Everyday Heroes of Sodexo during NSW Bushfires

Everyday Heroes of Sodexo during NSW Bushfires

Severe bush fires have been rampant in New South Wales since late September.  On 7 October, the fires started to impact two of our Seniors sites located in Taree and Cundletown on the mid-north coast of NSW.  The fires quickly escalated to the point where major roads were closed due to fire, with smoke impacting our sites and fire causing evacuations in the surrounding district.

At the height of the disaster, we’ve seen an amazing demonstration of team spirit and service spirit emerge in the face of adversity, with all our people pulling together to ensure our senior residents and clients are well taken care of.   

Employee Recognition and teamwork
Site managers, Peter Clarke and Sharon Haynes, worked tirelessly alongside their teams to ensure 350 shifts were covered over the two-week period. While 9 shifts were impacted, only 3 shifts were unable to be filled. This is a testament to the cross-skilling and cross-site training we have embedded into our teams, allowing team members to fill roles and shifts across sites. This was critical in maintaining our operations and successful catering, cleaning and laundry service delivery. While contingencies were in place for food, no meal choices were impacted.

Maintaining Excellence under pressure
During this time, Bishop Tyrrell Place had a NSW Food Authority Audit 3 weeks into the fires, and maintained their ‘A’ Rating. They also had an unannounced Accreditation Agency visit which they passed. This is a testament to the team remaining focused on residents and food safety.

Two employees affected by Asthma triggered by the smoke were evacuated. Numerous employees stepped in to help others evacuate and assisted with emergency shelter. One manager had to sleep in the nursing home overnight as he couldn’t make it home. The smoke penetrated every part of the building and caused throat irritation, dryness and dehydration. Thankfully no one in our team was injured, however sadly one relative of our team lost their life as a result of the fires. Our thoughts are with everyone affected.

Lessons Learnt
We have completed a Lessons Learnt Review with stakeholders directly involved. If anyone would like further information, please contact me at Paul.Dimmock@sodexo.com.  The key objective is to recognise the severity of crisis events early on and put a plan into place for worst case scenarios.  While we hope for the best, we will plan for the worst.

Vince Folkard, HSEQ Manager – NSW, and I met with the teams this week to thank them for their commitment. Site managers and teams were presented with certificates acknowledging their dedication and their Team Spirit. I would also like to acknowledge our reliable and professional support functions HSEQ, HR, Supply Chain and Food Platform who helped us throughout.

When receiving their recognition awards, team members humbly said “It’s just the Australian way.” “Its just they way we do in the bush.” and “It’s the way we and Sodexo work.”

I commend our teams for acting safely, ably and being dedicated to those we serve. All the training, processes and procedures only get us so far during events like this; It is our people who make all the difference.

Paul Dimmock
Operations Director – Healthcare