New South Wales State Emergency Service

The New South Wales State Emergency Service (NSW SES), an agency of the Government of New South Wales, is an emergency and rescue service dedicated to assisting the community in times of natural and man-made disasters. The NSW SES is made up almost entirely of volunteer members, numbering over 9,000 as of June 2018. Members are easily identified by their distinctive orange overalls.

NSW State Emergency Service
NSW State Emergency Service Logo

NSW State Emergency Service Roundel
Agency overview
Preceding agencies
  • State Emergency Services
    (April 1955  September 1955)
  • Civil Defence
    (September 1955  1989)
JurisdictionNew South Wales
Headquarters93-99 Burelli Street, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Employees324 FTE (2018)[1] Volunteers = 9110
Annual budgetA$96 million (2012)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Key documents

The agency is led by its Commissioner who reports to the Minister for Emergency Services, presently David Elliott.


1955 - State Emergency Service Founded

Following the devastating Hunter Valley floods of 1955, which no single agency was equipped or designated to manage, the NSW State Emergency Service was founded.

1989 - Renamed to NSW State Emergency Service

Following the enactment of State Emergency Service Act, 1989 (NSW), the New South Wales State Emergency Service was established.


See also List of Commissioners of New South Wales State Emergency Service

The current Commissioner of the NSW SES is Carlene York who took up her appointment on 28 October 2019. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services (New South Wales), David Elliott, is responsible to the NSW parliament for the emergency services portfolio which includes NSW SES.

Emergency support

The major responsibilities of the NSW SES are for flood (including Flood Rescue), tsunami and storm operations. The NSW SES also provides the majority of General Land Rescue effort in the rural parts of the state. This includes road crash rescue, vertical rescue, general rescue, bush search and rescue, evidence searches (both metropolitan and rural) and other forms of specialist rescue that may be required due to local threats. The Service's trained rescuers also support the full-time emergency services during major disasters.[2]

The NSW SES also assist other emergency services when they are performing major operations. These services include the New South Wales Police Force, the NSW Rural Fire Service, the Fire and Rescue NSW and the Ambulance Service of New South Wales.

During the 17/18 Financial Year, NSW SES Personnel answered 81,197 calls at the State Operations Centre, including 36,169 calls to the Flood/Storm assistance line (132 500) and its volunteers responded to 18,040 Requests for Assistance (RFAs).

Organisational Structure[3]

State Level

The State Headquarters (SHQ) of the NSW SES is located in Burelli Street, Wollongong.

At a state level, Directors are responsible for key functional areas (Finance, Assets & Business Services / Information & Communications Technology / Operational Response / Organisational Performance & Engagement / People & Development / Planning & Preparedness / Training) each Director is appointed to the rank of Assistant Commissioner. All these positions are based at NSW SES State Headquarters in Wollongong.

With 5 zones located across the state, Zone boundaries are generally based on river catchments, reflecting that floods are a major part of their work. The boundaries for the NSW SES's 240+ units are based broadly on local government boundaries, each unit is grouped with 2-7 other units to form a cluster.

Zone Level

As part of the Organisational Restructure project, on 2 October 2018, Regions were replaced with Zones. The previous 17 Regions had been based on river catchment areas, inline with the NSW SES responsibility to manage flood events, however an analysis of the demands placed upon the service indicates that a more effective way to organise Units would be based around areas which both reflected historic trends in terms of affected areas, and the distribution of the population across the state.

This resulted in the formation of 5 Zones.

Zone offices are managed by a Zone Controller and the Zone Business Support Services Manager, together form the Zone Management Team. Each Zone office could house a number of different staff roles including Zone Volunteer Communications & Engagement Officer, Zone Capability Officer, Zone Training & Delivery Officer, Zone Training Adviser, Zone Operational Readiness Officer, Financial Services Officer, Administrative Support Officer, additionally Zone offices can also accommodate some state wide staff roles, traditionally located at the state headquarters, these positions include, Coordinator Exercise Planning & Design, Planning & Research Officer, Safety, Health & Wellbeing Officer, Manager Hazard Planning, Coordinator Community Capability, Manager Capability & Resource Planning.

Zones may also have a number of volunteer capability units to support the Zone.

Cluster Level

Dependent on factors such local operational demands, local Unit sizes, etc. Units can be grouped into Clusters. A cluster may contain 2-7 Units.

NSW SES Clusters are managed by a Local Commander. Local Commanders oversee operations at a scale between localised events which can be managed at a Unit Level, and larger scale events which require management at a Zone Level.

Unit Level

There are more than 240 SES Units forming the NSW SES. Most are based on former local government boundaries, although the NSW SES now also allows for the formation of Units which are not bound to geographic boundaries, such as the SES Bush Search and Rescue Unit.

NSW SES Units are completely staffed by volunteers managed by Unit Commanders.

Old Regions vs New Zones
Old Region Region Code New Zone Zone Code
Sydney Northern Region SNR Metro Zone MTZ
Sydney Southern Region SSR
Sydney Western Region SWR
Central West Region CWR Western Zone WTZ
Far West Region FWR
Macquire Region MQR
North West Region NWR
Namoi Region NMR
Lachlan Region LAR Southern Zone SHZ
Murry Region MYR
Murrumbidgee Region MER
Hunter Region HUR Northern Zone NHZ
Clarence-Numbucca Region CNR
Mid North Coast Region MNR
Richmond-Tweed Region RTR
Southern Highlands Region SHR South East Zone SEZ
Illawarra South Coast Region ISR

Rank and Insignia

In January 2018 the NSW State Emergency Service commenced a review of the rank and insignia structure within the organisation. Between October and December 2018 all members of the NSW State Emergency Service transitioned to the new rank structure.

Honours and awards

NSW SES Life Member
NSW SES Commissioner's Unit Citation
NSW SES Commissioner's Commendation for Courage
NSW SES Commissioner's Commendation for Service
NSW SES Long Service Medal
NSW SES Long Service Badge - 5 years
National Medal
Emergency Service Medal (ESM)

Funding and support

The NSW SES receives funding primarily from the NSW Government. Resources are often obtained through numerous grants provided by public and private entities.


See also


  1. "Annual Report". NSW State Emergency Service. Government of New South Wales. 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  2. "About us". State Emergency Service. Government of New South Wales. 10 August 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  3. "New structure for NSW State Emergency Service". NSW Government - Office of Local Government.
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