State Emergency Service

The State Emergency Service (SES) is the name used by a number of organisations in Australia that provide assistance during and after major incidents. Specifically, the service deals with floods, storms and tsunamis, but can also assist in other emergencies, such as vertical rescue and road crash rescues, missing persons searches, and medical evacuations. In other scenarios the SES may provide a support role to other agencies, particularly police and fire. The SES is operational 24 hours a day. The SES is constituted as separate organisations operating in the various Australian states and territories. Eight of the SES organisations co-ordinate through the Australian Council of State and Territory Emergency Services (ACSES).

State Emergency Service
SES logo.png
Agency overview
Employees20,000 +


During World War II the National Emergency Service was created on 1 February 1939 to provide air raid wardens.[1] The organisation was disbanded six months after the end of the war.[2]

The Civil Defence Service began in Australia in 1955. It was formed as a precaution to any potential attacks on Australian soil. The name was changed to the "State Emergency Service" (abbreviated to "SES") during the 1970s, to reflect a change of emphasis into providing emergency help related to floods, storms and other natural emergencies. Every state and territory in Australia has its own State (or Territory) Emergency Service, and there are 43,000 volunteers spread across the country. Each state or territory is broken into regions, then units, and finally groups or teams.

The SES is one of many public safety organisations using AIIMS (Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System). Typically, small incidents (AIIMS type 1) are assigned to a 'unit' and dealt with by a 'team'. AIIMS type 2 or 3 incidents are coordinated at the regional level.

Agency ExecutivesEdit

Each State Emergency Service has an Executive appointed by the Minister responsible for each state.

Title Name Service
Commissioner Carlene York APM New South Wales State Emergency Service[3]
Chief Executive Officer Stephen Griffin Victoria State Emergency Service
A/Director Leon Smith Tasmania State Emergency Service
Chief Officer Chris Beattie South Australian State Emergency Service
Chief Officer Anthony Draheim Australian Capital Territory State Emergency Service
Director Andrew Warton Northern Territory Emergency Service
Assistant Commissioner Andrew Short AFSM Queensland State Emergency Service
Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services


The SES provides assistance to local communities in times of need. Because every community is different, every SES Unit has a slightly different set of roles and activities. Depending on the needs of the local community, a Unit may perform only some or all of these roles:

Function Description
Agency Support (Operational) Supporting other Emergency Services during incidents with lighting, human resources, marine transport, and other services.
Agency Support (Training) Supporting other Emergency Services, agencies, and community organisations with member participation, resources, and welfare.
Air Observation - Search Assisting in searches over land and sea from both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
Air Observation - Intelligence Gathering Flood Intelligence during events, emergency evacuation, remote area resupply, Reconnaissance of Flood and Storm effected areas.
Air Support Operations Providing ground support for Emergency Aircraft Operations, notably the filling of water bomber aircraft during bushfire events.
Building Impact Minor USAR operations caused by motor vehicles crashing into buildings. SES units provide shoring to these buildings and temporary building stabilisation.
Communication Support Unit Provide communications support in difficult terrains. Install repeater radios and portable antennas. Co-ordinate other SES teams. Members are also trained to carry out the functions of other SES units.
Crowd and/or Traffic Control Assisting police and ambulance at public events like ANZAC Day in this capacity. Also assisting police with road closures during events like flooding and New Year celebrations.
Emergency services liaison Working with representatives of other emergency services during emergencies.
Evacuation Centre Management Establishing and running temporary evacuation centres.
Fire Support & Training Assisting the police and the rural and metropolitan fire services with road closures, evacuations, delivery of welfare during major fires, and some training like First Aid and Chainsaw Operations.
First Aid Aiding members of the public requiring basic medical aid and assisting ambulance officers and members of St. John Ambulance of Australia with triage and mass casualty situations
Flood and storm preparation and response Making temporary repairs and protecting property after floods and storms, helping people prepare for floods and storms and using specialised equipment like flood boats and chainsaws.
General rescue procedures and skills Working safely to remove people from dangerous situations
Land Search Searching for missing persons usually in both rural and suburban areas. Land search ranges from street based searches, to scrub and woodland areas as well as mountain rescue.
Management Team which fill the administration roles at a unit level
Marine Rescue Working with the Coast Guard and other marine organizations in assisting boats in distress
Media, public relations and community education Working with the media and the public to communicate safety messages and warnings and to promote the SES to the community
Mines Rescue Some SES units have specific training to allow them to rescue trapped persons from inside collapsed mines
Road-crash rescue Providing mechanical intervention to crashed vehicles and extricating injured persons.
Swiftwater Rescue Rescue/recovery of persons trapped in inland waterways or floodwater with skills applicable to fast-flowing water.
Training coordination Helping to plan and carry out the training in a Unit. Nationally recognised subjects and courses are available to members.
Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Extending basic rescue techniques to situations such as collapsed or unstable structures, using specialised equipment such as after bombs or explosions
Vertical rescue Rescuing people from heights and depths such as cliffs or ravines
Tsunami & earthquake response Responding to and managing tsunami and earthquake events
Welfare Providing and administrating temporary field bases for activations, including meals, peer support, teas & coffees etc. The SES also runs a "driver reviver" scheme that aims to reduce accidents caused by fatigued drivers.


In addition to funds provided through legislation to the SES by state and local governments, SES groups also supplement their financial resources with donations made by individuals and businesses, and through other government grants. These donations typically contribute to purchasing or maintaining group equipment, such as vehicles and tools, or to improvement of SES property and facilities.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "World War II and Australia: National Emergency Services NSW". Archived from the original on 21 December 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  2. ^ "National Emergency Services, New South Wales". Archived from the original on 15 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Carlene York to become new NSW SES Commissioner". 3 September 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2020.

External linksEdit