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February 2022 Newsletter

Don’t be a drip! Take a sip! 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer 

Well, what an interesting fire season this is shaping up to be. While we often joke about the four seasons in a day when describing Melbourne weather, this would actually be a very fitting description of the fire season so far.

And while there is still plenty of season left before we call it, predictions of a milder and wetter season have certainly been accurate, with the usual run of spike days sprinkled in for good measure. Despite heavy rain in some areas, there are still large parts of the State that are bone dry and require our vigilance. Recent fires along the Victorian/South Australian border and throughout the western districts are a good example of how quickly things can turn.

Thank you to all members who have done an exceptional job and gone from dealing with fire on one day, only to then swing into supporting storm and flood emergencies on the next. Lightening has been a particular aggravator this season and will likely continue over the next little while. The agility, professionalism and duty displayed by all responding members has been outstanding as usual.

And while I touched on heat safety messages and the importance of hydration in last month’s column, a recent small spike of heat-related incidents from recent fires urges me to repeat it.

Please remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking when you’re thirsty is too late. Thirst is your bodies alarm bell that you are approaching serious dehydration. And even then, it can take 45 minutes for your body to rehydrate from the fluids you take to quench that thirst. More serious dehydration can lead to heat stroke or sending your body into shock and land you in hospital where best case scenario is you’re looking at a minimum of 24 hours of intravenous fluids.

It sounds like such a simple message that we often feel embarrassed to have to say it, but it is one of those basics that can be easily overlooked when we get so busy. And while the extra humidity is throwing us all for a bit of a loop with the extra perspiration, it can’t hurt to keep the message on full rotation.

Could I please request crew leaders and senior volunteers continue to spruik the message at every opportunity. There may very well be a member whose life you save from this very simple reminder.

COVID-SAFE

Thank-you also to members for the very disciplined approach crews are continuing to take with COVID safe practices on the fire ground. We have continued our outstanding record of keeping COVID exposures to an absolute minimum.

This is not only critical to keep our brigades online but protects our service delivery and vital volunteer surge capacity.

This hard work and diligence are paying off, with exposures acquired through CFA activities remaining relatively low. This demonstrates the professionalism of all CFA members and the efficacy of high compliance with the COVID-Safe basics of physical distancing, sanitising and ensuring masks are worn on those occasions that physical distance cannot be maintained. (Such as in the fire truck.)

VFBV continues to work hard with stakeholders to ensure members are supported through the pandemic, with the VFBV Welfare Fund continuing to catch anyone falling through the cracks and needing some extra assistance.

After long advocacy, the ability to request targeted additional vaccine hubs for areas that have been having difficulty accessing booster shots is finally a reality. If you have been having difficulty making a booking due to limited opportunities in your area, please ensure this gets raised with your Captain or Group Officer so it can be raised with your ACFO. Deputy Chief Officer’s now have the ability to submit requests for additional hubs from health for areas experiencing shortages, and where local demand indicates a need. So, ensuring this information is fed through your chain of command remains critical in making sure we match resources with demand.

I am also pleased to report that CFA’s Service Delivery Reporting Centre is now fully available to assist members update their CFA vaccine records. The dedicated staff that support brigades entering their fire reports 7 days a week have now been upskilled to support vaccine recording as part of business as usual.

While previously the vaccine hotline only operated during business hours with limited staff, with the extra training and commitment from the SDRC staff, members may now phone the SDRC on (03) 9262 8663 anytime between 9am and 9pm - seven days a week to update their vaccination status. While it is still preferred that members update their own status via the website, for those who can’t access Brigades online or are having difficulty, the phone option is a terrific way to provide an extra option for people who need a little more help and support to update their status.

And with the extra capacity now online, you will likely get straight through. So, if you’ve been put off by some delays in the past and have given up – give it another go. It’s easy and simple and should only take a minute or two.

And finally, VFBV is continuing to push for the increased provision of rapid antigen tests for all emergency service workers, to assist members who are exposed to COVID positive cases through their emergency response roles.

VFBV has been very critical of the approach taken by the sector to date that has seen CFA (and other emergency service partners) not receive any priority allocation of RATs from Government held supplies.

Instead, CFA and other agencies have been at the mercy of their own individual procurement processes on the open market, which has been extremely challenging given limited supplies across the private sector.

VFBV has sought the support and assistance of the Minister for Emergency Services and continues to advocate for greater Government support and assistance to help provide members with appropriate options to minimise isolation and other considerations that stem from COVID exposures experienced by volunteer emergency responders that impact themselves, their families, their employers and their businesses.

VALE

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and loved ones of South Australian CFS volunteer firefighter Louise Hincks.

Louise was fighting a blaze near Lucindale (in South Australia’s southeast) on the 21st January 2022 when she was hit by a falling, burning branch, as she and her crew battled the blaze, causing fatal injuries.

Louise was a devoted mother of two and joined the CFS in 1994. A member of the CFS Happy Valley Brigade, she was also a qualified psychologist in her everyday role which she used over the years to help dozens of her fellow CFS volunteers.

Louise was much loved and embodied the virtues and spirit of all volunteer firefighters, signing up to her local CFS brigade (Eden Hills) as a teenager and selflessly serving her community for almost 30 years with distinction – always looking to help others.

She will be sorely missed, and her tragic loss is felt across the entire firefighting family. VFBV on behalf of all Victorian firefighters extends its deepest sympathies to Louise’s family, brigade, peers and loved ones.

A fellow volunteer working with Louise was also seriously injured at the same time, and is expected to make a full recovery. We wish him a speedy recovery and also pay tribute to all responding crews, including CFA members, who assisted with cross border operations to bring the blaze under control.

WELFARE & EFFICIENCY SURVEY

Thank-you to all members who have completed the VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey. There has been a terrific response so far.

The survey is now in its final weeks, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to do the survey, please visit www.vfbv.com.au/cfa to do it now.

The survey is a critical way to link grass roots members with decision makers and ensure that volunteers influence current and future priorities. It only takes about 10 minutes, and is central to keeping us informed about what is working and what isn’t.

Its ok to feel cynical from time to time about how long some things take to change. We all feel this way at times, but the important thing is to never give up.

I am constantly inspired by the passion and enthusiasm of our volunteers, and the selfless dedication and duty they display on a daily basis to keep their communities safe. It’s this passion that motivates us to never give up and always keep trying.

Participating in the annual survey is one small way we can all help the cause and ensure that volunteer views and feedback are at the top of the agenda.

To round out this month’s theme, I’ll leave you with a quote about water that intertwines perfectly with our commitment to volunteer advocacy:

“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

Stay safe (and don’t forget to hydrate!)


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. 


 
Feedback Requested

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.

 

2022 State Champs

Entries are 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.

Any Brigade or member needing assistance with the Team of 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. 

 
Fire Wise – February 2022 online only edition

The February 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. 

 

AFSM Honours


Included in the 2022 Australia Day Honours list was three CFA volunteers who were awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in recognition of their contribution to the community.

John Clarke AFSM (Hilldene Fire Brigade) has been a dedicated CFA volunteer since 1965. His award recognises John for his dedication to improving the safety of the community from fires and other emergencies as well as his outstanding leadership qualities and management abilities, including his contributions during the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

Gill Metz AFSM (Riddells Creek Fire Brigade) has been a CFA member since 2000 and has held the roles of Lieutenant, Training Coordinator, Secretary and Group delegate. Gill has been committed to ensuring that volunteer response capabilities are recognised, measured and integrated into future planning and as an advocate for increased youth involvement and increased diversity within CFA.

Graeme Higgs AFSM (Drouin West Fire Brigade) has been a dedicated CFA volunteer for close to 50 years. Graeme has served in leadership roles for most of his time at CFA, including 20 years as Captain of Drouin West Brigade, junior leader and is currently a Deputy Group Officer of the Baw Baw Group.

This year’s honours also included two Fire Rescue Victoria firefighters Brad Quinn AFSM and Wayne Rigg AFSM. Wayne would be known to many CFA members, first joining CFA as a volunteer with the Eildon Fire brigade, before joining as a career firefighter and rising through the ranks to become CFA’s State Aircraft Unit Officer where he has made a significant contribution to the sectors aviation response.

VFBV congratulates all these members for their outstanding contribution.

 

Intermediate Bushfire Behaviour
CFA has implemented a VFBV recommendation to conduct pilot courses in parallel with the consultation process in Intermediate Bushfire Behaviour (IBB) which VFBV has been actively pursuing for sometime to ensure volunteers have every opportunity to grow their knowledge and transition to level 2 and above IMT positions including Ground Observing/ Field Intelligence and Sector Commander.

Intermediate Bushfire Behaviour is a pre-requisite for the above examples. IBB was updated in collaboration with EMV a number of years ago but was never formally released for use nor was it actively promoted as being available, sitting idle until recent discussions bought the issue to light.

As part of the IBB progression, VFBV is also continuing to actively pursue Ground Observing courses with a similar consultative pilot courses accepted by CFA to be held. We will keep you updated.

 

Inviting applications for the CFA Board
VFBV are seeking applications from any CFA volunteer interested in applying for any of the volunteer nominated positions on the CFA Board, with applications closing on Tuesday 8th February 2022. 

In addition to volunteer experience and knowledge, selection will have regard to any of the following: knowledge of, or experience in, commercial, technical, operational, legal or financial matters; or expertise in fire or emergency management, land management or any other field relevant to the performance of the functions of CFA. 

Please visit the VFBV website for further details and the application process. Applications close 8th February 2022.

 

Position Vacant – VFBV Support Officer
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 North West Region (CFA Districts 2, 14, 18 and 20). 

For full details and application process, please visit the VFBV website

Applications close Tuesday 8th February 2022. 

 
Update Your Status


For the information of members, CFA is obligated under the Health Directions to collect and store your vaccination status.

Members are reminded to update your CFA record after you receive your booster. You can do so via the CFA website, or by calling CFA’s Service Delivery Reporting Centre via (03) 9262 8663 between 9am to 9pm, 7 days a week.

Under Victoria’s new pandemic management framework, Chief Health Officer (CHO) directions have been replaced with Pandemic Orders that are now made by the health minister. CFA and other emergency service volunteers like the SES are all classified as ‘Emergency Service Workers’ under the current pandemic orders.

The order currently in place as at writing and relating to CFA is the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specific Workers) Order 2022 (No.2) which commenced on 12 January 2022 and ends on the 12 April 2022. This order covers booster deadlines.

Under this order, emergency service workers who received their second dose on or before the 12th September last year – and who wish to continue to work outside their normal place of residence - are required to receive their 3rd dose by the 12 February 2022.

If you received your second dose after the 12th September last year, then you have until the 12 March 2022 to receive your third dose, unless you have a valid exemption.

Members can view all Pandemic orders for themselves at: www.health.vic.gov.au   

 

 
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 

Position Vacant – VFBV Support Officer (North West) 

Working with Children Adverse Notice Procedure 

Australia Day Honours 2022 

Updating your Vaccination Status (Update) 

 

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Read 4415 times Last modified on Friday, 04 February 2022 16:38
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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