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January 2022 Newsletter

Have you had your say?

By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer  

Welcome to 2022!

With temperatures exceeding 40 degrees in many parts of the State as we welcomed in the new year, it is a timely reminder for members to practice heat safety.

Just last month, Risk Frontiers published its latest research on fatalities caused by natural hazards in Australia. The latest research expanded on their previous work analysing heatwave fatalities between 1844 to 2010, where it was determined that heatwaves were second only to disease epidemics in lives lost from natural hazards. The latest research looks in depth at the period between July 2000 to June 2018 and finds that half of all heatwave fatalities occurred in Victoria, and a quarter in South Australia.

While many of us carry the tragic losses of the 2009 Black Saturday fires in our memories (173 fatalities) it is far less recalled that health authorities attributed 374 fatalities to the southeast Australia heatwave between 25th Jan – 9th Feb, 2009.

Similarly, the defining Black Friday fires of 1939 that led to the formation of CFA recorded 71 deaths, but the preceding heatwave led to 438.

Which begs the question, why isn’t more being done to build public education and awareness on the importance of having an extreme-heat plan to compliment other emergency plans like fire and storm? With the prediction of increased frequency of heatwaves, it is more important than ever to incorporate these conversations into our usual pre-summer community education. And while extreme heat emergencies fall more within the heath sector than fire, many of the messages are complementary and fit well together in our pursuit of community resilience and safety.

Closer to home, the importance of managing heat related stress remains critical to firefighter safety. Members are urged to be proactively hydrating at work or home prior to attending a call-out, and crew leaders and strike team leaders are reminded to monitor crews and ensure fluids and task rotation are being managed on the fireground. Operations bulletins recommend 15-20 mins work requires 20 mins rest in a shaded area during hot days. And lower arm cooling and use of cool wet towels under the arm pits and around the neck are all very effective methods to return cool blood to the core of the body during rest breaks.

The very late signs of dehydration include the onset of headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps and dry skin. If left untreated, dehydration can very quickly progress to heat stroke, so please don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, and don’t forget that water alone will not be enough to rehydrate you from fluids lost from sweat.  During active workload, firefighters can lose more than a litre of water per hour, so it is critical that sufficient water and electrolyte fluids are available to your crews.

OPERATING MODEL REVIEW

As the year finished up, I had the most unpleasant task of requesting volunteer feedback on EMV’s draft operating model review with a ridiculously short feedback deadline. Despite being published on the 17 November, the draft operating model review was provided four days before Christmas, with EMV requesting feedback by mid-January.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. To provide this timeline over the Christmas/New Year period during our busiest time of year is frankly disgraceful.

The lack of volunteer consultation throughout the review became very evident upon reading the draft. Rather than focus on the task of supporting and building emergency management capability across Class 1 and Class 2 agencies across the whole EM sector, the review seems to narrowly focus on building capacity by using largely Victorian public sector employees and recommending ‘permanent’ IMT’s. As one senior volunteer remarked to me after they read it - ‘it seems like they started with a recommendation then wrote the report to support the outcome.’

And whilst the VPS benefits from tangible targets and recommendations for business cases, the section purportedly addressing volunteer barriers and lack of support, training and accreditation for the sectors overwhelming volunteer workforce is simply backed up by what I can only describe as dismissive comments, motherhood statements and touchy-feely sentiments. Incredibly disappointing.

And while I could go on and on (and on) about the review’s shortcomings, and its lack of credibility given the poor consultation process - I will await further volunteer feedback. For those who have already responded – thank-you. For those that requested we communicate your anger at the poor process and ridiculous timelines, rest assured we will strongly communicate your frustrations.

If you are a senior volunteer with IMT experience operating at the Level 2 and 3 incident levels, and are interested in reviewing the report and providing written feedback to help inform VFBV’s position, please contact your District Council or Mark Dryden on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

VOL SURVEY

A reminder that the most important annual survey that directly impacts and influences future priorities for CFA volunteers is underway and will close shortly.

The VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency survey is the largest survey of its kind in Victoria and connects grass root volunteers directly to decision makers to influence funding, priorities and initiatives aimed at improving CFA.

The survey opened on the 24th November, and will be open for around 12 weeks to provide plenty of opportunity for volunteers to participate.

I have yet to meet a volunteer who does not have an opinion on how well or how poor things are going within the fire services.

Yet, when I attend brigades and groups to discuss particular issues of concern, I am often asked about why certain projects or initiatives are underway, with people asking whose crazy idea said system/process or project was. Yet when I then ask how many of those present actually completed this year’s survey, it is clear how these ideas get up. As I point out – priorities and budgets are heavily influenced by those that do provide feedback, and how else do they expect VFBV to influence these conversations if they are not contributing to the data and our influence on a regular basis.

A quote attributed to President Harry Truman following his win in the 1948 American election was “decisions are made by those who show up.” And while this was particularly poignant for a country that does not have mandatory voting, I would argue it is equally important for an opt-in survey such as ours that was designed by volunteers for volunteers and has established itself as one of the most reliable measures of CFA volunteer sentiment and opinion we have.

A much less flattering sentiment to Truman’s could be ‘some show up and make the decisions, and some don’t show up and complain about the decisions being made.’ And while I think this is an over simplistic analogy, it certainly does serve to highlight the importance of getting involved.

The survey asks for your opinion on most aspects of your CFA experience. From training, consultation, people management, support from and cooperation across CFA, culture, how well volunteers are respected and how you feel about the future.

We take your privacy seriously with all your answers being confidential, and we never share your personal details with anyone including CFA. All results are deidentified, yet every comment and every response is analysed to understand what is working well and what isn’t.

Results and themes from last year’s survey have been instrumental in discussions onboarding the new CFA leaders including the CEO, Chief and members of the executive. For example, the cooperation themed questions provide feedback on engagement between volunteers and CFA by requesting information on whether volunteers feel they have been given adequate opportunity to provide input and feedback into decisions that affect them.

In recent results - volunteers indicated that they often get ‘direction’ from CFA and decisions are often made without consultation which diminishes the recognition of the skills and knowledge of senior and experienced volunteers. There was a strong feeling that even when consultation opportunities are presented or invited, decisions have already been made and it is just lip service. These are important perspectives that help us to work with CFA on improving things.

In the comments provided by respondents last year, many made some reference to the divide, even referred to as a chasm in some instances, between some paid staff and volunteers. A familiar thread to the comments was that they felt in some cases they were set up to fail. A common theme was that volunteers and brigades were often criticised for things they were not given adequate support for, sometimes by the very people employed to support them.

And while I truly believe that CFA is full of highly dedicated, experienced and passionate people both paid and unpaid, this feedback helps provide a barometer on how well people are walking the walk and talking the talk and allows us to zero in on areas where certain trends are emerging.

So please, if you haven’t yet done this year’s survey head over to www.vfbv.com.au/cfa and do it today. We want to hear from you. The only way you can help us influence the CFA of tomorrow, is by doing something about it today.

Stay safe.

 


Volunteer Survey Closing Soon

This year’s VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey is closing soon. 

Scan the QR code or visit our website to complete the survey today.

This year’s survey is critically important. With a new CFA leadership, the results from this year’s survey will directly influence the upcoming years priority actions, and are central to our advocacy work with CFA about what needs to be done to improve the organisation. Our advocacy depends on robust volunteer feedback to help inform decision makers of the issues of most importance to you and our fellow volunteers.  

Be part of improving CFA and help us make a difference. 

 

Inviting applications for the CFA Board

VFBV is now seeking applications from any CFA volunteer interested in applying for any of the volunteer nominated positions on the CFA Board.

The terms of CFA Board Members Dawn Hartog, Kent Griffin, Beth Davidson and Peter Shaw due to expire in mid 2022. All four members are eligible for re-nomination, but will be required to reapply for nomination.

The CFA legislation recognises that it is important that the CFA Board has strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of CFA volunteers.

To support this, CFA legislation provides for four of the CFA Board’s Members to be appointed from a panel of names submitted by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, two being representatives from brigades predominantly serving urban communities and two being representatives from brigades predominantly serving rural communities.

CFA volunteers who believe they have the skills, experience and capacity to make a contribution to the Board of the CFA, are invited to apply. VFBV is seeking gender and culturally diverse candidates, in addition to a diverse range of skills and experience including applicants from diverse brigade type and classifications.

Please visit the VFBV website for further details. Applications close 1st February 2022.

 

Working with Children (Adverse Notice) Procedure Feedback

Members would recall, earlier in the year CFA engaged in consultation with VFBV over proposed changes to its working with children business rule and policies.

Following member feedback, VFBV provided comprehensive feedback to CFA that while supporting the majority of the proposed changes in principle – we did not support CFA’s proposed procedure to deal with adverse notices.

It was VFBV’s view (informed by your feedback) that the proposed procedure did not afford sufficient procedural fairness, did not provide robust privacy to members, and there was a lack of structure in the arrangements to ensure a consistent and robust approach across the State. It was our view the procedure could not be cured by just tweaking it and instead requested that CFA form a working party to allow us to work with CFA to co-design a more suitable process.

CFA agreed to that request, and a small working party was formed consisting of 6 VFBV nominees and 3 CFA nominees. This working party has worked diligently since April to co-design a robust procedure that they believe provides for the safety of children and young people, ensures privacy and confidentiality throughout the process and affords procedural fairness.

CFA is now requesting formal consultation on the revised procedure.

You will note that the revised policy only deals with volunteers. A very similar staff procedure is also currently being developed and consulted on, and we are advised the intent will be to ensure both operate effectively the same, but with subtle differences to account for the slightly different procedures required for each cohort. (For example, staff suspension or dismissal involves a different process etc.)

VFBV is now seeking members review the updated procedure (available on our website), and provide any further comment/feedback to Christine Fryer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by Monday 14th February 2022.

When providing feedback - we would also be keen to gauge support for the revised procedure, so please feel free to indicate support and/or concerns.

We thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to your feedback.

 

Fire Wise – January 2022 online only edition

The January 2022 edition of Fire Wise has been published online only, this edition and past editions are available from the Fire Wise website.

You can support Fire Wise and the role it plays as an independent voice in keeping volunteers informed by becoming a subscriber. To become a Fire Wise subscriber visit the Fire Wise website or contact the Managing Editor of Fire Wise, Gordon Rippon-King either by phone 0402 051 412 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

COVID-19 Updates

CFA has been operating a full COVID incident management team since the start of the pandemic. This IMT is led by the Chief Officer, and includes all the Deputy Chief Officers, senior members of the CFA Executive and key personnel from across the organisation including OH&S, Logistics, the State Agency Commander, and Comms etc. The Association is represented by the VFBV CEO who provides an association perspective as well as escalating any issues raised through the VFBV District Council Network.

The IMT meets between two to seven days per week depending on the circumstances and impacts of COVID-19 on CFA operations. The group receives daily updates from the Department of Health, and uses multiple data sources to monitor not only community transmission and vaccine levels but also internal data such as number of positive cases within CFA and any impacts on brigade capability or response.

Changes to CFA District COVID response levels are made by this group on the recommendation of the Deputy Chief Officer (Service Delivery) from each of the 5 regions. ACFO's are required to consult with Group Officers prior to a recommendation to raise or lower an individual District (or LGA) response level. If you are a group officer who is not routinely engaged by your District ACFO in discussions around your COVID response level, you are encouraged to raise this issue with your Deputy Chief Officer for your region in the first instance.

Response levels in some Districts are expected to be closely reviewed over coming weeks depending on the numbers of members isolating and community transmission trends. Fortunately, CFA's volunteer model provides robust surge capacity and an interconnected network of volunteer brigades that is designed specifically to deal with such scenario's and CFA response has not been adversely impacted throughout the entire pandemic.

Changes to COVID response levels is expected to impact co-located brigades, due to FRV locations being required to be treated similar to 'exposure sites' when an FRV crew member is diagnosed with COVID. This is due in part to their dormitory style model where crews are effectively 'living and sleeping' on station and considered similar to 'household' contacts under the revised close contact rules. Arrangements are being discussed to try and minimise the impacts of these occurrences on co-located brigades and members are thanked for their patience and understanding.

In further news, discussions have been underway for some time to secure rapid antigen tests for use within CFA. World wide impacts on supply and constrains within the logistics networks has made this more difficult, but limited supply is due as early as next week. Given the limited numbers available, and community demand for RAT's - procedures are being drafted to ensure an equitable and risk based approach to their use. This will assist maintain operational capacity and ensure RAT's are only used for exposure through CFA activities only.

Further details will be shared shortly. Members are encouraged to continue to practice COVID safe practices and monitor CFA updates for changes.

 

AdBlue Update

Members may be aware that there is a predicated global shortage of Urea (AdBlue) which is used in vehicles with modern diesel engines to be complaint with emission standards.

Members should be assured that this is expected to have minimal impact on CFA's operational capability, as all CFA emergency response vehicles operate under a general exemption granted for emergency services and have the torque limited (often referred to as limp mode) function disabled.

A recent audit of all operational vehicles has confirmed and verified that the majority of impacted vehicles have had this function disabled. However, in the case of a shortage of AdBlue, members need to be aware that a warning lamp within the vehicle instrument cluster will still be activated when the AdBlue level reaches a pre-determined level.

During the audit, it has been identified that a very small number of Scania cab chassis vehicles have not had the torque reduction properly disabled, and those brigades have been advised. These vehicles will be required to attend a service centre so Scania can complete the works, which will take less than an hour. All affected vehicles have been scheduled for service well before supply is expected to be impacted. VFBV delegates to the Joint Equipment and Infrastructure committee will be seeking a review of CFA's internal quality assurance process to ensure future vehicle handovers include verification that the torque limiting function has been completed prior to CFA accepting the vehicle from the manufacturer.

In the case of an AdBlue shortage, CFA has also secured an emergency supply of AdBlue which will be stored centrally and distributed if necessary as required to ensure emergency response capability is protected.

 

2022 State Championships

Entries are now open for the 2022 State Championships which will be held on consecutive weekends in March 2022 at Mooroopna. All team entries and judge and official registrations will close on Sunday 20th February 2022.

The Urban Junior State Championship will be held on the weekend of Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March with the Rural Senior and Junior and Urban Senior Championships on the following weekend Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th March.

Similar to the 2021 State Championships, all entries and registrations will again be collected online, please visit the VFBV Website for links to enter your team or register as a judge or official for any of the Championships.

Updated Rule Books are also available from the VFBV Website for both the Urban and Rural Competitions along with a list of local competitions being conducted in 2022. The local competitions are also printed on page 12 of this months edition of Fire Wise.

Any Brigade or member needing assistance with the Team or Judge and Official registration process, please contact the VFBV office 9886 1141 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CFA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Position Vacant

VFBV is seeking to appoint a VFBV Support Officer to work in regional Victoria with VFBV District Councils, Brigades and volunteers to facilitate consultation, issues resolution and volunteer engagement.

The position is a state role, with emphasis and focus on providing support throughout CFA’s Northwest region (CFA Districts 2, 14, 18 and 20.)

This is an existing position, with the incumbent due to depart shortly.

In addition to relevant skills and experience, candidates will need to understand CFA and volunteerism, be good listeners; be able to facilitate good consultation; ability to establish productive networks; navigate through complex issues resolution; be self-starters and have a passion to improve arrangements that benefit the welfare and efficiency of CFA volunteers.

Extensive regional Victorian work travel is envisaged, and flexible work base locations will be considered for the position, with the priority focus to assign a work location within the CFA Northwest region.

Flexible working arrangements, to cater for extensive evening and weekend work, will be tailored to match the needs of our volunteer membership base. This is a full-time position.

Prior to applying you should familiarise yourself with the Position Description which is available from the VFBV office or website.

Applications close Tuesday 8th February 2022

 

Update your status

CFA is requesting that all members please update their CFA record with their COVID-19 Vaccination status as soon as possible, as pre the Chief Health Officer’s directions.
 
ONLINE: www.members.cfa.vic.gov.au   

PHONE: (03) 9262 8663

 

Recent articles on the VFBV website

2022 State Championships – Entries Now Open

Inviting applications for the CFA Board

Now Open – 2021/2022 VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey

Working with Children Adverse Notice Procedure

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Position Vacant – VFBV Support Officer (North West)

 

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Read 4305 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 12:00
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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