After seeing how hard Canberra was hit by the 2003 bushfires, Warwick knew from that point onwards that he wanted to be a volunteer in some way with the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA).
In January 2003 Warwick and his family decided to move from North Queensland to Canberra. They were due to arrive right as fires were burning through the capital, so delayed their arrival date. When they finally arrived, they saw the sheer devastation and destruction that the 2003 bushfires caused.
Warwick chose to put his skills in the fundamentals of mapping software to good use in 2013, when he joined the ESA MAPS team as a volunteer. His goal was to assist the Canberra community with his unique set of skills if and when an emergency took place.
Being a MAPS volunteer provides opportunities to assist our services on a range of incidents. Commonly Warwick provides assistance for search and rescues. This job entails downloading the search area ACT State Emergency Service volunteers (ACTSES) have covered via GPS receivers and advising where to search next. A similar practice is used during bush and grass fires. Maps are a crucial element in the planning and response phase of a bush or grass fire. They provide invaluable information on the location; the asset protection zones and the topography assisting our operational support on vehicle access to best respond. Like search and rescues, our MAPS volunteers are able to work with firefighters on the ground to track where the fire is and produce fire predication maps.
Whilst being an incredible asset to the ACT during an emergency, our MAPS volunteers are often deployed interstate, utilising their skills across the country.
Over his 10 years with MAPS, Warwick has assisted with many incidents. He has been on interstate deployment opportunities, with one in Sydney providing support with major bushfires. However, it isn’t the work that keeps Warwick a volunteer, it is the people.
“People in the mapping community are always there to help and support you, and the people here at ESA are fantastic.”
Warwick considers himself and many others in the ‘tech world’ introverts. The MAPS community here at ESA allows Warwick and other like-minded individuals to interact with those that share a common interest and feel a sense of belonging. Whether it be an incident, a training session or a catch-up dinner, the MAPS community is one that welcomes all.
When it comes to juggling his personal and professional life with his time as a MAPS volunteer, for Warwick this comes easily. He is lucky that he has a supportive family and employer who understand the operational requirements of emergency service volunteering. Without them he would find it quite hard to be a dedicated volunteer. As Warwick says, “a support system is everything.”
Warwick encourages others who may be considering becoming a MAPS volunteer to take the plunge and give it a go. For many MAPS volunteers it is a great way to use skills that you have that you may not be able to use elsewhere. However, Warwick warns that being a volunteer isn’t always easy. “You need to be prepared to work in stressful situations with quite high stakes. Although you have a supportive environment around you, you must be prepared to work under pressure, that is part of emergency response.” - says Warwick.
Being a MAPS volunteer, although at times stressful, has taught Warwick a lot about himself. He has been able to do things he never thought were possible.
When Warwick isn’t volunteering with MAPS he also volunteers his time with ACT Wildlife, rescuing local wildlife such as bats and echidnas.
It is clear that Warwick is a dedicated volunteer with a passion for what he does. We are lucky to have members such as himself volunteering with MAPS. On behalf of the ESA and the MAPS community, we want to thank Warwick for his continued support to our agency and the Canberra community.