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How did you spend New Year’s Eve? I know how I spent mine – in the Municipal Emergency Operations Centre (MEOC) for Melbourne City, as Red Cross’s representative for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Red Cross had been contracted to provide first aid in Federation Square.

It’s just short of 9:00pm. The fact that I have time to be typing this is really quite surprising – things are fairly quiet for our first aiders at the moment.

Many people I talk to about my Red Cross liaison activities don’t really appreciate the organisation that goes into putting these events on, including our first aiders. Let me try and give you a quick snapshot.

We are all located in an extremely large room on the ground floor of Melbourne Town Hall. A quick head count has come up with 32 people who are currently in the room, which is set up with a work area for each agency. Each person is generally equipped with all sorts of combinations of laptops, radios, computer screens, phones, etc, etc. Each person wears a tabbard to identify the agency they represent – I am currently wearing a very fetching orange number with “First Aid” across the front and back, because the council doesn’t have a Red Cross-specific one.

As you can see, we also have two large screens on which are currently displayed a log of issues and the BOM weather radar, which is tracking the big storm about to hit. If necessary, we can display images from a number of cameras spread around the city, to hone in on particular areas of concern. There are also white boards and maps for use by any agencies if required.

It is an amazingly well oiled machine. So who is represented in the MEOC?

  • Melbourne City
  • Victoria Police
  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Metropolitan Fire Brigade
  • St John’s Ambulance
  • Red Cross
  • Yarra Trams
  • Metro Trains
  • Department of Transport
  • Traffic management companies
  • Cleaning companies
  • Security companies
  • Event management
  • Risk management
  • Radio supplier
  • Salvation Army
  • Parks Victoria
  • Fireworks company

Phew!

Oh look, the Lord Mayor’s just dropped in.

Everyone here fundamentally has two roles – to ensure the safe and successful management of the event and to liaise between each other where an issue requires the intervention of more than one agency, e.g. Red Cross requiring an Ambulance Victoria vehicle. I am also looking after all the two-way radio traffic for our Red Cross team members.

I arrived about 5:15pm and expect to knock off at this stage about 2:00am tomorrow morning. With the rain, who knows, we might even get away early.

And on that note, it’s time to finish typing as things are starting to get busy. I’ve just organised the first ambulance to attend our first aid post, no doubt the first of many. Hope you had (or will have) a safe New Year’s Eve. I know I did.

Happy New Year!

And to all my Red Cross colleagues, congratulations. You rock!

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