As a new leadership team steps up at the Dubbo Rescue Squad, the group is calling out for more locals to get involved and don the iconic green uniform - and, it's about more than just call outs to car accidents, the new president says.
"Some of us come from completely different ends of the spectrum in our professional backgrounds, but we work shoulder to shoulder when the balloon goes up, and you just can't buy that camaraderie," said Andrew Parsons, the squad's new president.
Mr Parsons moved to Dubbo from Sydney in mid-2019 after nearly a decade serving as a Senior Executive in Fire & Rescue NSW and the NSW Police Force.
He joined the squad in October last year, taking over the role of president after a vote in the group's annual general meeting on Monday.
He said being a member of the group is a "tremendous" way to give back to the community, meet people, learn new skills and be part of a diverse family.
"I enjoy helping people. I enjoy the close comradery that comes with working alongside like-minded people. I enjoy being challenged under pressure. VRA Rescue NSW offers all that, and more," he said.
The Dubbo Rescue Squad - the 60-year-old local branch of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) - assists on the scene of all kinds of emergencies, from industrial accidents to urban search and rescue operations to cliffside rescues.
"There's a lot more in it than car accidents and big things like that. We also do smaller stuff like ring removals and animal rescues," said Lesley Morley, who was voted to be the Dubbo Rescue Squad's new captain at the AGM.
Ms Morley - who works as a truck scheduler and customer service officer in her day job - joined Dubbo Rescue Squad in November 2017 because she thought it sounded "interesting and challenging".
"It's given me an environment where I never stop learning different ways to do things; and it challenges me to step outside of my comfort zone," she said.
"Each time we train, each time we respond to a job and help someone, usually complete strangers, I feel like I have accomplished something and that I am making a difference - often for someone on the worst day of their life."
A mum-of-two, Ms Morley said she loves being a "genuine" role model for her kids through her work with the VRA and encouraging them to build their sense of community spirit.
"When the call out comes through, the phone rings and the kids are already unlocking the door as I'm trying to pull on my boots. They know mum's going out and she could be helping someone in real trouble," she said.
"I want them not to be afraid to step up and do what they're not sure that they could."
There's no one sort of person suited to being a VRA volunteer, says Ms Morley, all you need is to be over 18, have a first aid certificate and an interest in "helping the community"; "when we're doing an operation - no matter how big or small it is - it's helping them in their day to day lives".
Mr Parsons agreed, saying "you don't have to be someone with specialised skills" to join the organisation but the varied nature of the work means there are so many ways for people to apply their existing skills in a rescue.
"The biggest asset we need are members with availability. So recently retired people, for example, can contribute as rescue operators, you're never too old to learn," he said.
"Tradies are untapped commodities. If we're doing an industrial rescue and we've got people who work in the industrial trades or fitter and turner trades, for example, who already understand the intrinsic nature of a piece of machinery that someone is entangled in... there's 50 percent of the problem solved."
For those who might not have the time to or aren't fit enough to be able to get out in the field, there are lots of other ways people can help out the Dubbo Rescue Squad in a non-operational capacity.
"We need people to help with secretarial roles and with the upkeep of the base and facilities too. We would really love someone who's been in emergency services, or been a teacher, to take on a training role," he said.
"These non-operational members are just as important as those who jump in the truck and get out on the scene. Volunteers are just as critical on either side of the fence."
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