I never thought a year on from the ’disastrous’ floods of 2021 that I’d be sitting down to write a blog about the ‘even more disastrous‘ floods of 2022!
It was like 2021 was a dry run for what happened in 2022 (pardon the terrible pun)!
In 2021, we faced something we hadn’t before and had to work out how to respond. This time we knew what to do, but we didn’t expect it to drag on as long as it did. Being the heritage partner of Fire and Rescue NSW, the Museum understands the importance of following emergency service safety advice, and we empathise with the frustrations voiced by the public regarding disrupted Museum operations.
Even when the sun came out, many of our team were cut off and the roads around the Museum remained closed. Local emergency service advice was to remain off the roads. So we were secure in the knowledge we had made the right decisions, as the safety of our team is always our first priority.
By the middle of the crisis, things escalated further and the Museum was included in a mandatory evacuation order. Whilst we believed the Museum would be safe (after all, would they build a power station in a flood zone?) we saw the roads around us become even further unsafe and closed. For this reason, even the staff who live within five minutes of the Museum were sent home and just in time as all access was cut-off until late the following day.
On Thursday 10th, our team (those who could) returned but the Museum remained closed to the public. On Friday 11th, I attended a centenary celebration for Rhodes Fire Brigade with our Heritage Manager, Natasha, and this was the first time either of us had been able to travel from our homes (I must admit my path wasn’t easy but we were determined not to miss the important event that our team had been preparing for).
With the Museum still under an evacuation order we couldn’t in good conscious re-open to the public, however, thankfully it was lifted around 5pm on Friday 11th and we were able to re-open on Saturday 12th March 2022. Since then, it has been business as usual, however we are still suffering from the impact of the floods.
Last year, we were able to gain access to the Museum almost straight away, so we were able to manage any damage, however this time no one was able to get onsite until after the waters subsided. This has meant that locating damage has taken longer and we have had some major infrastructure damage that we are working with the building owners to rectify.
Last year, everyone promised financial support, but nothing was forthcoming and in retrospect the impact of the 2021 floods were minimal. This time the impact has been much greater, especially having to close once again as we still try and re-build in the wake of the extended 2021 COVID-19 closure. To date, the Museum has not qualified for any financial support from any external bodies, but as we hear more tales of destruction and devastation, we realise we are lucky to still be able to open so all things must be put into perspective.
The Museum of Fire has a dedicated team who take everything in their stride. Whether it is having to stand down due to a sudden closure or wading though waist deep water to unblock a drain. Our team are the reason the Museum continues to survive in spite of everything that has been thrown at us.
Floodwaters at the Museum of Fire in March 2022.
I’m proud to say that the Museum is one of the largest employers of paid Museum staff in, not just western Sydney, but across the Museum industry. Keeping our staff employed is our main priority but it is also our greatest overhead cost, which is why many other similar sized organisations are unable to maintain a body of staff with such great depth and experience.
Our staff are supported by an army of dedicated volunteers without whom nothing could happen, and the Museum would remain stagnant. As a unit of staff and volunteers, our team are unstoppable and I couldn’t be prouder to oversee their activities each and every day!
Our team are looking forward to a very busy April and hope that you will continue to support us! During the school holidays we have a great calendar of events and throughout the Easter show in Sydney our team will have a stall as part of the Fire and Rescue NSW exhibit again so make sure to stop by and check out our pop-up shop, as well as the historic vehicles we will have on display.
If you’d like to support the Museum the three best ways to do so are by:
1. Visiting and purchasing something in our shop (in-store or online at https://www.museumoffire.net/shop-1)
2. Referring a friend
3. Become a member! (https://www.museumoffire.net/membership)
- Belinda McMartin, Museum of Fire CEO