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.
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.
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.
Chicago Fire Department Safety Video:
In an effort to make personal safety a top priority, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) have released a new video, Chicago Fire Department - Everyone Goes Home®. More than two dozen survivors of fallen firefighters, including co-workers and family members, participated in the filming of Chicago Fire Department - Everyone Goes Home. All members of the Chicago Fire Department have had the opportunity to see Chicago Fire Department - Everyone Goes Home® and it is now available for the entire fire service. To see the video, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=vODww1qwSuE.
"We're All In This Together":
This catch-phrase was the theme of a Bushfire Emerald, Clematis, Macclesfield and Menzies Creek Brigades Awareness Expo held recently at the Emerald Hall. Organised by the combined leadership team from, the day was a resounding success. Hundreds of people from the local community visited displays and exchanged views with DSE, VicPol, Parks Vic, Cardinia Shire, Bendigo Bank, St Marks Church, Emerald & District Co-op and the Emerald Community House. The State Aircraft Unit flew in Helitak 333, a Bell 212 Helitanker, which was a hit with everyone. The Expo included 4 "workshops" on fire prevention, leaving early and staying and defending planning. Another popular demonstration was a "burn table" on loan from DSE. Hessian is stretched over a steel frame which is set up with fuels and angles to simulate actual fire behaviour. This is a great learning tool. I was impressed and inspired by the huge effort that went into the planning and the unified passion for community resilience that was evident from agencies and from the public. A fantastic effort! Well done!
Recently I attended an exercise where a member referred to the use of a "spotter" in a particular tactical situation. It reminded me of the content of a brochure that was mailed out to CFA members earlier this year. The brochure contained information on Hazardous Trees and on LACES. LACES is an easily remembered acronym that stands for LOOKOUTS; (SITUATIONAL) AWARENESS; COMMUNICATIONS; ESCAPE ROUTES and SAFETY ZONES. LACES is a bushfire safety aide that has been derived from the "Ten Standard Fire Orders" and the "Eighteen Situations That Shout Watch Out!". From my experience, keeping LACES at the front of your mind on the fireground can lead to a safer fireground. LACES challenges you to consider placing a lookout in a prominent position. It reinforces the need to ensure that everyone maintains an awareness of the situation around them, and to communicate any unusual or developing hazards they notice. Finally it reinforces that, at all times, we need to have an escape route (preferably two) to a safety zone in case a worst case scenario eventuates. I command the LACES thinking to you. It is easily remembered and easily understood. It might be a great topic to talk about for 10 or 15 minutes next time you start a Brigade meeting.
06.54 Saturday morning it's a day off in more ways than one
Medium Helitanker Located At Sealake:
DCO Steve Warrington advises that a Birddog aircraft and a Helitanker are in place at Sea Lake for a period of eight weeks to cover the risks associated with the harvest season in the north west of the state. This is the first time we have allocated aircraft in this part of the State. This is a significant achievement that recognises the specific risks associated with harvesting operations. Thanks go to OM Bill Johnston, OO's Mathew Gardner, Wayne Rigg and Brett Boatman, with the support of Peter Higgins and the State Aircraft Unit team for their drive and tenacity to see this through. The rationale of resource allocation based on risk has the potential to save the State and the Victorian cropping community, particularly in the north west, millions of dollars with the rapid intervention of an aircraft during a fire event. This was a great team effort to get this across the line. Congratulations.
A History Of Bushfire In Australia:
GIS Manager Mark Garvey has sent the link below to an Australian Geographic animation of bushfires in Australia over the last 20 years or so. The animation is by NASA.
The Start Of The Fire Danger Period:
The 1st of November sees the Fire Danger Period commences in the Colac Otway and Corangamite Shires. On the 7th November, the Fire Danger Period commences in Mildura Rural City Council.
Congratulations To Simon Armitage - Serra Group Officer:
At a recent celebration of the Dunkeld CFA's 75th anniversary I was privileged to award a National Medal to G/O Simon Armitage. The accompanying citation describes Simon with the following words: "...practical... flair and humour .... An uncanny ability to make decisions and communicate them clearly and calmly under pressure.... A tough, courageous, no-nonsense and resourceful leader.... Simon is no stranger to controversy and will fight for what he believes in, whatever the odds, but always mixed with wit and humour." A great inspiration to others around him. Well done Simon!
Updated Fire And Emergency Management Checklists:
Project Coordinator Matthew Fraser has advised that a new version of "Fire and Emergency Management" Checklists has recently been printed. These are now being distributed to Districts. The checklists have been comprehensively reviewed, taking on board feedback from many members. Immediately noticeable is the reduction in size - the review identified a lot of information that wasn't relevant to a "fireground" reference checklist. The checklists are in pocket and A5 versions. Key information includes safety and first aid; vehicle safety; radio procedures; role checklists; technical advice for common and uncommon incidents; and a host of technical references. I commend you to spend some time noting the contents, and ensuring they are readily accessible when on the job.
Take Care driving CFA Vehicles:
Last week Berwick Pumper was involved in a serious accident whilst travelling Code 1 to a job. The pumper collided with a vehicle whilst traversing a controlled intersection. As a result of the accident two members of the public were hospitalised. In recent months, there have been a number of serious accidents involving CFA vehicles travelling under emergency conditions. It is worthy to reinforce that the safety of a CFA vehicle, its occupants and that of other road users is the responsibility of the driver. Code 1 driving is always an inherently dangerous activity. Situational awareness, adjusting driving to weather and road conditions and maintaining vehicle control at all times are all critical to safe driving.
Important Bushfire Safety And Fitness Information From Bushfire CRC: David McLoughlin, of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre advises of two important Fire Notes that were published last week. He tells us that Dr Brad Aisbett's team at Deakin University continues doing ground breaking work on the health and safety of bushfire firefighters. In the first, Firefighter Health and Safety, Dr Aisbett presents an overview of the Bushfire CRC work to date. In the second, Hydration of Australian Bushfire Fighters, principal author PhD candidate Jenni Raines, looks specifically at how much fluid bushfire fighters need to stay hydrated on the fire ground. Essential reading for all firefighters. These fire notes and all previous issues can be found on the Bushfire CRC website at: http://www.bushfirecrc.com/firenotes
The achievements of members were also considered by the Board in relation to criteria for the National Medal. This award requires "diligent service". This is defined in the National Medal Regulations 1999 as: "a person has served an organisation diligently if, in the opinion of the Chief Officer a) the service given by the person has been conscientious and of good standard and b) in the performance of the service, the person showed good conduct as a member of the organisation."
It's not often that we stop to acknowledge the invaluable work done by our CFA Peers. These are volunteers who frequently step in at a moment's notice and selflessly commit their personal resources to help others through tough times.
New Zealand Earthquake
Recently we welcomed home the Victorian Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team from their deployment to earthquake-hit Christchurch. CFA USAR Specialists SSO Doug Broom (Frankston) and SO Tony Heafield (Geelong City) were part of this contingent. This team was the second deployment of Australian personnel and included members from CFA, MFB, Ambulance Victoria and SES. They were involved in the grim search for deceased victims of the disaster through the process of "de-layering" rubble in the quake zone. The difficult task performed by the team was performed tremendously well. Job well done team!
3.24 AM The pager vibrating and screeching on the bedside table wakes me from my sleep
With memories of the January and February floods still raw for many, I want to pay tribute to the communities who defended themselves, and especially those who suffered the impacts.
As I travel the state, one of the most common issues raised is the diminished role of the Group and of Group officers in operations. At last Monday's Board meeting the Board supported my suggestion of a short review of the role of the Group. The review will focus on strengthening the Group role in operations response and preparedness.
At its January meeting the Board endorsed this new mission statement for CFA: "CFA is a community based fire and emergency service whose mission is to protect lives and property." This is a very important statement for CFA. It gives the whole organisation a clear focus and outcome to strive for. No matter who we are, or what position we hold in the organisation, our mission is the same: "To protect lives and property". The mission statement gives prominence to the protection of life. This was a matter that was highlighted in the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. This mission gives us a clear and unambiguous goal that will motivate everything that we do in CFA. It will influence how we structure the organisation, how we allocate resources and how we measure our success. Over the coming months you will hear many references to the mission as we focus on supporting our people at the front line and those who are delivering our services to the community.
As we approach the second anniversary of the Victorian bushfires of February 2009 we remember and honour the 173 people who died.
An Australia Day Reflection:
Happy Australia Day! Today is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate so much that is good. Whilst life is full of everyday challenges and disappointments we often take for granted what a great country we live in. We enjoy a standard of living and a culture that so many others across the globe can only dream of. Those distinctive aussie characteristics of mateship, determination in adversity, helping your neighbour, and always looking for the positives – even when the chips are down, define our people and our country. Of course there is one other defining characteristic of Australia, and that is the volunteering ethos. We are one of a handful of countries where many important functions are carried out by volunteers. Be it meals on wheels, firefighting, surf lifesaving, caring for the land or caring for vulnerable people, volunteering is a strong and essential part of the fabric of the Australian way of life. CFA epitomises what it is to be Australian.
Where Is The Chief Officer?: Many of you will be asking: "Why haven't I seen the Chief Officer yet?" As I said when I started, I will make it a priority to get around and meet people early. So, if you are in Headquarters, don't be surprised if I am an apology at your meeting. If you are in a District, be patient - I'm on my way. Over the last 7 weeks I've been pleased to meet with CFA staff and volunteers at Castlemaine, Geelong, Colac, Hamilton, Penshurst, Fiskville, Swan Hill, Shepparton, Arthur's Creek, Kinglake West, Kinglake, Sassafras-Ferny Creek, Yarra Valley, Warrandyte South, Kangaroo Ground, Kilmore East, Hilldene, Traralgon, Wangaratta, Myrtleford, Mudgegonga and Tarrawingee.
Amongst this celebration let's pause to think of those in the CFA family for whom Christmas may not be so easy. There will be those who will be without loved ones, and those who are still in recovery from the 2009 Black Saturday Fires. In the last week I have met with CFA members at Kinglake West, Kinglake and Mudgegonga - all areas that burned ferociously on Black Saturday. Many are still in temporary accommodation, repairing farm buildings and replacing fences. More still are coping with losses of loved ones in their communities. I pause at this time to acknowledge the real courage and determination of these wonderful people whose community leadership and positive outlook on life makes me feel very humble.
With Christmas upon us and a very busy year about to come to a close, I want to take a moment to extend my best wishes, along with those of my Executive colleagues, to you for this festive season and the year ahead.
The launch of Fire Action Week saw Premier John Brumby issue a call to action to all Victorians alongside Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron and Environment Minister Gavin Jennings.