Volunteer Rescue Association

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Wagga Wagga Rescue Squad
VRA rescue demonstration

The Volunteer Rescue Association (aka VRA) is an Australian organisation of volunteer members across New South Wales who assist in times of emergency.

The first VRA specialist squad, Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (today known as Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad) was formed in 1936. The first VRA General Land Rescue Squad was formed in 1950 to assist Police with recovery of persons from the Murrumbidgee River, to provide flood rescue, evacuations and ferrying of food and medicines between isolated communities around Wagga Wagga in southern NSW. Soon after the Wagga Wagga Rescue Squad became involved in general land rescue. In 1960 the Bourke Rescue Squad was formed followed in 1962 by the Dubbo Rescue Squad. In 1969, at the suggestion of the State Police Commissioner several volunteer rescue squads (Albury, Dubbo, Narrandera and Wagga Wagga) met and formed the Volunteer Rescue Association. VRA Rescue Squads continued to be established where a need existed and the Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade and local community supported the establishment of a volunteer rescue squad.

Today, the Volunteer Rescue Association provides a comprehensive rescue service to the community. Through task related standardisation of equipment, communications, training and command structure, Volunteer Rescue Association Squads are readily combined to form larger units during major incidents.

Regional squads can be either land or marine based. Land-based squads can be involved with motor vehicle accident rescue, vertical rescue, river rescue and dive rescue. Marine-based squads can be involved with coastal emergencies on the north and south coast. In addition, there are specialist squads with particular skills who do not operate in any particular region. Examples of these include squads with bushwalking, cave rescue, radio (communications), Australian Civil Air Patrol (aircraft), and dog expertise.

The current President of the Volunteer Rescue Association is Mark Gibson.

Major Incidents Attended[edit]

The Volunteer Rescue Association is involved on a day-to-day basis in general rescue operations primarily, road accident rescue, land and maritime search and rescue operations. This extensive experience is invaluable in times of major operations. The Volunteer Rescue Association (as the VRA) has responded to the following major incidents:

1974 Cyclone Tracy - Darwin ( Rescue - 124 personnel and equipment available within 6 hours - not responded); 1977 Granville Rail Disaster (Rescue - Two (2) Rescue Squads responded); Clybucca [Kempsey] Bus Crash (Rescue); 1989 Newcastle Earthquake [Newcastle Workers Club Collapse] (Rescue - Two (2) Rescue Squads responded immediately and subsequently 100 operators and support personnel to sustain 24 hour operations); Nyngan Flood (assisted Police with evacuations); 1994 Bush Fire Emergency (Assist Police and Ambulance with evacuations, provide communications support (CREST and WICEN) and provide welfare support to firefighters - 315 personnel); 1997 Thredbo Landslide; During 1999 the VRA provided assistance to the State Emergency Service during the Sydney Hailstorm Operations and the Department of Agriculture during the Mangrove Mountain Newcastle Disease outbreak. While assisting at these major operations, VRA units continued to meet their primary responsibility of providing rescue services to their communities.

Decline[edit]

As with many volunteer organisations, an increasing number of VRA squads face difficulties recruiting sufficient personnel in order to respond effectively to incidents. This has led to a gradual decline in the number of accredited squads from 47 in 2007[1] down to 32 by 2013,[2] with responsibility moving to other organisations such as Fire and Rescue NSW and the State Emergency Service.

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