In late July 2020, a fire broke out in the Spotted Dog Tavern and quickly spread to the Federal Backpackers next door, with everyone safely evacuated.
The Bundaberg Regional Council disaster management coordinator today received a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services certificate of appreciation as part of the North Coast Region presentation ceremony.
Receiving the call at midnight that disaster had struck, Angela immediately sprung into action, establishing an evacuation centre for the backpackers.
“We had 62 backpackers who'd been evacuated in the middle of the night with no belongings … basically just the pyjamas on their back,” Angela said.
“I came in the middle of the night to open the Civic Centre for a temporary place of refuge, give them shelter from the cold, get them away from prying eyes and, you know, save them from the spectacle of watching the building burn down with their belongings inside.
“By three o'clock in the morning, we had the mayor onsite and we'd started to arrange for psychological first-aid.
“We'd already started to coordinate donations of food, clothing and had started thinking about vouchers.”
But the humble recipient said disaster response was simply her job.
“This is what we train for,” Angela said.
“This is what the Disaster Management team in Council is for and this is what our Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) does.
“The arrangements that we have in place have been tried and tested over and over between floods and fires and bushfires.
“This provides the community, again, with the surety that the arrangements that we have work and that they are supported during times of disasters and emergencies.
“They can have confidence that those arrangements are strong, the relationships are excellent, and that we're there to support them when they need it.”
Chair of the LDMG Mayor Jack Dempsey congratulated Angela on receiving the accolade.
“This recognition is very well deserved,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“Angela is a quiet achiever and her professionalism in any disaster situation is an asset to Council and the wider LDMG.
“The unfortunate circumstances surrounding the loss of the historic Federal Hotel building served to illustrate that Council and the LDMG stand ready to respond to any disaster situation.”
Angela is no stranger to emergency events having worked in disaster management roles for Council and QFES.
She played a role in Council’s response to the 2013 flood event and has been deployed by QFES in response to cyclones, storms and fires.
Through the LDMG Angela has dealt with cyclones, floods, severe storms, bushfires and COVID-19.
While each disaster response presents its own challenges Angela said the Spotted Dog Tavern and Federal Backpackers fire was unique.
Angela’s role in the disaster response involved liaising with support agencies to coordinate donations and the Queensland Police Service to replace documentation lost including passports, visas and identification.
“One of our first priorities was psychological first aid and making sure that their families knew they were safe and well.”