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Reviews of the fire season
The topic of the night was the replacement of the pagers. The Unication Alpha Legend was the only pager to meet all the technical criteria, but CFA received critical feedback during the initial phase of member testing that led to modifications. A second phase of testing is currently being extended to 400 users as requested by VFBV. These members will be able to check on the requested upgrades to the software, but some things cannot be modified. The Unication Alpha Legend is the toughest pager screen on the market but it is smaller and members must scroll through the messages with no medium font available. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Board meeting began with a briefing from the Chief Officer Euan Ferguson on the fire season. Such a busy season throws up a number of reviews into vehicle incidents and emergency response. Such enquiries fit into the stream of continuous improvement and are simply good practice.
A key review currently underway is the Harrietville review into the management of fire suppression during the first 72 hours as requested by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and to be led by the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner.
Members who were significant decision makers will be important in helping assemble the facts, make statements or perhaps work as subject matter experts. We thank them in advance for their diligence. All members have CFA's full confidence and will have our practical support as the review progresses. No doubt it will spark considerable public and media interest.
The Chief also provided an update on discussions between CFA, the Department of Treasury and Finance and DSE about volunteers conducting planned burns on public land. In its early days, this project is considering the availability of volunteers, training needs, blocks to participation, equipment, operational risks and the legislative framework.
Meanwhile, the background work of CFA goes on. The Chief is monitoring the commissioning of aerial pumpers, hazmat and rescue vehicles to ensure they are actively managed. Ten heavy tankers on an Iveco cab chassis are being manufactured as proof of concept for the medium concept tanker. A remaining 261 stations have been identified as not having toilets. This is a matter that is being worked through.
The five volunteer and five integrated stations taking part in the Emergency Medical Response pilot are participating in a review due to be completed this April. All 10 brigades continue to provide the EMR service while the evaluation is being completed.
Chief Executive Officer Mick Bourke informed the Board that the Regional Radio Dispatch Service (RRDS) State Government contract has now been signed. CFA will be the initial managing agent for the State build and operationalisation of RRDS. It will not only enable radio dispatch capability to more than 500 brigades who do not have that capacity now, but will offer great potential for other emergency services.
The CEO also advised that the general agreement about ongoing funding for VFBV has been accepted by all parties.
The Kilmore East civil action trial began on 4 March and the CEO provided an update on the first week of proceedings. At the outset, SPI emphasised that the warnings case was not directed at individual officers but directed to the general spread of information.
Chris Caleo, Senior Counsel for CFA, DSE, Victoria Police, emphasised shared responsibility and that, as part of community education about bushfire safety, communities were consistently warned that the circumstances of a fire may mean that warnings would not be able to be given, or may not reach them, and individuals would need to rely on their own judgment about when to leave.
Importantly, prior to trial, the suppression case against CFA was dismissed. This is great news for all those CFA members who fought hard on Black Saturday to protect lives and property.