to help with the volunteering efforts?
Patrols at Bondi Beach were fully manned, as usual, throughout the weekend days with more than 25 members per patrol. In addition, 27 members relieved the Pacific Palms SLSC team for a weekend. It is likely that South Coast clubs will also require resource augmentation to relieve pressure in the future.
The first priority of the Club is to protect the safety of beach-goers on Bondi Beach, in line with the Club purpose “No Lives Lost”.
Q: How will donations be managed in the long term?
Depending on the consumption speed, we envisage all items being fully delivered within a month depending on surf club requests, but any unwanted items will be re-evaluated in the months to come. Thank you to one of our members who has generously provided one of the two warehouses we are storing the pallets in.
Q: What items were requested in the first days of the response?
Goods requested included non-perishable food, P2 masks, generators, water, mosquito repellent and tents. This was based off a standard emergency supplies list created by the Club. These were boxed into clearly-labelled boxes for ease of sorting before the items were sent.
Q: There are rumours of scams. How did the Club ensure that the donated goods were protected from people not directly affected by the fires “helping themselves”?
The Bondi Surf Club donation system included a sorting, packing and loading process to keep track of what goods had been donated, delivered and received.
Packing requests were received from RFS and Evacuation Centre Management only, and we reconfirmed independently their authority to request.
A full pick, pack, send, accept process was used, with paper records at each stage. The identity of recipients was also confirmed as part of the process.
Q: Did the Club provide medical supplies? How were those supplies being appropriately managed?
Some requested first aid medical supplies were provided directly to RFS and surf lifesaving volunteers, who are trained on how to use items like bandages, burn creams, Ventolin and spacer inhalers.
Q: What if people ask us about how to support the South Coast surf clubs rebuild their communities?
A Trust Fund has been established where we will be providing money for South Coast surf clubs to runs events to rebuild their communities. Go to our website for more information.
Further fundraising initiatives will be considered by the Board on a case-by-case basis and announced on the Club’s social media pages, website and newsletter.
Feedback received directly from the Batemans Bay community is that general members of the public can continue to support the area by visiting and spending money at local businesses and centres.
We also continue to recommend the other charities listed by the RFS here.
Q: Can I make a donation to the South Coast Surf Clubs Rebuilding Communities Trust Fund?
Details of the South Coast SLSC Building Communities Fund are now available on the Club website.
Online donations are preferred so that appropriate tax receipts can be issued.
All funds raised to this account are tax-deductible and covered by our Deductible Gift Recipient status as a registered charity. Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club is a registered charity with the ACNC.
Donors are asked to include an email address as part of their donation to ensure a receipt is issued.
Q: How will the Fund be appropriately managed?
To ensure the appropriate management and distribution of any funds received, the Fund will be overseen by the Bondi SLSC Board, supported by an Advisory Panel made of Club Directors, two Presidents of South Coast SLSCs and several senior advisors nominated by the Bondi Board. Details of the members of the Advisory Panel will be released to Bondi members in due course.
The Fund is audited by PKF and will be reported in the Annual Report.
Q: You took cash on the day I came to visit the Main Hall. Can I get a receipt? What happens to that cash?
Cash donations totalling $2,486 were also received towards transport during the collection process. That money has now been deposited into the Trust Account set up to assist South Coast SLSC’s efforts to rebuild their local communities.
The Club will not be providing receipts for cash donations over that time, but can provide receipts for cash donations from the Surf Club office going forward.
Q: Are you still taking cash donations?
We would prefer that all donations are made online. The Club office administrators can make cash deposits into the account from members to the South Coast Surf Club Rebuilding Communities Trust Fund, but any cash received is kept in a safety deposit box on the day. Large sums of money are not stored on the premises.