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Monday, 19 December 2016 12:25

FireWise - VFBV's December Column

In This Edition

- Editorial – Reflecting on a Challenging Year

- Fire Awareness Award for Kids Program

- VFBV Welfare Fund helps 1,000 Volunteers

- 10,000 Scanners save Brigades $3 Million

- Fiskville – Action Still Needed

- Introducing VFBV Support Officer Peter Sharman

- Vale Former State Councillor Barry Pyke

- Fundraising Still Important

- Cancer Law – Remind Your Local MPs

REFLECTING ON A CHALLENGING YEAR

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

As we look back on 2016, I am sure most people will agree it has been a very challenging year.  And this year, more than most, I am looking forward to Christmas and focussing on the important things of family, friends, neighbours and enjoying the community I live in.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of our members, friends and supporters a very happy and safe Christmas.

As always I wish for a quiet Christmas and summer but we only need to reflect on this time last year to know how unpredictable things can be.  And as always I know that this is a good time of the year to remember why volunteers do what they do, how incredibly valuable that is for our communities and how good it feels to focus on why we joined CFA rather than the frustrations.

So I am not going to talk much about the latest developments in the CFA and UFU ongoing industrial dispute, other than to say it seems to be far from resolved.  CFA is seeking to have the proposed EBA considered by the Fair Work Commission under the amended Fair Work Act, and the UFU is pushing to stop this from happening. 

For CFA volunteers one of the great successes of 2016 came in the form of the changes to the Federal Fair Work Act that now provide a truly fair umpire and clear respect and protections for volunteers.

We have said all along that volunteers and VFBV have no interest in paid firefighters’ pay increase negotiations, so it can only be hoped that in addition to the recent pay increases announced by CFA, any further matters that are still outstanding can be agreed quickly.

By now CFA Brigades right across Victoria are well into gearing up and preparing for summer so, from a VFBV perspective, let’s keep this and protecting our communities as the big CFA focus for now.

Once again thanks for the tremendous activity and support over the past year.  From any turmoil there is often good to emerge and it has been extremely pleasing to see the exponential growth in the numbers of volunteers who are now deeply connected and active within VFBV.

Brigades across Victoria are more connected with VFBV than ever; our VFBV State, District and Brigade delegates are more informed and active than ever and doing a great job. We have made great progress in establishing our VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network and we have substantially raised the profile of volunteer issues. Thank you!

Our VFBV affiliation levels for this year are at a new record high, with just under 95% of Brigades affiliated with VFBV and 90% of Brigades subscribing to the VFBV Welfare Fund.

On a sadder note, the year saw the departure of some very respected people and I want to recognise and thank once again those who suffered the consequences of standing firm on their principles; Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett, CFA Board Members, CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan and CFA Chief Officer Joe Buffone, others including MFB Chief Officer Peter Rau, and many other senior CFA volunteer and paid personnel.

To all CFA volunteers and the paid staff who work with, and in support of us; to our families, employers and supporters, thank you, well done for what you do and have a safe and happy Christmas.  I am going to head into Christmas looking forward to next year and hopefully a rethink by some who need to stop and think about just how good the CFA can be if everyone is respected and respectful.  

 

AWARD FOR KIDS’ PROGRAM

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre.

The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills.

What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by Maryborough Fire Brigade volunteers in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

There’s a camp in the Mallee, sessions at a surf life saving club, activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid.

The Fire Awareness Award judges said the project goes beyond the basics in building resilience, with a range of partner organisations and reaching great numbers; over 40 students participate each year, and several have become CFA volunteers.

Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the Emergency Services Journey program and students for doing so well, and particularly Samantha Rothman for her work in developing and championing the program.

Pictured: VFBV’s Andrew Ford, Maryborough CFA Captain Darryl Wagstaff AFSM, teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman, and Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton at the Fire Awareness Awards.

 

 

VFBV WELFARE FUND HELPS 1,000

Since its creation by the urban Brigades association in 1913, the VFBV Welfare Fund has helped 1,079 volunteers in need, with more than $1.4 million in small assistance grants.

VFBV Welfare Fund grants are financed by Brigade subscriptions and the interest earned on the Fund’s invested capital, which provides the income necessary to pay grants and at the same time maintain the Fund’s asset capital base to ensure it can provide support to CFA volunteers in need for generations to come.

VFBV funds all operating and administrative costs of the Fund – so every dollar earned by the Fund’s investments and subscriptions goes to assisting volunteers in need.  Typical cases involve volunteers who are facing significant financial difficulty because of prolonged illness or a sudden death in the family.  An average individual grant from the Fund is just under $3,500.

The VFBV Welfare Fund is run as a government-approved charity by a VFBV Committee of Management under Australian Taxation Office rules, with its books independently audited every year.

Individual volunteer applications are considered by their Brigade before an application is made to the VFBV Welfare Fund Committee of Management, and over the past five years 92.5% of applications have been approved.  VFBV has also negotiated discounts on some of the volunteers’ bills, worked with their Brigades to monitor the situation in case the family needs additional assistance, and referred volunteers to sources of financial planning.

For more information, visit the VFBV Welfare Fund page.

 

10,000 SCANNERS DELIVERED - $3M SAVING FOR BRIGADES

The Digital Scanner subsidy program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA is an overwhelming success, with 10,478 digital scanners delivered to Brigades and Groups so far.  The savings to members represent over $3 million.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members.

Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which has been significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidy program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.   Download an order form here.

 

FISKVILLE FINAL REPORT – ACTION STILL NEEDED

The State Government has responded to the Fiskville Inquiry’s final report, endorsing all recommendations either fully or in part – you can download a copy of the response here.

VFBV now hopes it will be the trigger for urgent Government and CFA action on replacing Fiskville’s vital training capacity, ensuring properly monitored water quality standards for all CFA training sites, and maintaining ongoing support to all of those affected by exposure at the Fiskville site.

The announcement follows years of work from VFBV since the issue was first raised in the media in December 2011.   VFBV has consistently called for urgent remedial action at the site, independent, expert monitoring, ongoing support for everyone affected, and the urgent replacement of Fiskville’s lost training capacity. 

The closure of the site came in 2015 after the surprising discovery that water quality problems were persisting in spite of the reassurances of WorkSafe, the EPA, technical experts and CFA.

The State Government’s response to the Inquiry is not the end of the issue, but a cue for action to resolve the problems left in Fiskville’s wake.

 

VFBV SUPPORT TO BRIGADES

Newly arrived at VFBV is Support Officer Peter Sharman. 

Peter is an experienced volunteer who will work with District Councils, Brigades and volunteers in Districts, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to facilitate strong VFBV engagement with volunteers, assist District Councils with issues resolution at the local level, and support ongoing consultation with volunteers on all matters affecting them.

Peter has been a CFA volunteer since 1987.  He is an ex Captain and a currently serving Group Officer, and has served as a VFBV State Councillor, and on the VFBV/CFA Joint Volunteerism Committee and the Joint Communications and Technology Committee.

You can contact Peter Sharman on 0428 751 652 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

VALE BARRY PYKE

We were sad to learn of the recent passing of former VRFBA District 12 State Councillor and VFBV Life Member Barry Pyke.

Barry was a 50 year CFA volunteer and a long time member of the Whanregarwen Fire Brigade.  He served volunteers and the community for many years, and was an active participant in the creation of a single association in District 12 as part of the move towards the creation of VFBV.

Our sympathy goes out to Barry’s family, friends and fellow volunteers.

 

FUNDRAISING IS STILL IMPORTANT

VFBV’s work to defend the volunteer based and fully integrated CFA continues, and VFBV is still actively fundraising.

The new Federal Legislation has changed the legal ground rules to protect fire and emergency service volunteers from industrial interference, but it must be supported in the Fair Work Commission and possibly Federal courts, so we still look to the public for their support.

The public, corporate donors, community organisations and volunteers can donate to the VFBV Valuing Volunteers Fund, BSB 633 000, Account number 157 728 221, send a cheque to the Valuing Volunteers Fund, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149, or make a donation by visiting www.mycause.com.au/cfa

Note that VFBV is a non-party political organisation: it does not accept donations from political parties.

 

CANCER LAW

In the last edition of FireWise, we urged volunteers to remind their local Members of Parliament of the commitment the Government made to Victorian volunteers and paid firefighters two years ago.

Sadly, nothing has happened since then, Parliament has closed until February 2017, and this important issue for all firefighters remains unresolved.

Labor’s commitment just before it took power in 2014, said “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation”. Importantly, this promise explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  The Government has since hinted at imposing a discriminatory extra requirement for volunteers to prove an arbitrary number of turnouts before they become eligible for compensation and VFBV will be extremely disappointed if this eventuates.

Your local MPs need to know volunteers won’t accept second best just because they are not paid. Click here for more information on the firefighters' cancer law.

 

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Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:10

2 Minute Briefing - Training

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

NEW DEPUTY CHIEF OFFICER - TRAINING

The CFA Training department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that Training has now been transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and is now led by a Deputy Chief Officer - Training.

VFBV welcomes Acting DCO Gregg Paterson AFSM to the new position. Gregg brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him.

PUMPING PIT RECOMMISSIONING    

VFBV has been strongly advocating for CFA to commit to a remediation and recommissioning program for pumping pits, whose use was temporarily suspended back in February 2015. There are approximately 91 pumping pits in use across the state. Of vital importance is the need for pumping pits to be safe, and for there to be an efficient and timely program to clean, monitor water quality and ultimately recommission them for use.

For many brigades, pumping pits form the only safe, controlled and viable option for brigades to train in drafting and other related pump operations and skills maintenance.

CFA have now issued a Work Instruction on the Management of Pumping Pits, and have implemented an approved recommissioning process. CFA have advised that the ultimate decision to recommission and fund the cost of these works rests with the Region. Water testing costs between $300/$400, with the cost of cleaning and refilling to be approximately $1,000.

Delegates have raised concern that due to Regional budget limitations, these costs will be pushed back to Brigades. CFA’s advice to these concerns is that Brigades should go through the Chain of Command and ultimately to Assistant Chief Officers who hold oversight of the Regions.

AVAILABILITY OF CHAINSAW TRAINING

The Committee continues to advocate for much greater access and support for members to attain chainsaw qualification and training. Despite two Mobile Chainsaw Training trailers developed through the Mobile Prop Project back in 2015 to add additional capability for members to access chainsaw training, a UFU grievance over the training package, equipment and trailer use and design has resulted in a yearlong ban on paid instructors using these trailers to deliver any chainsaw training, resulting in the widespread cancellation of CFA planned courses for volunteers. 

CFA advises that the IR issues are now close to being resolved, and has confirmed that there are no IR restrictions that relate to volunteer trainer and assessors accessing, towing and using the trailers.

Whilst disappointed that brigades are currently unable to access paid support and delivery of chainsaw courses through CFA’s training pool, the Committee has requested that CFA increase the number of endorsed volunteer trainer and assessors to deliver this training, so that brigades can access this vital training for the upcoming fire season. CFA has agreed to streamline and prioritize volunteer access to the new trailers, equipment and training package, as well as investigate an EOI process for subject matter experts to be identified and endorsed for volunteer training and delivery.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY MOBILE PROPS

Despite significant work and progress on the design of an electrical safety mobile trailer prop back in 2014/15 CFA funding for the prop lapsed and is no longer available, leaving the project completely un-funded.   VFBV is advocating for these mobile props to be fully funded and reprioritized. Electrical Safety and specifically skills maintenance for Low Voltage Fuse Removal has been identified as a state-wide gap for quite some time, and the Committee believes the electrical safety mobile props would significantly improve capability and member access to this vital training and knowledge.

FIRST AID TRAINING

Early results from CFA’s new First Aid Training arrangements with St John appears to be positive, with great acceptance of the out-of-session course work that cuts down the course duration and allows students to do some of the course work at home and in their own time. Adjustments for postal delays is now being factored into future courses.

Published in Training Committee
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:07

2 Minute Briefing - Communications & Technology

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

DIGITAL SCANNER/LISTENING SETS TIER 3 STILL OPEN

The Digital Scanner subsidisation program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA has been an overwhelming success, since it began in October 2015. So far, 10,478 digital scanners have been ordered and shipped to Brigades and Groups across the state.  The subsidy budget, and the savings to members, represents over $3 million dollars.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have placed and received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and Tier 3 is still under way. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade was entitled to a minimum of eight units at the subsidised price.  On average, Brigades ordered 3.5 units under Tier 1, and Groups took up one of their guaranteed minimum of two units.  Under Tiers 1 and 2 members paid $150 for a scanner, with the subsidy budget paying the other $296.75

Scanners are still available: CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members. Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which was significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidisation program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.  Order forms are still available from the VFBV website.

EAS PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS MONITORING

Each quarter, the committee receives detailed reporting on the number of EAS Page observation reports submitted, including the type of issues reported, the length of time to investigate, and the results of each investigation. Encouragingly, since implementing this reporting cycle, the committee has observed a significant reduction in the time taken to resolve issues and the quality of reporting. Over the year, the 3 most common reported faults have been; not receiving messages (~38%), physical damage to the pager (~18%), and lost or stolen pagers (~10%).

Members are reminded of the importance of lodging EAS fault reports when they experience problems with their pagers. This information is critically important in identifying network performance issues as well as monitoring the health and status of the current pagers. The committee has requested that CFA investigate and prioritize the introduction of Electronic Observation Reports in addition to the current reporting option, which would provide more timely feedback to the member raising the concern. CFA has agreed to investigate, scope and report back.

PROPOSED REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE EXPANSION TO OUTER METRO DISTRICTS

For many years now VFBV and the Committee have been advocating for the Regional Mobile Radio Network to be expanded to cover the outer metropolitan districts. This network provides high quality digital P25 network capabilities and much improved radio audio quality. Under the Regional Radio Dispatch Service project announced back in 2013, the CFA network has been upgraded to the new digital network in all CFA districts excluding Districts 7, 8, 13 and 14 and has been a resounding success.

Unfortunately, these four Districts were not funded through RRDS and are still operating on the analogue dispatch network. Given these are amongst the busiest Districts in the state, the inability to access the digital dispatch network has far reaching consequences, one of them being these Districts will have no means to access improved functionality, such as the short status button functionality when it finally rolls out. Given the impact short status messaging will have on reducing radio congestion, this would provide a significant improvement to the busy outer metropolitan dispatch systems. In principle approval for expansion has now been announced, and CFA is now working with EMV, VicPol and SES in scoping a new project to potentially deliver on this commitment. VFBV welcomes this long awaited progress and will continue our advocacy to ensure the project receives adequate funding and government priority.   

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:03

2 Minute Briefing - Volunteerism

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

CFA HQ DIRECTORATE RESTRUCTURE – VOLUNTEERS & STRATEGY

The CFA Volunteerism department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that the old Learning & Volunteerism directorate has been split, with training now being transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and Volunteerism now merging with Strategy to form the new directorate of Volunteers & Strategy.

The Brigade Support Team has now been amalgamated with the Volunteerism team, with this team looking to focus on more field based staff connecting with brigades at the local level.  They will explore recruitment and re-engagement, brigade sustainability, decline and growth patterns across the state, hub and cooperative models, and community connectedness. 

The overall vision of the Volunteers and Strategy Team is to facilitate the growth of volunteerism and strengthen brigade sustainability. VFBV welcomes Executive Director John Haynes to the new position. John brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him. John’s vision is to look at more outcome based measurements, such as what we measure before, during and after fires – not just measuring performance based on time out the door.

CFA ANNUAL PLAN 2016-17 RELEASED

CFA has released its Annual Plan for 2016-17 that outlines its priorities for this period. This year’s plan outlines the five priority plan themes for CFA during the 2016/17 year. The five themes are; Capability; Culture; Stakeholder Engagement; Strategy, Plan and Direction; and Systems and Processes.
 You can download a copy at; http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/news/cfa-plan-a-must-read-for-all.html

VOLUNTEER TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT & ARRANGEMENTS

Following reports of variances between CFA Regions and Districts in how volunteer travel reimbursements are paid and authorised, the committee has requested CFA develop a State-wide Business Rule that will standardise and clarify arrangements. VFBV’s long held policy is that no volunteer should be out of pocket due to their volunteering. The Committee continues to advocate for improved access to CFA vehicles – including corporate pool vehicles when required to travel for training or other CFA related activities that would otherwise create an impost or cost upon volunteers. Should an appropriate vehicle not be available, then volunteers should have access to travel reimbursement, which is currently set at $0.72 per km. CFA has agreed to progress a policy review.

AWARD WINNING PROGRAM FOR KIDS

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre. The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills. What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by volunteers from the Maryborough Fire Brigade in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher, VFBV Board member and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

The course also includes a camp in the Mallee and sessions at a surf life saving club, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid. The program includes team and confidence building, with activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events. The Emergency Services Journey program is funded by VFBV and the Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the students for doing so well, and Samantha Rothman for her work in developing the program. Well done David, Samantha and the Maryborough Brigade!

Published in Volunteerism Committee
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:59

2 Minute Briefing - Equipment & Infrastructure

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 19/11/2016)

TANKER REAR DECK POD PROTOTYPE BECOMES A REALITY

For a number of years now, VFBV has been advocating for CFA to explore rear deck pods to trial as a possible replacement for rear deck ROPS, similar to those used in the mining industry. Ever since CFA’s decision to no longer manufacture rear deck ROPS and move exclusively to twin cab cab-chassis’, and the loss of DAH’s (Deck access hatches) volunteers have been raising concerns about the difficulty in accessing the rear deck area during jobs requiring crews to frequently move between the cab and the rear deck. The committee has been advocating for CFA to investigate the European body builders, where it has become common practice to purchase a single cab chassis and then build a crew area connected to the cabin as part of the body. This has a number of advantages including; that in a burn over situation all crew on the deck can quickly and safely return to the cabin; a reduction in crew fatigue across long fire-ground shifts; and greater safety when travelling to and from the fire ground and protection from smoke and embers.


The Committee was provided a tour and inspection of a Bell Engineering Heavy Tanker Pod Prototype, by Managing Director Robert Bell. The prototype is a ‘pod’ type construction which can be modified to slip onto any cab chassis. The ROP or rear cabin is fully self contained, very ‘roomy’ and has a large window with viewing access to the cabin and full size door access to the rear deck. A front mounted monitor, crew protection sprays, digital water level indicators on the sides as well as the back, ample storage lockers and an optional hydraulic BA lifter for easy operation are some of the great features. The Committee has requested that Bell Engineering consider loaning the prototype to CFA early next year so that a roadshow can be planned for members to view and inspect the prototype. Mr Bell has generously agreed, and VFBV extends its gratitude and appreciation to Mr Bell and the Bell Engineering Team, and congratulates them on their continued innovation, collaboration and support of Victorian fire services.

BURNOVER VEHICLE ENTRAPMENT RESEARCH - VIDEO

Following a presentation to the Committee earlier in the year from CFA’s Research & Development team, the Committee requested that CFA use this research to create a new burn-over training video that uses historical vision and vision from field testing filmed in February this year. The research team closely duplicated conditions similar to those experienced during the tragic Linton Fires in 1998 to test the response of CFA’s crew protection systems.


Three vehicles were tested, a tanker with ROP and crew protection, an Ultra-light with Gel coating and an Ultra light with foam coating. All vehicles were relatively unscathed with the temperature in the cabin of the tanker sitting at around 40 degrees whilst the outside temperature rose well above 600 degrees. The Committee has provided feedback on the new video, and has requested that a fact sheet be attached and be released along with SOP 9.32 ‘Entrapment Procedure’ for Brigades to use for their pre-summer training. CFA has released an online version on their facebook page.

This type of research is critical to ensuring firefighter safety and educating members on how the crew protection safety systems work, build confidence in those systems and the importance of situational awareness & entrapment procedures.

ROP CUSHION PROTOTYPE

Arcadia Brigade members briefed the committee on a prototype cushion for use in vehicles with rear deck roll over protection. As many would have experienced, the solid fibreglass ROP seat can be hard on your back and very slippery when cornering. The cushions have multiple functions in regards to firefighter safety, back injury reduction and firefighter comfort on long duration shifts amongst them. The Committee has requested they be field tested by 3 brigades in district 22 and will also be offered for testing by brigades in other Districts over the summer whilst analysis is completed.

The Committee had previously authorised a VESEP grant to support the trial, and VFBV thanks the Arcadia Fire Brigade for this pro-active initiative. A proban, a nomex and a marine canvas version are being field and burn tested over the summer.

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:53

2 Minute Briefing - Community Safety

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

PLANNED BURNING AND BUILDING BRIGADE CAPABILITIES

For many years now VFBV has been advocating for a more holistic approach to planned burning, and for CFA to promote the training advantages of participating in planned burns.

The committee has been very pleased to observe that recent planned burns have developed into exercises, not just in fire behaviour and fuel load interactions but also extend to learnings in weather behaviour, impact on flora and fauna, bush heritage and Indigenous fire management practices.

The camps are very practical ‘hands on’ for all involved, each participant is specifically tasked with both coaching and mentoring roles, allowing involvement by volunteers across all aspects of the planned burning. Recent burn camps also saw attendances from Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature (landowners) bird scientists, along with DWELP, plantation owners and CFA paid staff.

The attendees worked well together and contributed experience and expertise, building valuable relationships and creating an atmosphere of co-operation in complex burn scenarios. These camps offer a great opportunity for volunteers to train in realistic settings and gain extensive fire firefighting experience.

The committee has requested CFA produce a brochure which clearly explains and illustrates upcoming Burn Camps to Brigades.

CFA-SES COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND HAZARD AWARENESS FORUM

The joint CFA-SES community engagement forum was held at The Mantra in Lorne on 6th & 7th August, 2016.

The Forum is Victoria’s leading community safety conference for emergency service personnel and an opportunity for members to hear from both front line community safety educators but also leading community engagement specialists.

As well as the usual guest speakers, sessions and presentations, there were also outdoor displays by Coast Guard, CFA and SES, which were a resounding success. This year there were 481 attendees, 70% of those were CFA, 20% SES, this is a dramatic rise from 140 at the first forum in 2011. Volunteers from the North East and South East were very well represented with 65% of attendees coming from these two regions. The forum is growing in popularity and size.

The Committee will be reviewing the feedback provided by this year’s attendee’s and supports the continuation of this important forum. VFBV would like to recognize and congratulate the hard working members of the Volunteer Reference Group whose tireless energy and work helped to make this year’s event another resounding success.

THE FIRE SAFETY PLEDGE

Building on the success of last year’s campaign, CFA launched The Fire Safety Pledge to run between 3 November and 22 December.

Brigades are offered the chance to win one of three $1,000 cash prizes by encouraging members of their community to take the online “Fire Safety Pledge” at www.thefiresafetypledge.com.au

When members of the public make their pledge, they are asked to enter a local CFA brigade they wish to support. At the end of the competition, the brigade with the most number of pledges across the three different categories, will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

The categories are

1. Overall winner (brigade with the most votes)

2. Per-Capita – CFA brigade with the most votes relative to their population, and

3. Tiny Town – for brigades serving a population of less than 100 people.

As at 23 November (just three weeks into the initiative) 6,793 people have taken the pledge.

Any member of the public that takes the pledge will go into a draw to win one of four Samsung Galaxy Tablets or one of four $100 Bunning Gift Vouchers.

The friendly competition within Districts has begun with steep competition amongst seven of the top ten positions. Good Luck…..

BUSHFIRE HOTLINE NUMBER CHANGED

Delegates reported to CFA they have received complaints and concerns from the community surrounding the change of the VicEmergency Hotline number from 1800 240 667 to 1800 226 226. The committee has requested that both numbers continue to work until people get used to the change. CFA advice is both numbers will continue for some time.

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:49

2 Minute Briefing - Operations

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting. (Meeting held 27/11/2016). Unfortunately, delegates were advised a few days before the meeting that the Chief Officer was not available to meet, so the Committee decided instead of cancelling the meeting, they would simply meet without CFA.

ROLE OF GROUP

Having waited since 2012 for the most recent CFA review to strengthen the role of group, the Committee notes with disappointment the lack of progress or CFA leadership in the intervening time. Having lost confidence with CFA’s lack of response or support to this review, the Committee has endorsed a proposal for a volunteer led review of the Role of Group, with the intent to meet and gather feedback from all Groups across the State in order to arrive at a formal position that volunteers can then lead and advocate for across the Sector. This work will commence after the FDP and we will be seeking representatives from all Districts to help lead and coordinate a ground up discussion and review during 2017, with a view of driving this important reform. We will be using all the feedback received from CFA’s previous review as well as discussing the countless ideas and suggestions that arose from discussion during the last review but may have been rejected by CFA at the time for one reason or another.

In the previous review, VFBV advocated for;

  • Greater support and recognition from CFA to Groups and the Group structures in local command and control
  • Greater flexibility in how Groups can structure themselves to accommodate and respect local and regional differences and flexibility to match operating models to local risks. A ‘one size fits all’ model is not supported.
  • Strengthening the chain of command to empower and enhance the capability and capacity for local command and control being exercised by CFA members at the local level ensuring that local participation continues as incidents grow in size and complexity
  • Systems of work that recognize and enhance how Brigades, Groups, OO’s and RDO’s interact and support each other in Operational Readiness & Response, Training & Mentoring and Community Education
  • Strengthening the role of Groups in assisting Brigades building local capability for Incident Management and volunteer upskilling and mentoring for Level 2 and 3 incident management roles
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role of Group Comms including role, systems and processes in supporting local incidents and deployments and recognition in CAD processes and procedures of this vital role
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role Groups play in readiness, pre-incident planning & coordination, strike team resourcing & deployment, maintaining situational awareness and training delivery

All members will be provided an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, and VFBV will provide leadership, logistical and administrative support to allow local groups and districts to participate in structured discussions and share the information coming from neighbouring groups and districts across the State. If you would like to be involved in the early stages of the project, please contact VFBV at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9886 1141 and we will record your details.

40km SPEED LIMITS

VFBV continues to support and advocate for a 40km speed limit for vehicles passing a stationary emergency service vehicle displaying their red and blue flashing lights.

VFBV’s long stated position has been that firefighters working alongside roads and highways when attending to incidents, are put at a significant health & safety risk by passing motorists, and 40km speed limits similar to those for road side workers should be pursued, along with strong public education campaigns to educate motorists of the dangers. The Committee continues to advocate for the establishment of new road rules that will protect all emergency service personnel when working on the side of roads and highways.

 

Published in Operations Committee
Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - Operations

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 29/11/2015)

ROLE OF GROUP The committee was advised that the new Chief Officer has requested that the Role of Group publication that was due to be distributed to brigades be put on hold whilst he conducts a review. The committee has been provided with a much condensed version for feedback. Whilst members will no doubt be disappointed with yet another delay, the committee will work with the new Chief Officer to try and resolve the current impasse affecting this long delayed project.

SECTOR COMMANDER COURSE

The Sector Commander course was developed by the IMTTP team and originally released for delivery in 2014. The course was written with the assumption that a student undertaking the course has no prior knowledge of the subject matter. Feedback from students is that the course is quite lengthy and duplicates material that is covered in earlier courses such as crew leader. Exacerbating the problem, there were restrictive pre-requisites to undertake the course. CFA has decided to conduct a full review of the course, with the State Incident Management Training Delivery Project Steering Committee to oversee the course review.

The committee has highlighted to CFA that the course was originally designed to be delivered in unique modules, yet all CFA delivery to date has been to deliver all modules consecutively which has frustrated students, and led to courses running over consecutive 3 or 4 full weekends, causing understandable member backlash. CFA has agreed to rework and rewrite the course, with the intent to break the course into four distinct modules, with duplication to be removed. This will assist members who may already hold existing units that can be mapped to parts of the new course and allow members to undertake just those parts they do not currently hold. A reworked assessment will ensure all members exit the course with standardized learning outcomes. It is anticipated that this may reduce the Sector Commander course to one night and 2 days. Piloting of the new course is anticipated early in 2016.

FATIGUE MANAGEMENT

The Committee has for some time been reporting the District and Regional variances in how fatigue management is implemented, especially for larger incidents. Examples of two neighbouring districts implementing completely different fatigue guidelines for strike teams dispatched to the same job provided a case study of the issue. The Committee has requested state-wide guidelines be developed and communicated to the field which amongst other things outline crew changeovers, appropriate rest periods between deployments and long haul strike team travel arrangements, including the use of coaches and/or fresh drivers to return appliances to their home locations.

VOLUNTEER UTILISATION IN IMTs

The committee has reinforced the need for proactive and deliberate action to be taken to encourage, and strengthen the use of volunteers in IMTs. The critical importance of planning and the effects of poor or last minute planning on volunteer utilisation are well known and the committee has requested that the Chief Officer lead this work amongst the agencies this fire season. The view amongst some senior leaders over previous seasons has been that there is very little volunteer interest, yet discussions with the field constantly highlight not only high interest, but that many volunteers were either unaware of any requests or only requested on extremely short notice (sometimes with less than four hours’ notice) which makes it difficult for them to arrange availability with their employer. Short notice also ignores that many volunteers qualified in IMT roles will commit to other Brigade or District roles in the absence of any request for their services in IMT roles. The committee has requested a robust system be developed to ensure transparency and accountability is maintained in requests for resources, including sufficient planning and flexibility that supports volunteer participation.

Published in Operations Committee
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 00:00

BUSHFIRE ASSISTANCE FOR COUNCILS

The State and Federal Governments have announced additional assistance to local councils in areas affected by bushfires in December 2014 and January 2015.

The councils include; Ararat, Benalla, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Mildura, Moira, Southern Grampians, Strathbogie, Wangaratta, West Wimmera and Wodonga.

For details, see the State Government’s media release at http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/additional-disaster-assistance-for-victorian-bushfires

Published in VFBV News

Issue 11: December 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 29/11/14)

LISTENING SETS

With the recent release of EMV’s Long Term Communications Plan (LTCP), CFA have had to reassess the technical specifications of Listening Sets. The LTCP articulates the State’s operational communications vision for the sector and a high level plan to progressively move towards that vision from as early as 2017.

The complication arising out of this long term plan is the requirement for agencies to move towards P25 Phase 2 digital radio comms in the future. The current CFA digital network is P25 Phase 1, and CFA have advised that should CFA or other agencies move to Phase 2 in the future, then listening sets only capable of Phase 1 will not be able to pick up Phase 2 radio traffic. CFA has requested the committee to endorse a second round of expression of interest from manufacturers to see if a listening set capable of Phase 1 and Phase 2 is available, or able to be mass produced.

The issue confronting the committee is if CFA rolls out a listening set which members have to contribute money to, and which is only compatible with the current network, we will be back to where we are now with having to replace listening sets should the State move to Phase 2. With news that the preferred manufacturer could not mass produce the chosen Phase 1 listening set before Christmas anyway, the committee has agreed to CFA’s request to run an expedited EOI process over the Christmas and New Year period, providing the process does not exceed 6 weeks, and that CFA commits to then expedite results and a decision from that process early in the new year.

The committee has again communicated to CFA the urgency being communicated by our members and the need to choose and roll out listening sets ASAP. CFA has committed to working with the committee out of session in order to ensure there are no further delays. Updates will be provided early in the New Year to update members on progress.

WEB STREAMING

Web Streaming is an option for members who don’t want to use a listening set, but would prefer to “stream” radio comms via their computer, smart phone or tablet. It is an electronic method of listening in on CFA radio channels, similar to how a listening set operates, but without the need for special hardware, or an upfront cost.

The committee was advised that attempts by CFA to develop an in house app for radio streaming has not been successful. The committee has now endorsed moving to an external “streaming” provider. A preferred supplier has been chosen, and is being trailed over the next few weeks with CFA advice that it should be able to roll out the service shortly.

Members need to be aware that this service will consume bandwidth, and those accessing via their mobile phones or tablets need to be aware of the consumption. The committee has requested CFA publish streaming rates and estimated data use per hour to ensure people can factor that into their decision to use the service.        CFA will also provide “beeps” at intervals to remind people they are still streaming – even though no voice traffic may be present on the network to assist members monitor their bandwidth usage.

PAGER CRADLES

CFA have advised there has now been some progress with a small number of visual and high volume alerting cradles being trialled for members who work in noisy environments. There are limitations to the cradle, and there are initially only 100 units available for trial. Members will provide feedback on their use. If the trial is successful, the committee will advocate for more units to be made available.

 

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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