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Safety in the months ahead
As we move further into the fire season in the Grampians region I encourage every brigade to focus on safety as a priority when preparing for the months ahead.
Working in a team environment means that we all have a responsibility for not only our own safety but also that of our colleagues, particularly while operating on the fireground.
With that in mind, I encourage brigades to prepare and practise frequently the burnover drill so that if the risk is imminent the appropriate action of your crews will be swift, decisive, and understood. Along with this you should also drill Red Flag warnings and Mayday calls.
Another fireground risk is hazardous trees. These pose a real threat of killing or severely injuring firefighters, so all crew members need to look up, evaluate and take action to avoid this very potential threat.
Crew welfare is just as important as safety and water plays a critical role. You need to ensure that there's sufficient drinking water on the truck, and think about how you need to keep an eye on your colleagues for any signs of heat stress, heat stroke or de-hydration. Hygiene is another important aspect of operations to avoid illness. Welfare plans should include access to first aid, hand washing and toilet facilities at filling points.
I encourage brigades to get out their copy of Fire and Emergency Management checklists and the Field Guide as a starting point. Make sure all members are familiar with the procedures.
Division Commanders and other senior leaders should again dust off a copy of the Victorian Fire Agency Bushfire Handbook, which summarises the operational management structures and systems used by the Fire Services Commissioner, State Control Centre, CFA, Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade for bushfire preparedness and response in Victoria.
Off duty, all CFA members need to be mindful of local conditions. Grass is still being cut in the south eastern end of the region while harvesting is well underway in the Wimmera. Check your machinery's condition to reduce any potential risk due to overheating or sparks that could start a fire.
Finally, I encourage all CFA members to assist their communities wherever they can by giving them advice on any matters about the fire danger period, Total Fire Ban days, the restrictions in place for burn-offs and local council by-laws. If you haven't done so already, get a copy of the latest version of the Can I or can't I? brochure published earlier this year, which is available at cfa.vic.gov.au.