SES volunteer celebrates 20 years of floods, storms, rescues
In his two decades with the NSW State Emergency Service, Terry Boatswain has plenty of stories to tell.
From floods, storms, road crashes, to search and rescue, Mr Boatswain said every incident he's attended has been a valuable learning experience. Though, he does admit some have been hair-raising moments.
"The big flood was probably the most scary but it's all part of the job," he said of the Clarence Valley's 2013 flood.
"What people didn't realise at the time was, at 3am in the morning, we were in Grafton putting sandbags on the wall because the water was lapping over the top. We put hundreds of sandbags on there which was just enough that it didn't go over. "
Mr Boatswain said Grafton came very close to flooding that night, with over 2,000 residents ordered to evacuate.
"While putting these sandbags on, I went down to the boat ramp and there was a section of about two metres of the wall. The blocks along the wall had pushed out, so it was about to let go," he said.
"We got in touch with the council and they came racing down with a big plank of timber and reinforced it with Acrow props to hold it in position."
On dry land, Mr Boatswain often takes part in search and rescue operations.
"Going and doing a land search and finding the person is always a feel-good moment and that's happened a few times now," he said.
"We also assist the police with forensic searches where we might be looking for a body or a murder weapon. Those are always interesting.
"There was a search we once did where a man murdered another man and we, along with a lot of other emergency services, did a land search for the murder weapon. We searched everywhere in conditions you wouldn't believe.
"Police were crawling through the swamp, through dams, couldn't see a thing in front of them. We got to the last dam on the property and decided to pump it out and that's where they found the weapon."
Mr Boatswain, who lives in South Grafton but supports the Lawrence SES more than 30 minutes away, said he hoped to see more residents join their local unit.
"Lawrence in particular, I'd like to see more locals get involved because this is a flood town and it just makes sense to be part of the local unit here," he said.
"Having people with local knowledge is invaluable because they know the area, they know where everyone lives and that kind of information is a significant help during incidents.
"You're also helping yourself by helping your neighbour because when you get into trouble, you want them to help you and when they're in trouble, they will want you to help them."
If you're interested in joining your local SES unit, visit the website here.