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Linton Staff Ride a great success
“This has been the most powerful learning experience I have been involved in over my 20 year career”. DEPI Facilitator (email May 2014)
CFA and DEPI recently joined forces to run the first Linton Staff Ride, with excellent results.
A staff ride is an experiential learning event which provides emergency management staff and volunteers the opportunity to walk in the shoes of people involved with a past incident, to learn lessons for the future.
The Linton Staff Ride is based on the 1998 Linton bushfire. At about 1pm on Wednesday 2 December 1998, a fire started in forest north of Linton, a small town about 30km south west of Ballarat. The fire started on private property and burnt into State Forest. At about 8.40pm, conditions changed rapidly from seemingly benign to intense fast-moving fire. Two tankers were burnt over and the lives of five volunteer firefighters from Geelong West were lost.
The Linton Staff Ride is aimed at all emergency management personnel, and since the focus is on human factors, it is also relevant to leaders more generally. The key learning from the staff ride is about how a seemingly benign situation can quickly turn into a worst-case scenario.
There is no judgement or criticism of the actions or decisions of people that were involved at the time, as this offers little learning value. Instead, participants gain an understanding of the positive changes that have been implemented since the Linton fire and the impact of human factors on decision making in complex and dynamic situations.
“Fantastic, brilliant - cannot think of enough adjectives to describe what a truly great day it was and that I consider myself fortunate (and privileged) to be invited to take part in the pilot.”
CFA Participant (post-course survey June 2014).
The Linton Staff Ride was held on 28 and 29 May and was attended by a wide range of volunteers and staff from CFA, DEPI and MFB. Participants walked along the dozer line on the eastern flank of the fire, discussing the conditions that faced those operational members 15 years ago.
The feedback received from participants on the pilot Linton Staff Ride was overwhelmingly positive. Researchers from the University of Tasmania have conducted an independent evaluation of the pilot event and the feedback is extraordinary.
The design and running of the Linton Staff Ride involved many people involved with, or affected by, the Linton fire. This included CFA Senior Station Officer Simon Scharf, who also attended the Linton Staff Ride to answer questions for the participants.
The families of the five CFA volunteers who died have been involved and also met with a local DEPI works crew in May 2014 to install new seats at the Linton memorial site (pictured below). We reckon the seats look great and they were thoroughly road tested by participants on the staff ride.
The project team would like to thank the families, Simon Scharf, Murray Fullerton and the works crew and the other key involved personnel for their support.
The staff ride was coordinated by an Incident Management Team Training Project (IMTTP) project team. The IMTTP's intent was to improve the sustainability of training and capability of incident management personnel for Victoria. The project, which winds up on 30 June 2014, achieved this by developing common training packages, leadership and exercising frameworks, robust accreditation programs, coaching and mentoring programs and experience based learning tools such as the Linton and Cobaw staff rides.
“This staff ride will save lives into the future. Thank you all and well done," said CFA Chief Officer, Euan Ferguson.
Due to the success of the Linton Staff Ride, a Regional Steering Committee reporting into Emergency Management Victoria will be established to coordinate future staff rides.
Further information about the next Linton Staff Ride will be made available in the coming months.