Family Affair For NSW SES Community First Response Unit


On the eve of National Volunteer Week, Commander of the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Sofala Unit, Natalie Cole, recounts the day she helped save the life of a 10-month-old baby as a community first responder.

The young boy’s mother had called Triple Zero (000) after identifying her child was in visible respiratory distress. Natalie was assigned by the NSW Ambulance Control Centre to provide care.

As a trained NSW Ambulance clinical volunteer Natalie Cole administered life-saving medicine that she carries in her equipment bag.

“In that moment, I thought, ‘I’m so glad I’ve got these skills to help that little boy. If we waited for back up, I don’t know that he would have made it’,” Cole said.

“Our teams work so closely with NSW Ambulance. They provide us excellent training and support. Our teams can provide initial treatment to people until NSW Ambulance paramedics arrive.”

At the NSW SES, volunteers’ efforts reach beyond responding to floods, storms, and tsunamis. In remote and regional areas volunteers provide lifesaving services as Community First Responders (CFR) in medical emergencies. This is a partnership with NSW Ambulance who provides the training, credentialling and clinical equipment to undertake the role.

“It wasn’t until 2015 that we joined the local SES in Sofala, and it was because there was a lady who had a stroke,” Natalie Cole said.

“She was in her 50s, and the night she had a stroke, there were no SES members who could light the ground up for a helicopter to land. So, a road crew had to be sent.”

“She survived the stroke but that night, I thought, we’re going to join the local SES so that hopefully something like that never happens again.”

Natalie says being in the NSW SES has become a family affair for her husband and two eldest daughters who also volunteer with the Service.

There are twelve NSW SES CFR units across the state, and volunteers in this role undergo specialised training with NSW Ambulance to deliver clinical care until paramedic support arrives.

Collaborating with NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, and other emergency services on-site, these dedicated volunteers play a pivotal role in ensuring swift and effective responses to critical incidents in rural communities.

“It’s a unique opportunity to gain clinical skills, help people on their worst day, and make that day slightly better for them. It’s a great opportunity if you are keen to be challenged,” Natalie Cole said.

“There are lots of times where we’ve been on jobs, and I can say if our community first response unit have made a difference helping people in bad situations.

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