Bulletin No:          197                                   Volume:  20                        Monday 25 August 2014



The UFU wrote to Denis Vincent Napthine the Victorian Premier and CFA’s CEO Mick Bourke on Friday 22nd August 2014 citing numerous deficiencies with how trench rescue is managed by the CFA and MFB.

To the Premier and the CFA we stated that recently arising from two Provisional Improvement Notices (PIN’s) and Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA) investigations into the CFA Ballarat City trench rescue capabilities, the CFA requested changes so that Ballarat City would no longer be called to attend and perform trench rescue in a large region of Victoria spanning from Ballarat up to the NSW border and across to the South Australian border.

To cover Ballarat City’s removal from the rescue role, the CFA changes would send MFB specialist trench rescue resources to CFA incidents within the geographical area.

Astoundingly, the UFU has become aware that the MFB was not even aware of CFA’s actions and therefore no arrangements have been made by the MFB to provide for a trench rescue response into Ballarat City’s area of responsibility.

This is a clear interoperability failure, despite the Royal Commissions final report, and despite continued statements from the Government that there is a commitment to interoperability.

This situation arose due to major concerns around CFA’s ability to provide a Trench Rescue role from Ballarat City Fire Station.

However now due to CFA’s actions not only do CFA have a hole in their own trench capability but they have created another potential resourcing issue for the MFB.

An MFB trench rescue response could potentially take 6 hours to get to NSW and SA borders to rescue members of the public. Further, the MFB’s own trench rescue arrangements are particular in nature, whereby qualified operators may be spread across the Metropolitan Fire District at any time, or may be required to be recalled from off duty. The UFU stated that any attempt to suggest that the MFB could simply step in and cover the CFA deficiency is highly problematic.

The UFU stated that to the Premier this is a race to the bottom and the opposite of the intent of interoperability.

In addition to the interoperability matters it is becoming apparent that problems with CFA and MFB capabilities with respect to Trench Rescue are much wider. For instance the VWA have decided that the CFA have not even provided adequate training to employees at Ballarat City in initial assessment of a trench type incident (a role which would continue despite the removal of the role of actual rescue operations).

The UFU called upon the Premier to protect the Victorian community and rectify these issues of high importance, and we look forward to his response.

The UFU also called upon CFA’s Mick Bourke to address trench rescue across the state in accordance with the VWA determination and the broader trench issues by providing:

(i) adequate training for every professional staff station for Leading Fire Fighters and above;

(ii) yearly skills maintenance;

(iii) sufficient equipment;

(iv) code one transportation for all trench rescue materials;

(v) training on trench rescue for all Leading Fire Fighter and Station Officer development courses; and

(vi) consultation via the Learning and Development committee as per clause 13 of the Operational Staff Agreement in relation to any trench rescue training package.

The UFU stated that these measures are crucial so that UFU members are safe and the public is protected.

Should members have any questions, please contact either your shop steward, your HSR or the UFU office.

Strength in Unity


Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary