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Rowville moves to 24/7 staffing
Career firefighters will now work around the clock at the station in support of Rowville's volunteer members, following the brigade's transition to a fully operational integrated brigade on Monday 7 April.
The move to 24-hour staffing will allow the brigade to better service the suburb of Rowville, which has seen rapid growth over the past two decades.
It is just over one year ago to the day when Rowville officially became one of Victoria’s 32 brigades to have both volunteers and staff working side by side at the same location. This model, known as ‘integration’, is unique to Victoria.
Adding career staff to an existing volunteer brigade is not without its challenges, and Operations Officer Mark Kennedy, who headed up the integration process at Rowville, was determined to learn from past experiences at other brigades.
Step one of his action plan was to talk to as many people as possible. Step two was to set up an open forum with volunteer members. Following that were facilitated discussions about the brigade management structure and regular email updates.
“Communication and clarity of what’s happening is critical. The key was sorting out quickly what the expectations of the brigade were and building the process from there.”
The questions asked by the brigade were pertinent. ‘Will I be allowed to get on the pumper with the career firefighters’ and ‘will staff train with volunteers’ were common ones, the answer to both being 'yes'.
However, as Mark explained, it took about six months for us to get over the rumour and innuendo about what would happen.
One year down the track and the things are tracking well. A volunteer duty shift operates so that there are volunteers around every day to respond and do jobs around the station.
Members are encouraged to treat all parts of the station as their own as long as they respect personal space and belongings. Volunteers use the staff space if required and vice versa.
Up until 8am on 10 March 2013 John Farrer had been Captain of the Rowville fire brigade. He says the mood had been initially sceptical with a degree of nervousness. “Members were dubious that integration would split the brigade into an ‘us and them’ environment, but I stuck to the point that this was not about individuals, it was about what was best for the community of Rowville,” he said.
"The positives were that we would be working with better equipment, more training and a new pumper," he said. At that point the brigade was up to 300-plus turnouts a year.
When asked about Rowville and the recent addition of career staff, Eastern Metropolitan Region Director David Baker echoed Mark’s philosophy. “You must have absolute respect for the brigade in going about the integration process,” he said.
“Brigades need to feel convinced of the need to integrate. From our perspective it’s not about fixing failures, it’s about building on strength.”
“Rowville has a proud history as a volunteer brigade, dating back more than 70 years. This new era will see volunteers and career firefighters serving side by side.”
The development at Rowville is part of an overall CFA strategy to respond to urban and regional growth by providing additional career firefighters to support volunteers.