Today marks the third anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires. For so many people, including CFA members, their families, their friends, their neighbours and their workmates, this will be a special and sensitive day.
It is right and proper that we pause to reflect on what happened on Black Saturday and our role on the day, as individuals and as a team. It is also right that we reflect on the losses and sacrifices made in the fire fight on that day and in the days after.
For many there will be a deep sadness and ongoing grief. As you go about your business today, take time to look out for those around you. We may not understand exactly how others are feeling, or what they are thinking. But we can be there with them and for them. CFA is like a big family. It is at times like this that we extend the hand of friendship and camaraderie to other CFA members and to others in our communities. Together, we share the grief and pain of many. Respect the memories of those who cannot be with us at this time. Shed a tear; hold each other in comfort, and in silence, suffer together.
But this is also a time to think about the future. To all those who lost their lives, their loved ones and their property, we collectively owe an obligation to lead our communities to build a stronger, better future. It is to us, in the emergency services, that the community puts great faith and expectation to ensure that such a tragic outcome never occurs again. There is much activity going on in CFA, in our partner agencies, in governments and in the community. Citizens look to CFA members for confidence and inspiration for the future.
As we look around the fire scarred forests we see new seedlings establishing, epicormic shoots cover some trees and a new layer of scrub is growing. Be motivated by the strength and resilience of the Australian bush. Follow the example of hope and the industry of the recovery effort. And be inspired by the youth and beauty of the next generation. Today, take time to grieve and remember, for with the dawn of tomorrow comes renewed hope and opportunity.
Guidelines For Operating Private Plant At Fires:
Lisa Jackson advises that the current CFA "Guidelines for Operating Private Equipment at Fires" were last issued in 2004 and need to be reviewed, revised and re-issued. The project objective is to develop, by mid 2012, renewed policy, procedure and guidelines to support the use of private fire fighting equipment in CFA operations. Private firefighting equipment and plant is a crucial extension of the CFA and DSE firefighting capability, so it is important to make sure this guideline reflects best current practice. If you have a particular interest in PFFE and would like to participate in the project consultation meetings please contact Lisa Jackson on 9262 8499 or email@example.com."
Getting Bushfire Incident Warnings and Advice Right:
In its final report on the February 2009 bushfires the Royal Commission said: "Fire agencies should attach the same value to community education and warnings as they do to fire suppression operations". This is a message to remember every day. The Royal Commissioners also referred to the need for a "change in mindset" in fire services towards a greater recognition of the need for warnings and advice to citizens.
In terms of saving life, community warnings are just as important, if not more important sometimes, as putting out the fire, especially at extreme fire intensities. As an organisation, it's good practice to put ourselves under a high degree of scrutiny in all that we do, but especially in this area. We know that expectations on us great. In some cases it won't be possible to put out a warning - fires can start quickly and threaten lives and properties within minutes; that's where preparation is crucial. And there are times when, despite our best efforts, we don't get warnings quite right. Sometimes it's human error, sometimes it's our systems and processes. When that happens we need to have a good look at what went wrong, conduct a thorough after action review, and fix it.
It's our role, as leaders in CFA, to take responsibility when things go wrong, and to put in place systems to stop it happening again. It's our responsibility to submit ourselves and our systems of work to rigorous testing and challenging. To shed light on things that don't go well, and constantly challenge ourselves and each other - "Is this the very best we can do?" To check, cross check and check again. To be open about mistakes if we make them, and look at how to improve for next time, always keeping in mind the people we serve and protect.