25/08/2023 08:30 AM

A NSW State Emergency Service (SES) member played an integral part in coordinating the unforeseen departure of almost 50,000 people from the 25th World Scout Jamboree in South Korea before a typhoon bore down on the event’s campsite.

Putting into practice the emergency management skills he’s learnt through the SES as a training advisor and Dubbo Unit volunteer, Gavin Arnold said the incident had all the hallmarks of an evacuation. He contributed to a plan to move 39,000 youth and 10,000 adults from 158 different countries to safer accommodation as Typhoon Khanun edged closer.

Mr Arnold was attending the 25th World Scout Jamboree as a volunteer Scout Leader, alongside his daughter Jessica, also an NSW SES volunteer, from August 1 to 12, when the situation turned critical, with the 12-square kilometre site needing to be vacated to ensure the safety of all participants.

“My support was offered by the Scouts Australia Contingent to the World Organisation Scout Movement (WOSM) in planning the early departure, which was accepted, and we started working on a plan to be approved by the South Korean Government,” Mr Arnold said.

“I got to work on helping with the plan at about 2pm, and we worked through until 2am before we were able to start moving people out of the site from 7:30 that morning.”

With 25 years of experience as a SES member, Mr Arnold said he was able to draw on the skills he’s learned to ensure everyone was safe from harm within 24 hours.

“While the team had vast knowledge and experience around Jamborees and usual people movement, I was only one in the planning team with an emergency services background,” he said.

“I was able to bring a different lens and level of expertise to the planning of the early departure of the Jamboree.

“The skills I’ve learned from the SES and the development I’ve had over the years assisted me with not only the evacuation, but with working with people from different nations and cultural backgrounds, as well as the logistics and political sensitivities.

“I was able to use my knowledge from previous emergency incidents to provide guidance around what I could see working or not working, and I put in place an operational structure for communication and a clear chain of command for each section of the site, so it was manageable.”

By August 8, more than 1000 buses were moving through the campsite to collect the scouts and leaders and take them to various accommodation points throughout South Korea.

“The plan was to have all checks completed and for a bus to move through the exit every 90 seconds,” Mr Arnold said.

“The first hour of the evacuation was challenging because every bus was being checked by multiple organisations including my team, which further complicated the situation.

Before long, South Korean Minister for gender equality and family, Kim Hyun-sook, attended the site for a briefing with the WOSM. Among the group updating the Minister on the early departure plan was Mr Arnold, who was soon after appointed the incident controller.

“Once I was put in charge, I was able to remove these roadblocks and go back to the original plan which included one thorough check of the people on buses to ensure we didn’t lose anyone,” he said.

Mr Arnold’s daughter Jessica departed the site early without her dad, moving to Seoul with the rest of the Scouts Australia Contingent to continue the Jamboree in a different format.

“Jess is used to me stepping into emergency management roles at short notice, knowing the Australian Contingent was already in their accommodation in Seoul I knew she was safe,” Mr Arnold explained.

“The South Korean Government was amazing, and they organised new activities in all the locations we moved Scouts to, and ensured the youth of the world could still have a memorable experience.”

Gavin Arnold during the early exit in South Korea.

Photo: Gavin Arnold during the early exit in South Korea.

Media enquiries: NSW SES Media 1800 067 234 or media@ses.nsw.gov.au

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