Bulletin No: 179 Volume: 23 Friday 29 December 2017
To: All UFU MEMBERS
YEAR IN REVIEW
From Peter Marshall, UFU Victorian Secretary: TOUGH times inspire growth and build strength. This year we’ve copped our share of attacks but still we have consolidated our position and can look forward to big steps forward in 2018.
The union and its membership have achieved significant gain for both firefighters and their communities despite the major challenges and unprecedented onslaught. These include increased firefighter numbers, more integrated stations, standardising training and processes between professional CFA and MFB firefighting operations and gains in firefighting safety and equipment.
In the New Year, professional firefighters have good reason for optimism. Included in the many things which members can anticipate in 2018:
- Introduction of fire service reform, which is critical, long overdue and based on an antiquated view of Victoria’s population spread from 50 years ago.
- Income protection being included in the members’ agreement with the employers and the State Government.
- Resolution and consolidation of the enterprise bargaining agreement.
- A fresh generation of firefighters coming into the service UFU members should be proud of the way they have unified. And the service is growing. The Brumby and Andrews Governments’ commitment to bolstering professional numbers to account for population increases resulted in 692 extra CFA professional firefighters – 350 of those under the current Government. The MFB has recruited an additional 200.
- Four person crew for more appliances. The MFB will provide 14 previously three-person crew appliances with four-person crewing. The four-crew primary response appliances will increase the safety of firefighters operating at the frontline by providing an additional resource at any incident. The 14 nominated appliances include:
The 200 new firefighters have fed into the most expansive period of increasing the profession’s service to the community. The opening of integrated stations at Rowville, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, South Morang, South Warrandyte, Lucas (Ballarat) and Lara has dramatically increase the spread of available 24-hour professional firefighters. This expansion will ensure emergency calls in these areas will be governed by key performance indicators. These will see the professional firefighters respond in 90 seconds from the time of call to being on the road to the fire. And they will arrive on scene within less than eight minutes for type two incidents. These KPIs are designed to ensure fires are contained to the room of origin, preserving life, minimising damage to personal property and preventing disruption to businesses.
The new integrated stations are in areas that have experienced substantial population and residential growth which had unreasonable and enormous pressure on volunteers alone.
Firefighter safety has been greatly enhanced by CFA transition to appliance-based crewing. Now, four firefighters are required to be on each appliance, a major step forward from cross-crewing which in some cases meant only one or two firefighters dispatched on each appliance.
In the MFB, there was a commitment for 100 extra firefighters in 2010 and another 100 in 2014. The MFB have recruited 175 of those and the remaining will be brought in this financial year.
New primary and specialist vehicles and extra firefighters include:
- Four firefighters on all primary heavy pumpers across career firefighting stations.
- Increase from one firefighter on day shift to four firefighters 24/7 at Portland Fire Station.
- Heavy Hazmats at Corio, Hallam and Shepparton.
- Aerial pumpers at Mildura, Morwell, Warrnambool and Shepparton.
- Heavy rescue at Melton.
- Technical Rescue PODs and Transporters soon to be online in Wangaratta and Warrnambool. * Peak tourist season staffing of Lorne Fire Station which had been volunteer-only.
- Additional Operations Officers and firefighter relief.
Significant gains have been made in progressing interoperability between the CFA and MFB professional firefighting operations and training. These include:
- A single recruit course for professional firefighters. In 2017, the new Victorian Recruit Firefighter Courses started. Four were undertaken during the year. Two more are scheduled for February. These courses allow recruit firefighters of both CFA and MFB to complete training together. Both are taught the same curriculum. A move towards further interoperable training is in place. The training for CFA and MFB Level 1 firefighters to Qualified firefighter (with two ranks between – Firefighters Levels 2 and 3) will start soon.
- Standard breathing apparatus, helmets and station wear for all professional firefighters. CFA and MFB provide different breathing apparatus for their firefighters. It leads to issues such as being unable to swap cylinders and an inefficiency in buying new equipment because the agencies are not combining their purchasing power. All professional firefighters should be trained and competent in common equipment on the fire ground. BA and cylinders should be interchangeable between the fire agencies. A tender is in place already.
- A review of station wear and helmets to ensure common, high-quality personal protective clothing is also underway. This will mean equal PPC effectiveness across career firefighters and increased purchasing power.
The MFB this year became the first fire service in the country to introduce safe threshold limits for PFAS levels in appliances. Our commitment to firefighter health and safety, driven by relentless work from acting Commander Mick Tisbury, has helped drive the MFB to establish a decontamination process – even though it had been told decontamination was impossible. This year, 6000 lengths of hose and half the fleet have been cleaned to drinking water standards. Funding has also been secured for a ground-breaking project exploring how to reduce the level of PFAS in firefighters’ blood and tissue.
Emergency Medical Response Program
Career firefighters co-respond with Ambulance Victoria to medical emergencies identified as a serious threat to life needing rapid response and intervention. Firefighters are trained to give life- preserving intervention until paramedics arrive on the scene. The Andrews Government committed to roll out EMR across the career fire stations in the CFA, enabling a 90-second response to certain types of serious medical calls.
The EMR program has now expanded to additional career firefighting stations including Boronia, Rowville, South Warrandyte, Rosebud, Frankston, Patterson River, Pakenham, Morwell, Traralgon, Melton, Craigieburn, Greenvale, Sunbury, Caroline Springs, Point Cook, Hoppers Crossing, Eltham, Lucas, Ballarat City and Bendigo. Further stations to receive EMR training and go online next financial year will be Geelong City, Corio, Belmont, Ocean Grove, Lara, Warrnambool, Portland, Mildura, Wangaratta and Wodonga.
Secondment process between MFB and CFA
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission criticised the lack of coordination between MFB and CFA. There was a need to break down parochial barriers. In 2010, the CFA and MFB operational agreements enabled secondment programs between the two agencies. These were implemented in 2011, but despite feedback from trial participants that it was a success, the MFB and CFA refused to offer any further secondments to employees. It was only reintroduced in 2015 under the Andrews Government. This means firefighters from one agency can undertake training and work in the other agency.
Joint appliances and equipment
Having one appliance specification across both the CFA and MFB will mean firefighters will be trained to fully utilise their knowledge on the fire ground regardless of their agency.
A lot has been achieved. We could not have done it without your support. We would like to thank all members for their support throughout the year.
Strength in Unity
READ OUT AT MUSTER AND PIN ON NOTICE BOARD
Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary