I had trained all my life for this type of scenario but this was the first time I had been able to put my training into action.
I was at Wallsend with six police recruits to whom I had just given my “Police work is not exciting” talk when bang the floor boards opened up and 100 years worth of soot fell on us.
In an emergency like the earthquake, the police force assumes command.
As it was Christmas time, I was relieving as District Commander so it fell to me to control the situation.
My job was to liaise with Police, Fire Service, Ambulance, SES plus the politicians and media. I also had to sift through all the information, bad and good, to analyse the situation.
This was made difficult by the fact that our communications and emergency generator were down and that in a crisis there is a lot of misinformation.
It wasn’t the most glamorous role and afterwards I was criticised for decisions I had made but I made them with the information I had.
Floods, police raids and fires give you warning but the earthquake was 30 seconds.
My boss came back that night and I became incident commander at the Workers Club.
25 years on and there have been major improvements in emergency management.
We analysed and taught based on the lessons learned in Newcastle to help all of NSW cope with disasters.
Then 49 year old Chief Inspector of Police, Newcastle