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Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 10/08/14)

VOLUNTEER STRATEGY

Work on the Volunteer Strategy is continuing with input from VFBV with VFBV State Council and Board having had several opportunities to input at a broad level. The draft strategy is still being progressed and is likely to be presented to the CFA Board at their September meeting. Work on the strategy will then continue over the next three to six months, with the focus being to road test and discuss the draft strategy with volunteers more broadly and to get volunteer input into what needs to be done to convert the strategy into real results on the ground. The draft strategy should be available for District & Regional level discussions from October onwards.

VOLUNTEER SUPPORT PROGRAM

CFA have advised that twenty new Volunteerism Co-Ordinators, with one located in each District have commenced and their focus is on co-ordinating and implementing District volunteerism initiatives, aligned to state and local priorities. They now join the members from the Wellbeing Pilot and Brigade Sustainability Pilots, to complete the 60 staff employed under the Volunteer Support Project. VFBV has requested clear and concise communications go out to the field to ensure members understand the role and objectives of each of the three pilot programs & how they will interact & coordinate.

The Committee will now be focussing on evaluating the programs and gaining feedback from volunteers in the field. The feedback we are seeking, amongst other things is the effectiveness of the tools being developed; how they are introduced to Brigades; the Brigade’s accessibility and line of sight to the 60 support officers/staff; and if they are making a difference out in the field on matters important to Brigades and volunteers. The feedback will be used along the way to help improve the projects and will be used during the pilots final evaluation early next year.

With each of these three projects having different roles and reporting streams, it is important that Brigades understand what is available for them and how they access each. If you are unsure what the projects are, or require assistance from any of them, contact your Operations Manager/Officer who has been briefed on the role and function of each stream.

VOLUNTEER SUPPORT PROGRAM - RESOURCES

The Volunteer Support Program is developing and updating many resources and tools for Brigades to use for their benefit. Some of these tools, include attraction, recruitment and retention guides, customisable promotional products, volunteer resources catalogue, online Brigade Leadership HUB, F&EM Roles Pathways Map and an online CFA apparel shop, to name just a few.

VFBV support and encourage these initiatives but also seek to ensure these useful tools and resources are informed by the field, and not developed in isolation. Formal VFBV consultative forums are an important link for the project teams to engage and seek feedback from brigades, and provide opportunities for volunteers to test and review the tools before they are published for accuracy, relevance and ease of use. The Committee believes this is an area that could be improved, as feedback from Brigades is important to ensure that the correct tools, with the correct information are being developed for what Brigades need. The Committee looks forward to greater engagement on these products in the future.

VOLUNTEER SURVEY RESULTS

The VFBV Welfare & Efficiency Survey and CFA’s Volunteer Survey have both been completed, with a combined total of over 4,000 responses. Results from both surveys will be available shortly. The Committee has requested that CFA formulate an action plan to address any areas of weakness, and to promote and build upon any identified strengths.

Published in Volunteerism Committee

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 10/08/14)

PHASED BA COMPETENCY ENDORSED BY CHIEF OFFICER

After long delays, the Committee has been advised that the Chief Officer has now endorsed the proposal for phased Breathing Apparatus (BA) competencies. Essentially, this means that there will now be two levels of BA training & competency. Level 1 will be for training on BA for external fire attack such as car fires, bin fires and haystacks. Level 2 will incorporate search and rescue aspects and internal structural attack scenarios. Work is now underway to establish suitable BA training and assessment packages and processes. A pilot is also underway in District 13 to trial different helmet markings that will be used to denote the two different levels of BA competency a member holds.

DRIVER TRAINING / HEAVY VEHICLE LICENCE TESTING

Work continues on the selection of approved licence testing providers for CFA members to attain heavy vehicle licenses. CFA is currently negotiating with VicRoads as to exemptions to cover training aspects which are delivered internal to CFA members being recognized by VicRoads for license testing purposes, such as the “Drive Operation Vehicles” package. VFBV has also requested CFA review the budgetary arrangements and District inconsistencies with members getting access to CFA funded heavy vehicle licence testing. Given the cost of heavy vehicle license testing to an individual can be hundreds of dollars, VFBV has requested CFA review the “one strike and you’re out” policy that is in effect in some Districts, which see volunteers having to pay for any subsequent testing themselves, should they fail their initial assessment. The Committee has requested CFA replace it with a discretionary policy which could review cases on their merits and support members in the attainment of a licence for the benefit of the Brigade.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY AWARENESS – NEW REFERENCE MANUAL

The new Electrical Safety Awareness Reference Manual has now been completed, and is available for ordering through your District Office or through Training Materials Online. The manual provides basic awareness to identify electrical hazards at incidents and how to minimize risk and avoid injury. The manual includes information on solar power.

WORKING WITH LADDERS – NEW REFERENCE MANUAL

Working with Ladders Reference Manual is now available on Training Materials Online. Copies have also been distributed to District Training departments. This reference manual is designed to provide information on the safe use of portable ladders during both operational and non-operational activities.

ATMOSPHERIC MONITORING

The Committee has requested CFA review its training strategy involving atmospheric monitoring equipment. This follows complaints from some members who have been told that they must complete the Monitor Hazardous Atmospheres course in order to use a handheld monitor such as the LD322’s. The Committees view is that there should be a basic awareness package aimed at “operator status” in order for firefighters to easily deploy & use the equipment during incidents, with higher level training for those expected to interpret the readings or results of the monitoring equipment.

WHO CAN TRAIN AND ASSESS?

At the Committee’s request, CFA has agreed to re-establish the CFA Training Ground User Reference Groups. CFA have committed to re-establishing these important groups by 31 December this year to all 8 Training Grounds. The Committee commends this decision and will continue to enthusiastically monitor their progress.

Published in Training Committee

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 31/08/14)

VOLUNTEER UTILISATION IN IMTs

The Committee again discussed its concerns surrounding the underutilization of Volunteers within IMT’s, and the barriers that are preventing Volunteers involvement. Practical examples like long shift deployments of 7 and 14 days, and short notice (night before) for deployments makes it almost impossible for Volunteers to negotiate with their employers. The Committee has also voiced its concerns about perceived cherry picking of roles, with Volunteers only used to fill gaps.

Disappointingly, CFA have advised that the HCMS system that was planned to be online for this fire season would not be ready. This system would have assisted with the scheduling and tracking of member availability over the FDP.

The Committee has requested the Chief Officer form a clear intent statement for the use of Volunteers within IMT’s and encourage and promote the flexibilities required to maximize their involvement. The Committee has also requested that CFA write to the Emergency Management Commissioner requesting he also take steps to encourage, maintain and strengthen the utilization of Volunteers in all multi-agency endeavours.

LOW VOLTAGE FUSE REMOVAL

The Committee has escalated the issue of Low Voltage Fuse Removal training, after being advised by the Joint Training Committee that they were still waiting for Chief Officer’s endorsement. VFBV first raised this issue in 2008, and has been seeking operational support and priority for members to be trained in low voltage fuse removal for all structural brigades in order to ensure the safety of crews during first attack. Long delays by power companies attending incidents continues to acerbate the issue.

The Committee has warned that after years of inaction, and delays in an approved package being delivered, swathes of members currently qualified in low voltage fuse removal, are facing the expiry of their qualifications, and no pathway for reaccreditation. The Committee is seeking an urgent decision by the Chief Officer.

HEAVY PUMPER AND SPECIALIST APPLIANCE INCREMENTS

CFA has agreed to investigate why so few Volunteers have been trained and endorsed for specialist appliances. The problem is most acute at integrated locations, where even the number of Volunteers endorsed to operate Heavy Pumpers (which is not a piece of specialist equipment) is extremely low, yet at Volunteer Brigades with Heavy Pumpers there are very high numbers of members trained. CFA has an obligation under the CFA Act to encourage and support Volunteers to deliver all its services, yet there does not appear to be any measures or KPI’s in place to monitor how well it does that. The Committee has received reports from many Volunteers over the last 12 months who have described the barriers that appear to be preventing Volunteers gaining endorsement on specialist appliances. Whilst an opportunity to train is one thing, the Committee has also stressed the need for there to be affirmative action plans to have Volunteers use that equipment, to address the chicken and egg analogy of why someone would want to be trained on something that they never get to use. The Committee is hoping to see a renewed focus with the introduction of ACO’s.

REVERSE SECTION 29 PILOT EXTENDED

The reverse Section 29 Pilot has been relaunched, with an online option to be provided to Brigades during the trial period that commenced 9 July 2014. The trial has now been extended to 30 June 2015. Any Brigades wishing to complete the “reverse section 29” can do so, simply ask your Operations Officer or Operations Manager to send you the link. The reverse S29 provides Brigades an opportunity to provide feedback to CFA to capture key viability challenges faced by Brigades.

Published in Operations Committee

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 31/08/14)

WELLBEING PILOT EVALUATION

The Wellbeing Pilot Program has been progressively rolled out to CFA Brigades in recent months. Contact with the Wellbeing Field Officers who are able to provide support for issues such as Mental Health concerns and Relationship Issues (which may be related to Interpersonal conflict within a Brigade) can be initiated at a number of points, including individual referral, through the Brigade and CIS Peers. The initiatives being implemented support CFA members to be better able to operate in a psychologically healthy and safe environment and as a result support the ongoing viability of Brigades. Anecdotal feedback to VFBV at this point in time has been positive.

CFA has agreed to the Committees request for it to be actively engaged in the Pilot Program’s evaluation, and delivered upon that commitment with a briefing on how the program is being evaluated. VFBV is keen to ensure that the Pilot Program is developed in a manner that delivers the best results to members and it is important that broad ranging and rigorous evaluation of the program is conducted in an ongoing manner.

Depending on the circumstances of each contact with the Wellbeing Field Officers the evaluation process will have the flexibility to be sensitively undertaken according to the needs and appropriate follow up for each case’s ongoing health and progress. Evaluation will in most instances not be limited to one opportunity to provide feedback as it may be that initially the outcomes of the support from the Wellbeing Field Officers may not be known for some time or that events at a local or personal level may require that implemented strategies are reviewed.

OH&S POLICIES AND PROCEDURES REVIEW

CFA has undertaken a review of many OH&S policies and procedures as a result of recent and ongoing changes in Legislation. The Committee has been provided with draft copies of the changes, and had a productive discussion surrounding the purpose and objectives of the procedures.

Delegates have raised their concerns that many of the organisations OH&S Policies and Procedures are written very much in the context of a CFA Office location, and are extremely difficult to understand within a Brigade context. Given the vast majority of CFA workplaces are in fact Fire Stations, and volunteers operate in a far more complex and dynamic environment than administration offices, the Committee has urged CFA produce far simpler, practical and easier to read guidance for Brigades use.

CFA has agreed to investigate an alternate strategy that would still ensure member and community safety is maintained without Brigades incurring an unnecessarily onerous burden of paperwork and training in procedures that are rarely used and/or are not applicable. An example used by the Committee was the requirement for all locations to conduct a fire drill once a year. There are 1,219 CFA work locations that would find this requirement humorous to say the least.    

VOLUNTEER EQUAL OPPORUNTIY OFFICERS

CFA has advised that they will no longer be supporting the voluntary EEO Officer network that was established in the early 90’s. CFA data indicates that in recent years there have been very few contacts made by members with these Officers, and that training and skill maintenance has been progressively scaled back over the years as the complexity of legislation in this field has increased. CFA feels this role can now be better managed through the Wellbeing Field Officers and specialist support available through the Wellbeing Pilot. The Committee has cautiously accepted the decision, but has raised its concern with the sustainability of a paid only model. Delegates still see value in a voluntary network similar to the CIS Peer Program, which would embed these skills and knowledge within Brigades.

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 09/08/14)

REAR DECK ACCESS HATCHES

The committee has for some time been advocating for easier methods for crews to embark and disembark from the rear working deck on tankers. Issues around access have been exacerbated by CFA’s decision to not accommodate a rear facing ROPS area on new tankers, which necessitates crews having to frequently embark and disembark between trips and protracted incidents where water points are located long distances from the fire line. CFA have advised that the main reason for the phasing out of external ROPS on new truck builds has been due to them not meeting modern day Australian Design Regulations and health and safety concerns raised by Worksafe.

Many years ago, rear deck access hatches (DAH’s) where trialled in some crew cabins, that would allow crews to access the rear deck by a small door at the rear of the main cabin. Whilst feedback from the trial was mixed, they are no longer an alternative due to modern truck cabin designs which has resulted in manufacturers no longer willing to build DAH’s due to fear that they may impact upon the structural integrity of the cabin.

The Committee has strongly advocated the need to address the issue urgently, with CFA Fleet Services agreeing to investigate options and report back. Initial investigations will look at folding stair or ladder adjustments through to the enclosed rear facing modules that mining companies have been using that would provide an enclosed ROPS that would meet Australian Design Regulations. (ADR’s)

MEDIUM TANKER ROAD HANDLING INVESTIGATION

After several reports to the Committee from Brigades using the new Medium Tankers raising concerns about road handling, CFA agreed to commission an independent expert report to test the vehicles road handling. The report has conclusively found not only that the vehicle is safe, but scores quite highly across the board on most of the individual test results.

Prior to the test, CFA wrote to 124 Brigades who have a Medium Tanker, inviting them to provide feedback on the trucks handling. Of those, only 10 Brigades expressed concerns, with most indicating its performance in highway driving. For the purposes of the test, CFA provided a new tanker straight off the production line, as well as two tankers from the two Brigades who had raised the most concern over its handling. All three vehicles were tested using identical scenarios and criteria.

The full results are currently being collated, and will be provided to the Committee shortly. Discussion on the initial analysis of Brigade feedback and the independent test results indicates that driver training needs to be improved, especially considering brigades are usually upgrading from a 20 or 30 year truck, and thus may not fully appreciate the significance of changes. The Committee has requested that CFA review its training materials in order to provide a better comparison between models – and to highlight area’s that Brigades should concentrate on during vehicle changeover training.

BRIGADE OWNED VECHICLE INSURANCE ISSUES

The Committee is strongly advocating for CFA and the CFA Board to modify its Policies on insurance coverage involving Brigade Owned Vehicles. Under current policies, CFA will only provide market value to Brigades whose vehicles are written off on the fire ground. The committee has used four recent examples where this has occurred, and where the CFA response has been completely inadequate. Whilst not necessarily arguing for new for old, the Committee is adamant that the policy must be like for like at a minimum, and CFA must support Brigades to return to status quo after an incident.

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 30/08/14)

2014 Annual Community Safety Forum

This year’s forum was yet again another huge success, with a record 390 members attending, from 185 Brigades.

The Committee reviewed feedback from this year’s participants, with an overwhelming number of responses rating the weekend as exceptional. This is now the fourth year of the Annual Forum, and its continued growth and success is directly attributed to its bottom up design and construct which see’s volunteers actively designing and running the weekend, with vols speaking to vols in the conduct of the majority of plenary and workshop sessions. The Committee congratulates the Volunteer Reference Group on another successful year, and also commends Jamie Devenish, CFA’s Member Engagement Project Manager, for his untiring support and enthusiasm to this annual event.

IFMP AUDIT

In response to the Committees continued calls for reform of the IFMP process, CFA has commissioned an external audit by KPMG, to audit and review the effectiveness of Brigade involvement in IFMP at the municipal level.

The draft report has vindicated the Committees concerns, with its key findings that CFA could better facilitate and improve volunteer and Brigade involvement in the process and address the perceived gaps between the new IFMP process and the former MFPC structure.

The report now provides CFA with substantive data and provides recommendations on how to address the shortfalls. CFA has agreed to reconstitute the IFMP State Committee, and VFBV is looking forward to working with CFA to implement an action plan that will better support and encourage strong Brigade involvement in the IFMP process.

CHANGES TO VICTORIAN PLANNING PROVISIONS (BMO)

The Committee received a detailed briefing on Amendment VC109 which includes significant changes to the bushfire controls contained in the Victorian Planning Provisions. One of the most significant changes has been the modification in some places from CFA being a “determining referral authority” to now only being a “recommending referral authority”. As a recommending referral authority CFA still provides advice in relation to an application, however the local Council is no longer bound to follow CFA’s advice. This is a significant change & will need to be monitored, as under the previous legislation Council was bound to follow CFA’s advice and apply any conditions CFA imposed on an application.

Other changes include alterations to defendable space requirements, provision of acceptable bushfire protection measures, construction standards, and the ability for removal of vegetation within defendable space.

CFA is currently considering the impact of these changes, and are seeking clarification from Department of Transport, Planning & Local Infrastructure who are responsible for the legislation.

CHIEF OFFICERS INTENT STATEMENT: COMMUNITY PREPAREDNESS & FIRE PREVENTION

This year, it has been proposed that the Chief Officer issue an intent statement for this upcoming fire season that sets out his expectations for community preparedness and fire prevention. The statement will provide guidance and clarity that will allow Brigades & Staff to prioritize activities according to local risk, key needs and the availability of resources. It is hoped that as a result, Communities will be safer and more resilient due to fire prevention plans and actions having reduced the impact of fire on communities and assets, and those at risk are aware of their risk and ready to respond to warnings and advice. The need to change community attitudes was a popular discussion point at this year’s forum.

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held Saturday 30/08/14)

LISTENING SETS

The VFBV/CFA Listening Set working party have recently met, and been provided a briefing on the results of CFA’s submission to the Victorian Government Tendering Website, for Expressions of Interest for the supply and delivery of a VHF/UHF digital listening set. Whilst there are complex probity issues involved in the evaluation & selection process, CFA has agreed to VFBV’s request for the volunteer delegates to each be provided an evaluation unit of CFA’s preferred model, in order for them to conduct field evaluations. VFBV successfully argued that a desktop analysis should form only part of the selection methodology, and issues such as useability and field conditions is vital to their acceptance in the field.

Results from those evaluations have been very positive, with only minor requests going back to the manufacturer for clarification. The working party is hoping to complete field evaluation in early September, in order to allow enough time for CFA to commence negotiations with the preferred supplier in the lead up to this year’s Fire Danger Period.

VFBV has also strongly advocated for a significant financial subsidy program, in order to subsidize the initial cost to members wishing to replace existing listening sets that will be made redundant by the closing down of the analogue network. With a significant subsidy budget now available through VFBV’s support for a Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP) grant, CFA have agreed to VFBV’s request for a robust distribution and communications strategy to accompany the rollout. This will ensure equity and fairness in the process used to calculate how many subsidized units can be accommodated in the budget and how they are distributed.

Further details will be provided as soon as contractual arrangements are finalized between CFA and the manufacturer/supplier.

RADIO DISTRESS BUTTONS

The committee received reports on an increased number of radio distress button activations. With the new digital network, activation of the distress buttons on the Tait radio’s sends a priority message to VicFire, who then must implement emergency procedures to contact the radio/vehicle involved. Recently, many of these requests by VicFire have gone unanswered. This is most likely due to members accidentally activating it during routine maintenance or testing, and then switching the radio off, or are too embarrassed to respond to VicFire’s inquiry. As the radio ID is sent with all distress button activations, the committee has recommended that CFA advise District Operations Managers of any recurring problems, so that individual Brigades can be followed up if required. Brigades are requested to please ensure your members understand the severity of activating the radios distress function, and encourage your members awareness of the button during routine testing and maintenance activities, in order to avoid accidental activation.

PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS

Amid ongoing reports of frustration from Brigades who are submitting Pager Observation Reports and are reporting that they never hear back, CFA has agreed to implement an Observation Report tracking program, that will monitor all submitted Observation Reports, and their outcome. The Committee will now receive a quarterly report of all outstanding reports, including data on how quickly submitted reports in that quarter were actioned. This not only provides improved accountability to the process, but the Committee believes that this will also provide far greater transparency to the process, and help with an improved level of understanding and support to reported pager reception issues.

 

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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