Euan Ferguson is CFA's Chief Officer. He previously worked for CFA between 1993 and 2001 including as a Deputy Chief Officer before spending 10 years as Chief Officer at the Country Fire Service in South Australia. He is a father of three adult sons and was born in Malvern.
On Wednesday morning we awoke to the very sad news of the passing of one of our esteemed former leaders in former Chief Officer Harry Rothsay.
CFA’s Medal Winning Cyclist:
Congratulations to Tungamah CFA’s Captain Simon “Hector” Crawford who recently won a Silver Medal in the Police and Firefighter’s World Championships recently. The event was held in Sydney and Simon's triumph came in the 80km Road Race. Well done Simon.
Key Bushfire Documentation For The Bushfire Season:
As we rapidly lead into the fire season, it is timely to draw attention to a number of key documents and preparedness activities that form our bushfire command and control arrangements for the summer:
Community Fireguard DVD:
Angela Cook from the Fire Ready Victoria program reminds us that this is the 20th year of CFA's Community Fireguard. She also advises that the new Community Fireguard promotional DVD is ready. 50 Copies are being sent to each Region. The DVD can be viewed online through this link:
It gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Mark Potter as the Regional Director in CFA's Gippsland Region.
CFA's Welfare Services provides support to members and their immediate families to deal with potentially distressing events. This can be for both CFA related issues and individual personal issues. CFA would like to know about your experience of Welfare Services and so we're conducting some research. The findings of this research will be used to inform improvements to Welfare Services. They will also be used to help inform education programs that support psychological preparation for potentially distressing events. This research feedback questionnaire will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. A sample of the questionnaires has been sent to every Brigade Secretary in the state so it's likely you might already know about the Wellbeing Research. We encourage you to complete the questionnaire online. You can also contact your local HRM or Peer Coordinator to obtain more paper copies. If you have questions about this research, you can contact the hotline on 03 8822 8118.
National Emergency Medal Presentation:
On Sunday 9th September, I had the honour of attending the presentation of National Emergency Medals to a further 27 recipients at the Whittlesea Fire Station. The motor room of the station was filled with recipients, their supporters, friends and families. The mood was one of reserved pride, reflection and emotion. Here are the words I said as part of the ceremony: "The summer of 2009 saw prolonged drought. Across much of the scenic and serene countryside, the bushfire risk was unprecedented. Across Victoria, communities went about their business with the threat of something ominous about to happen. The bushfires came: extensive, intense, all powerful and all consuming. Merciless and unforgiving to those caught in their path. Across Victoria, in brigades, small crews, strike teams, task forces and incident management teams, men and women united to confront the common threat of bushfire. In conditions that were difficult and dangerous - "Extreme" in every sense of the word - you did your best. In the face of nature's wrath, you stood fast. You gave your all. Many of you risked your life to save the lives of others. Some of you lost your own - your property, your livelihood, your friends and your family - whilst protecting others. Your selfless service, devotion to duty, your courage and your leadership serves as an example that will inspire others for generations. You have earned the respect of a grateful community. You epitomise the spirit of Australia and the spirit of CFA. To each and every one of you, and to the many others who are not here today, I say "Thank you - Job well done!" Your efforts will forevermore be etched in the proud history of this great State. Thank you. I salute you all." We thank the Whittlesea Fire Brigade for hosting the event and the Narre Warren Fire Brigade for their wonderful catering.
Unregistered CFA Vehicles:
Last Tuesday, it emerged that 22 CFA owned vehicles were listed as unregistered on the VicRoads system. This occurred due to an error in our system of work. CFA takes full responsibility for this error and views this failure very seriously. Through our Fleet Services team, we are currently working to fix the system so it is more robust. CFA has arranged for stand-in vehicles to replace firefighting vehicles that were identified as unregistered. These are the usual support arrangements implemented when trucks are at the District Mechanical Office or engaged elsewhere. This has not impacted on our service delivery. By yesterday 14 of the 15 operational vehicles involved were re-registered and back in service. The remaining firefighting vehicle will be returned to service by the end of this week. My advice is that mechanical servicing has been maintained on all the vehicles but three - and these are located at museums or have been privately sold.
Appreciation For Home Bushfire Advice service:
A Flowerdale resident recently wrote to CFA as follows: "Dear CFA, I am writing to congratulate you on such a worthwhile Community Program. On Saturday 1st September, we had Craig Lawless arrive on time and spend one hour giving us a great amount of reassurance and guidance on how best to prepare our property over the fire season. He had a device to measure exactly how many metres our trees are away from the house which is great to know as we could only best guess as to whether they were a threat. Craig was very professional in his manner and gave us sound practical advice - all detailed to our specific circumstances - which was the just the best information you could get. Craig's visit has given me confidence and peace of mind. Thank you CFA." Great work Craig and a testament to the Home Bushfire Advice Service!
A "TEWT" is a Tactical Exercise Without Troops. TEWTS are a very effective way of illustrating a tactical situation in the classroom or in an improvised field location without having to assemble, organise and maneuvre resources. One example of conducting a TEWT is where a tactical situation is depicted on the classroom floor. The situation can be set up on a sand table, on a large scale floor map, or with the aid of toy vehicles, earthmoving plant, aircraft etc. Students can then gather around the depiction and gain an over view of the tactical situation. A second way of delivering a TEWT is to use a piece of real ground. For example, it may be an area of interest to the south and west of a settlement where you are simulating the effect of a wind change. In this case, students may be required to undertake a reconnaissance by foot or in vehicle. Students will gain a direct appreciation of the terrain, risks and advantageous points in the landscape. This method of TEWT takes a little more planning, but provides the benefit of a real time appreciation of an actual piece of ground.
Chief Officer's Intent
In the implementation of the 2012-13 Annual Business plan, and in activities undertaken by CFA Fire and Emergency Management, I thought it would be appropriate to put forward some form of overarching intent statement. Therefore, in implementing our 2012-13 business plan, consideration is to be given to the following Chief Officer's priorities:
1. Focussing on delivering our mission and supporting our front-line people to deliver community safety outcomes.
2. Maintain and develop our operational service delivery capability.
3. We will strive to work with other agencies and with the community as one integrated fire and emergency management force.
4. We will continue to improve and develop our capability and capacity for managing major incidents.
5. We will continue to adopt the philosophy of Mission Command (which includes strengthening our capability for local command and control and managing by "principle" rather than by prescription).
6. Resources will be applied taking into account the principles of risk, equity, continuous improvement and the recently issued Chief Officer's Principles For Allocating Resources.
7. We will continue to build and develop our leadership team. This includes articulating our desired organisational culture.
8. We will take care of each other, be nice, and serve the community.
Speaking With Confidence:
Last week, along with Regional Director David Baker, Operations Manager David Renkin, DCO Steve Warrington and Executive Manager Community Capability Terry Hayes, I was privileged to attend the presentation of the Charter to the District 13 Toastmasters Club at Lilydale.
Work is continuing on CFA's move to incorporate the philosophy of "mission command" into our doctrine. Focus groups (a mix of senior volunteers and career staff) have been developing concepts around an operational decision-making process (which reinforces the "dynamic risk assessment process"); a revised and updated set of Operations Principles; and a set of guiding operational behaviours. Work is also under way to establish the key steps in issuing a "leader's intent".
Last week we saw a lot of public and media comment about the matters surrounding the use of training fires at Fiskville in the 1970s through to the 1990s. This matter is difficult for us all. As CEO Mick Bourke (in expressing the CFA Board's feelings) says: We regret what has happened at Fiskville in the past. It is not good enough. For those who may be affected by those past practices, we are deeply sorry for the pain and stress that this has caused, and continues to cause.
On 23rd October, 2011 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth approved the regulations for a new medal in the Australian Honours System - the National Emergency Medal (NEM). This medal was established to recognise service to others during a nationally-significant emergency.
1. Get yourself sorted:
Preparing yourself, physically and mentally is vital to being able to approach this challenge with confidence. Being physically fit and having trained and practiced in challenging terrain was essential to a successful trek. Just as important was selecting the right gear, testing it and making sure everything was packed with a "minimalistic" approach (what you take someone has to carry...). Finally, keep your gear sorted. When the leader says "Five minutes to packs on!" - That's exactly what he means.
Queen's Birthday Honours
Congratulations to the 17 past and present CFA members who have been recognised for their contribution to the fire services and their communities through the prestigious awards of The Medal of the Order of Australia, the Australian Fire Service Medal and the Public Service Medal. Receiving The Medal of the Order of Australia was Bruce Campbell OAM, David McGahy OAM, Michael Chapman OAM, Frances Burns OAM and George Burns OAM, Ian Ewart OAM, Robert Rankin OAM, Ron Jacobs OAM, Terry Baker OAM, and Alexander Stoneman OAM. Receiving the Australian Fire Service Medal was Alan Dale AFSM, Bill Watson AFSM, Don Kelly AFSM, Joan Steel AFSM, Peter Marke AFSM and Trevor Roche AFSM. Receiving the Public Service Medal was Craig Lapsley PSM. Thank you to all for your service. A job well done to and keep up the good work!
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this update. Chief Officer Euan Ferguson is currently on some well-earned leave and will return on Monday 25 June.
Fire Action Week: 18-25 November:
CFA has received advice that the dates for Fire Action Week this year will be: 18-25 November (with CFA Sunday on 25 Nov). CFA Brigades who want to participate should keep this date clear.
The Spirit Of CFA:
On International Firefighters Day, I am reminded by those deeply moving words on "The Spirit of CFA" posters produced in the wake of the Black Saturday fires: "Hailing from all walks of life, you are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, our grandparents, neighbours and our friends. You help and protect us, without wanting of recognition or reward. In our time of need you are there. Your courage and compassion are inspiring, your loyalty unquestionable. You comfort us with a tender hand; you stand at the face of nature's beast and fight for our lives and our land. You are the essence of the true meaning of community. You epitomise the Australian spirit, the spirit of CFA."
Our psychological safety is just as important as our physical safety. Working as a first responder in emergency services means we are exposed to circumstances and events that others would rarely see. Just like physical safety, there are steps we can take to eliminate or minimise our exposure to psychological risk. Our People and Culture team recently discussed with me some tips on how to include psychological safety into our daily practices:
• Minimise your exposure to traumatic images and sounds wherever possible. If you coordinate training for others in CFA, this should be a key message.
• Remove yourself and your team members wherever possible - if a turn out involves an MVA and fatality, keep non-essential personnel at a distance from the scene. Make sure crew members are not exposed for too long.
• Prepare yourself wherever possible - identify things that may be distressing to you and plan how you might deal with them.
• Look after each other and activate support services (such as peers) when you need to.
• Most importantly, be prepared to talk about your feelings and ask for help if you don't feel right.
Successful Fuel Reduction Burn At Cardinia:
Allan Budziarski, who is Vegetation Management Officer at Southern Metro has advised of a very successful 62 ha burn carried out last week. Robbie Irving (Upper Beaconsfield) was burn OIC and was mentored by Wildfire Instructor Mark Barille. Resources were drawn from Upper Beaconsfield, Bunyip, DSE, and Melbourne Water Corporation. Allan reports that Approx 500 litres of water utilised throughout the entire duration of the burn (approx the same amount of burner mix!!). Ecological values that were accounted for in the planning stage included habitats for the Powerful Owl Habitat, Musk duck and Blue Billed duck and sensitive riparian zones. Allan says that further burns are planned for spring 2012. This is important and valued work. Terrific effort, and thank you!
The Importance Of Rural Fire Stations:
Regional Director Pat O'Brien from Loddon Mallee has offered some important observations about the rural fire station program. The first relates to comments made by the Captain of Sandhill Lake (a locality in D20 without any community infrastructure whatsoever and an old tin clad wooden framed station without any facilities situated on the roadside of the Kerang - Quambatook Road) at the opening of the new 1B station late last year. His comments are paraphrased as follows: "We put up with poor roads, poor mobile phone coverage, slow or non-existent internet, almost no council services and no community infrastructure. CFA and the Government have now provided this wonderful fire station and it will benefit not only the Brigade but the whole community. Thank you. We are very grateful for this investment and demonstration of faith in our future after the years of drought, floods, mice and locusts. This station will help us to continue." The second concerns two stations, also opened by Minister Walsh, late last year; Waitchie and Annuello. Both new 1B stations replaced tin shed motor rooms without any facilities; additionally, neither community had any workable community infrastructure. Both Brigades are Rural and are located in dryland cropping areas. Waitchie Brigade and FS now host a weekly community get together every Friday night where the community gathers to have a fish and chip meal. Annuello, centrally located in Robinvale Group now hosts CFA training activities and local community meetings for which there was no previous suitable venue.
Good Friday - "Thank You!" - A Fantastic Effort All Round!:
Is Occupational Health, Safety And Welfare At The Top Of Your Agenda?:
"Safety First!" means that OHSW needs to be at the forefront of everything we do. This includes routine business. It is a great idea to put OHSW at the top of the agenda of your meetings - be they administrative, operational, at Brigade, Group or higher levels - in fact every time we meet. It is an opportunity to check if there are issues that need to be attended to or followed up either during or after the meeting. I will be insisting this approach at meetings I am involved in from now on. You should consider this too.
Great Support To SES In North East and Gippsland Floods:
There has been lots of excellent work supporting SES in the last 2 ½ weeks in far east Gippsland and the north east. In a recent visit with SES Chief Officer Trevor White and CEO Mick Bourke, we saw first hand the efforts of CFA, SES, MFB, DSE, Army, Local Government along with Ambulance, DHS and a host of other organisations. This time around we enabled CFA commanders to be placed in positions or deputy positions at every level of the SES organisational structure.
One of the issues identified in the Jones report was the need for better communication with volunteers. We know there are improvements to be made in this area. While it's important for us to not overload you with communication, there are times when we need to send you operational and CFA-wide information. In order to determine how our members want to be kept up-to-date, CFA's strategic Communications team have developed a short survey for all members to complete. The survey will be available both online and as a tear-out hard copy in the Autumn edition of Brigade magazine with a reply paid envelope for members to complete. It will also be included in the VFBV quarterly mail-out. I encourage you to take part and have your say at:
Our thanks to the wonderful effort by a significant number of CFA and other agency personnel in bringing the HAZMAT incident at the Koppers coal tar pitch facility at Portland to a close. Hundreds of CFA members were involved in a range of roles. The incident was an outstanding example of agencies working together in an integrated, collaborative and collegiate way.
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.
An enduring feature of our landscape is fire and flood and drought. And this has given rise to a uniquely Australian characteristic - that of emergency service volunteering. Emergency service volunteering in Australia is in many ways unique. No other country in the world can boast the comprehensive and professional volunteer emergency services that we see here in Victoria and other states. Indeed, as I travel the globe, many countries look upon us and our emergency service arrangements with envy.