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District 27 pre-summer exercise
On 16 October, the District 27 team conducted their annual pre-summer exercise.
As with most plans, it was disrupted before it began with a smoke sighting in the hills north of Glengarry West. As crews were diverted to the real thing, the rest of the District formed strike teams spanning the two groups and went to work.
Story and photos by Operations Officer Emma Conway
There were two elements to the day’s activities. The first was the exercising of the groups including the creation and deployment of strike teams and coordination of vehicle movements. This was managed from the Moe South FOV.
1st Lieutenant Alan Sawyer from Moe South was crew leader of the FOV for the day and said that it was great for newer crew members to get a sense of what an operational tempo feels like.
“There were a few IT issues with the FOV that we couldn’t get help with on a Sunday,” said Alan, “and we identified some issues with comms. But it was a great chance for people to work in roles they weren’t experienced in and everyone pulled together when an issue came up and it got dealt with.”
The strike teams rotated through two drills. One was hosted by Australian Paper Maryvale, a major hazard facility and Australia’s largest producer of paper products. The scenario was a large gas bullet that needed to be cooled. This required crews to set up two tanker relays from different areas of the site as a consequence of several closer hydrants being out for simulated maintenance.
Newborough 2nd Lieutenant Andrew Phoenix was being mentored as a strike team leader. He found it really useful to see how CFA worked with other organisations and to work with brigades from the other groups.
“The tanker relay worked well but we didn’t have enough adaptors to work between trucks with the new Stortz fitting and trucks that still had three thread,” said Andrew. “It was a good problem-solving exercise and being mentored was a really good way to learn from others and gain experience.”
The second drill run by crews from HVP Gippsland Plantations simulated a fire in the plantation requiring a mineral earth break. Out came the trusty rakehoes. Once the break was constructed, crews lay hose into the plantation to round up simulated spot fires which included pushing a ball through a series of obstacles with a straight jet.
Firefighter Andrew George was driving Morwell Tanker and said that the teamwork was a really positive thing to be involved in.
“It was great to operate with other brigades and groups that we don’t normally get to work with,” he said. “Everyone pitched in.”
“The timings were pretty realistic. We finished one of our drills really quickly then had to sit around and wait – pretty much what happens in strike teams anyway!”
Moe Captain Rod Day was a strike team leader mentor who was glad to have external people generating the drills.
“Normally we [CFA] do our own drills but this time everyone just got involved with doing the drill. It was good to have other agencies because it meant we were able to focus on how we would normally work.”
The second element of the exercise involved the District Command Centre and the two Local Command Facilities.
Merton Group Officer Steve Barling was the exercise director. He and his team delivered timed events to the three command facilities to simulate fires being managed by District resources. These events were dealt with as though they were coming from the fireground, and processes and procedures were tested between the three facilities.
“The purpose of the exercise was to test the preparedness of the LCFs and DCC,” said Steve, “and I think we achieved our objective. The day was a good test of our operators’ knowledge and it highlighted some hardware/software issues in the new DCC. It also reinforced the roles and functions of the LCFs and DCC, and I hope we continue with this kind of training to further develop those skills.”
District 27 Operations Manager Bill Johnstone was in the DCC for the exercise. He said that the exercise more than met expectations.
“As District 27 is new, it hasn’t had time to evolve the way other long-established DCCs have, and the exercise uncovered the quirks you would expect in a new facility.”
Bill noted that some minor issues were identified in relation to communications and operators’ familiarity with the layout of the DCC. He was pleased that after all the work district staff have put into getting the DCC up and running, it was pretty much down to fine tuning now.
“People were able to adapt. Problems were identified and solutions were found. The teamwork was outstanding,” he said.
Boolarra Fire Brigade put on the catering for lunch. Once food had been sent to the fireground in Glengarry West (the actual fire), everyone was fed and had a chance to catch up.
Bill concluded the exercise by thanking everyone involved, praising the commitment of the members of District 27 and encouraging us all to keep looking out for each other, keep working together and to take care during the upcoming season.