RACV has deployed its emergency response vehicle for only the second time in 2016, this time to help people get their lives back together after a massive storm struck northeast Victoria on Friday 11 November.
The storm was violent and extremely destructive. Massive hail stones hammered cars, crops were destroyed, trees uprooted and more than 20 houses lost their roofs.
There was flash flooding, days without power and a report of a mini-tornado. The local State Emergency Service had more than 350 calls for help.
RACV Insurance staff kept monitoring it all, from the time of the storm into Saturday’s initial assessment of the potential damage.
“We had response meetings, with all the major stakeholders within the business,” explained Terry Cheng from the RACV major events team.
“We talked through what response might be required.”
By Sunday, RACV had decided on action: its Major Emergency Rapid Response Vehicle (MERRV) was activated. By Monday morning, the portable claims office was on its way to Mildura.
By Tuesday morning, it was operational near the town’s hastily established relief centre, in the Alfred Deakin Centre. It was the first time that RACV had dispatched the MERRV to an event since the devastating Wye River bushfires at the start of the year.
The RACV’s Major Emergency Rapid Response Vehicle has four staff to assist Mildura district locals with queries and to attempt to fast track RACV Insurance claims.
The worst thing for people affected by such a major incident is to have to endure a lengthy wait for claims to be processed, so the MERRV allows RACV to immediately work with affected members.
As well as the four MERRV staff, there are two RACV assessors on the road, to check damage on-site, and the RACV also established “hail centres” for the cars that are left pockmarked, or worse, by the massive hail stones.
“We had about 40 people come through on Tuesday, our first day in Mildura,” Terry said.
“That’s quite high for an event like this. People are assessing their damage and seeing what we can do.”
The presence of the MERRV was also welcomed by staff at the RACV Mildura Shop.
As early as Saturday, members with RACV Insurance were coming to the shop, wanting to discuss potential claims and immediate assistance.
“We went into the local RACV Shop and touched base. They were appreciative,” Terry said. “People might need insurance advice, if they’re RACV members, or to discuss community services, grants or loans.”
The MERRV crew are experts on all those topics.
Terry said the widespread loss of power in the district had ruined food in fridges, homes had lost roofs and trees and power lines were down across the district.