“Dad would come home from SES operations with these incredible stories,” remembers Hugh, “and it really inspired me to get involved.”
Now a Team Leader at the Rivers ACTSES Unit, Jeremy originally volunteered as a keen bushwalker, who wanted to use his geocaching skills to serve his community. However, once he started training, he realised he wouldn’t always be able to rely on technology.
"Training with the SES has really sharpened my classic navigation skills, as we tend to operate with a map and compass, rather than a GPS,” says Jeremy.
“I really enjoy doing things that way now and, since starting in the service, I've become very keen on rogaining, and have been involved in the ACTSES navigation exercises (NavShield and NavCan).”
For Hugh, an interest in severe weather was a major drawcard to volunteering for the ACTSES.
The 17-year-old is the founder of the popular Facebook page ‘ACT Weather Watch’, and more recently he puts together weekly weather forecasts for the Rivers SES Unit, based on the BOM’s advice.
“Hugh has always been the kind of kid who would run out in the middle of a hailstorm, because he's just so fascinated about severe weather,” says Jeremy.
“He’s quite an accomplished amateur meteorologist.”
But Hugh says his interest in storms is often tempered by the destruction they can cause.
“I see photos of storm damage all over social media,” says Hugh, “and it worries me how terrible it can look.”
“It was always good to see Dad helping out affected homes during the aftermath and knowing that the SES can be called upon when communities are in need.”
Currently in his last year of high school, Hugh is interested in pursuing a career in emergency management, and he says the operational training provided by the SES has been a valuable learning experience.
“I actually thought I'd have some difficulty learning the required skills,” says Hugh, “but the SES trainers really know what they’re doing, and they’ve been very supportive as I've gone through the recruitment course.”
“When it comes to getting up on roofs, I used to have a fairly big fear of heights, but after training I've found that I can trust the equipment, and realised it’s not scary at all, it’s actually a lot of fun."
Jeremy says he and his wife could not be prouder of their son’s decision to volunteer for the SES.
“With storms, floods, fires and climate change, I think young people have a difficult time thinking about the future, compared to people like me who lived a number of years before all of this turmoil came into the world,” says Jeremy.
"But rather than feeling like a victim, Hugh has now got a greater knowledge of emergency response since joining the SES, and he’s learning that he doesn’t have to feel afraid, and that there are systems and people in place to deal with these emergencies.”
With Hugh graduating from the 2023 ACTSES Recruit Course earlier this week, both father and son are now fully-fledged operational members of ACTSES Rivers Unit.
The pair are excited to be able to offer their assistance to Canberra’s community during the upcoming High-Risk Weather Season.
“I'm definitely looking forward to being able to get out in the field and practise my new skills,” says Hugh, “although if the SES are needed that obviously means the community is in stress. But having the opportunity to help people will be very rewarding.”