Wednesday 16 April 2011. Number 511     The Rumour Mill No (02) 9265 2627


Welcome to our new Minister

Following the state election, ministerial portfolios have been announced by the new Premier, the Honourable Barry O’Farrell MP.  We welcome Michael Gallacher, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, and look forward to working with him into the future. Minister Gallacher served as a career Police Officer prior to entering Parliament in 2003. He visited Head Office last week and also asked to be shown around City of Sydney Fire Station where he met the on-duty crew and senior officers from the operational Commands. I have also had a number of meetings with the Director General of the new Ministry of Police and Emergency Services, Les Tree.

Vale Captain Terry Marshall

On Monday this week, hundreds of friends, relatives and workmates of highly respected Nambucca Heads Captain Terry Marshall gathered to pay him their last respects. Terry was very active in helping to promote fire safety and FRNSW recruitment to Indigenous communities, and was a respected role model in his local community, in FRNSW, and throughout the state. Terry died suddenly and prematurely last week, and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. Superintendent Dave Gray, a good friend of Terry’s, delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral on behalf of all of us.

Vale Senior Firefighter Kent Jackson

I joined hundreds of friends and colleagues at the funeral service of Senior Firefighter Kent Jackson last week, after he passed away suddenly while on duty at City of Sydney Fire Station on 31 March. Kent, or ‘Jacko’ joined the NSWFB in May 1975 and worked at stations across the metropolitan area, including 1 City of Sydney, 36 Crows Nest, 50 Hornsby, 37 Gordon, 61 Lane Cove, 75 Berowra, 304 Gosford and then back at City of Sydney in 2001.  He was a well known, popular and proud member of FRNSW, and will be sadly missed.

Chief Supt John Bedford AFSM hangs up his boots

Last week we farewelled Chief Superintendent John Bedford AFSM, Assistant Director Preparedness and Response, who had decided that it was time for retirement. John was highly involved in areas of planning and preparedness for much of his FRNSW career, particularly in the areas of Hazmat, CBRN, and counter-terrorism. John played a crucial role in planning for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, assisted with planning for Olympics in Salt Lake City 2002, and Athens 2004, and was the principal planner for events such as World Youth Day.  Most recently, he was the FRNSW Liaison Officer in Canberra when our USAR Task Force responded to Japan . On behalf of his friends and colleagues in FRNSW, I wished him and Sandra a long, happy and healthy retirement.

USAR website resource

There has been increased interest from staff wanting to know and learn more about USAR. FRNSW is the lead agency for USAR in NSW, and together with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, plays a national and international leadership role. This year we have deployed USAR Task Forces or elements of our capability to the Queensland floods, Christchurch in New Zealand, and of course, to Japan .

The USAR team at the Ingleburn training centre in conjunction with QED, have developed a large learning and support resource for USAR operations. This site provides extensive information for existing USAR operators and firefighters, and is available to all staff through the intranet.

USAR training exercise

To increase our capability across the greater Sydney area, twenty FRNSW and four Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT) paramedics from the Ambulance Service of NSW have just completed their 4-week USAR Category 2 training course. The skills acquisition process culminated in a 48-hour assessment exercise at the Milperra waste recycling facility, where trainees live in tents, eat from ration packs, work in shifts, and use USAR props throughout a realistic scenario.

We currently have 220 Category 2 trained personnel who make up our urban search and rescue task force capability. Given our state, national and international USAR response obligations, we are working toward a formal classification process with the United Nations. We will complete four USAR Category 2 training courses in 2011, and a further two courses in 2012, prior to seeking formal INSARAG (International Search and Rescue Advisory Group) accreditation in September next year.

Nowra Commendations

Tonight I will present commendations to five people for their actions last year after a car plunged off the Nowra Bridge into the Shoalhaven River . Commendations are being awarded to members of the public Peter Stanton and John Bryce, along with Deputy Captain John Dun and Retained Firefighters Gary Gilbert and Wayne Gerstenberg. The entire 405 Nowra crew will receive a Unit Commendation for their outstanding team work on that day.

The actions of Mr Stanton and Mr Bryce were instrumental in saving the survivor. The Nowra crew worked extremely well under very hazardous conditions while in full view of members of the public and other emergency services. I am very proud of the professionalism and resourcefulness shown by crew.

Station visits

Over the next few days I will be visiting firefighters at Nowra, Batemans Bay , Jindabyne, Thredbo, Perisher Valley , Queanbeyan and Goulburn.  Station visits are always valuable, as they enable me to hear your points of view and ideas first-hand, while enabling me to explain our organisational vision and direction.

Bushfire Danger Period extended in some areas

The official end to the statutory bushfire danger period was 31 March 2011, however councils have extended the fire danger period in Warren , Walgett, Upper Hunter, Regional Tamworth, Liverpool Plains, Gunnedah and Coonamble. Following heavy rains and prolific grass growth, these areas have experienced warm dry weather in recent months, creating perfect conditions for fire outbreaks. The bushfire danger period has ended in all other areas across the state due to moist weather patterns consistent with the La Nina cycle we have experienced since last year. Hazard reduction activities are now the priority to reduce accumulated bushfire fuels. Some areas that are out of the bushfire danger period may still require a fire permit due to environmental regulations.

Brigade Kids Day - Sunday 1 May

Brigade Kids Day kick-starts Fire Prevention Week on Sunday 1 May. This is a joint initiative between FRNSW and McDonald's and aims to help to make families safer through fire education, while also raising money for the Burns Unit at The Children's Hospital at Westmead. Crews are encouraged to participate in promoting Brigade Kids Day and Fire Prevention Week.

Firefighters are especially encouraged to promote the recently upgraded Brigade Kids website, which has fire safety information for all members of our community, and educational games and activities for children. For further information, contact the Community Engagement and Development Unit on 9742 7179.

Fire Station Open Day - Saturday 7 May

Fire Prevention Week culminates with Open Day, our biggest community event of the year. Your participation to help make it a success is vital. As part of Fire Prevention Week, there will be a television commercial (funded by sponsor GIO) warning of the dangers posed by household appliances. Various materials will be sent to stations to assist with Open Day. Contact the Community Engagement and Development Unit on 9742 7179 for further information.

Harmony Day appreciation

FRNSW received praise and appreciation from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for our role in the 2011 Harmony Day launch in February. As a key partner agency, we hosted the national launch at City of Sydney Fire Station and have supported the Harmony Day initiative for many years. Yesterday, at the Executive Leadership Team meeting, I was pleased to present a certificate of appreciation from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to David Weir, our CALD Coordinator, for his tireless efforts and enthusiasm.

Pride of the Illawarra Awards

The inaugural Pride of the Illawarra Awards emergency service finalists were announced last Friday.  These awards are an initiative of the Combined Rotary Clubs of the Illawarra, and acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of local emergency service personnel who have performed community service above and beyond the call of duty. Congratulations to our four FRNSW finalists: SO Tony Camilleri, RFF Rachel Cooper, Capt Ken Lawrence, and Dep Capt Fred Refalo. Winners will be announced on 6 May.  For further information, go to the website.

Anzac Day March

On Monday 25 April, Deputy Commissioner John Benson AFSM will be representing FRNSW at the Anzac Day Dawn Service and will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Martin Place . We will also hold our traditional remembrance service at the City of Sydney Fire Station , a custom which has been practiced since 1928. I will then lead the FRNSW contingent and band in the Sydney march. Instructions for staff participating in the march will be circulated shortly.

RSL LifeCare centenary

Last week I delivered an address to residents, families and staff at the RSL LifeCare ANZAC Village at Collaroy Plateau, as part of their centenary celebrations. Other speakers included General Peter Cosgrove, Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford from NSW Police, and Acting Chief Executive Mike Willis from the Ambulance Service. I spoke about the ANZAC legend and how it forged a nation, of the debt we all owe to veterans, and how, in my opinion, the emergency services help to keep alive the ANZAC spirit in the community through selflessness, dedication to duty and courage. I learned while there that local firefighters often drop in so that they can visit veterans, and how much this means to the residents. As always, I was very proud to wear the uniform when I heard this.

Direction to CFU Members

We are continually working towards creating tools and measures to assist staff and CFU members operating within the CFU Program. CFU policies, guidelines, processes and training requirements have been refined to better support firefighters and CFU volunteers to understand their roles, responsibilities, and limits. It is important when training or engaging with CFU volunteers, that you also have an understanding of CFU policies and supporting guidelines and processes. For further information, see the intranet article.


School fire attracts enormous media attention

Just after midday on Thursday 7 April, crews were called to reports of a fire in a school building at Chester Hill North Public School . 55 Guildford crew arrived to find the roof area of a building 30m by 15m totally involved in fire. Fortunately they were advised that all students had been evacuated safely and were able to immediately concentrate on attacking the fire. A 2nd Alarm response was requested, and additional crews from 73 Fairfield , 62 Bankstown , 72 Merrylands, 19 Silverwater and 27 Parramatta responded.

The old school building had been undergoing renovations and the fire quickly spread through the roof void, causing extensive damage to the structure. It took two hours to bring the fire under control and finally extinguish the blaze. Although all 500 students and staff were evacuated safely, some students started to complain of minor smoke inhalation. As a precaution, a total of 16 students and 3 staff were conveyed to local hospitals by a large fleet of ambulances for further assessment. All were released later that day.

The fire received enormous media attention due to the involvement of such a large number of students. Fire investigators believe that there were no suspicious circumstances and that the cause of the fire was most likely accidental. This incident highlights the importance of schools having well rehearsed evacuation procedures. The immediate moving of children to safety and rollcalls certainly made the job of first arriving firefighters much easier, and school staff should be commended.


Q:  What is the status of election commitments to staff Bathurst and Nowra on the 10/14 roster, and to establish a new State Training College in Western Sydney ?

A: Given that the election has seen a change of Government, it will take time for the new Government to work through priority issues in each portfolio. The Coalition parties made no commitments about Nowra or the Training College , however the new Minister will be briefed on a range of issues, including these.

Q: What is happening with new firefighting boots?

A: A public tender process for boots is currently being finalised. One of our requirements was for a lighter, more flexible boot, following significant feedback about the current boots.

Q: Are firefighters going to be issued with their own personal rain coats? Recent wet weather has highlighted how unpleasant it can be putting on a raincoat that has been used by others on the previous shift, and that old raincoats are sometimes no longer waterproof.

A: Reflective work raincoats are issued on an appliance crewing basis at present, and there are no plans to issue them to individuals. Station Commanders should ensure that old raincoats are replaced as soon as possible.

Q: When will all current members complete Respectful Workplace Training? Is it true that ComCentres won’t participate in this training until the next financial year because no funds have been allocated? Surely this type of training should be a priority.

A: ComCen staff are encouraged and supported to attend Respectful Workplace Training when above minimum staffing.  Unfortunately to date, the nature of the current rostering within the ComCen environment has not allowed this to occur at a rate originally anticipated. A strategic review is due to be concluded in the second quarter of 2011 that will examine how ComCen staff can be given better access to such training, given the need to maintain staff levels for call-taking, dispatch and radio, at all times. In the latter part of 2011 staff will undergo training on the new computer aided dispatch system, prior to its planned implementation in April 2012, and we are examining how Respectful Workplace Training can be included as part of that program.