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Taking the first steps towards fire management
Since we designated the fire prevention and preparedness folio to the Deputy Group Officers (John, Ray and myself), we've been able to develop one-on-one relationships with brigades and relieve some of the pressure on the Group Officer and the Municipal Fire Prefvention Officer.
With these changes proving a success, our next challenge is the move towards IFMP. One of our major motivations is making sure fire prevention works are applied where they are needed most, so the community gets the best benefit and outcome. Having a transparent and accountable process to work out what our real risks are is also important.
Graham describes it well when he says it's not about which street corners are slashed first, it's about being strategic, knowing where the highest risks are and making sure that they are the priority for fire prevention work. Our Operations Officer Ashley Mills agrees with our philosophy.
"The issue with fire prevention work is we can only get so much done individually. If we have a collective approach to looking at the risks in a calculated and measured way, we'll be able to get the most important work done. The Council, road and rail authorities listen when you have a well planned and endorsed approach."
I think like many of us they are time and resource poor, so if we can make their job easier and precise, a progressive plan can happen.
But like many brigades and groups facing the transition from fire prevention committees to fire management planning committees (as will happen under IFMP) we face a number of challenges.
At the last fire prevention committee meeting, we presented the idea of transitioning to a Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee. Although it was received well by many of the members, there were some members with concerns.
The main concern was that we won't be able to fulfil our statutory obligations under the CFA Act. After a recent meeting with Fiona Burns, CFA's IFMP Coordinator, we were able to confirm a few key points.
1. Fire prevention committees (MFPCs) will change their name and composition and be called Municipal Fire Management Planning Committees (MFMPCs). Under the CFA Act fire prevention committees are not compulsory, as the Act says that an area may have a MFPC. It is the fire prevention plan that is a legislated requirement.
2. The Municipal Fire Prevention Plan (MFPP) under s. 55A CFA Act will now be included in the Municipal Fire Management Plan (MFMP). The MFMP will be a sub-plan of the Municipal Emergency Management Plan (MEMP).
3. The MFMPC will produce a MFMP under s. 9 Emergency Management Act under the authority of the Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee (MEMPC). The MFMP will include prevention, preparedness, response and recovery
4. The current MFPCs will be progressively disbanded after consultation with Brigades which will occur at a regional level. CFA will continue to protect the right of brigades and brigade members to participate meaningfully in fire management planning processes. There are a number of options which allow brigades and groups to ensure appropriate representation continues.
5. A reduction in CFA's direct representation at MFPCs is in line with our representation at MEMPCs.
Although this clears up some of the concerns of brigade members, we know it's important that brigades continue to have an input and a voice and we'll be working with the region and the IFMP team to make sure that that voice is still heard.
We want to make sure everyone is comfortable with the transition, so the first step will be visiting concerned brigades and members, along with the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer to discuss their concerns in more detail. This has been done and we've built some very good relationships and achieved some results for the respective community and brigade by following this process.
One of the main points we want to convey is that the new fire management planning committee is that will not stop brigades from liaising directly with the Council to get fire prevention work done if they so desire to continue to do so.
We're also looking at what the best way for us to transition is, whether it means the fire prevention committee acts in an advisory capacity or we have a representative from the group on the committee.
We're positive this will deliver good outcomes for all and are determined to make this work in the best possible way. It's just the beginning of a new, productive and exciting journey that will result in efficient and manageable outcomes for us all. As we continue down this path, I'll be updating this blog to give you a brief on our experience and what went well to assist you in what brigades and groups may expect when you begin your transition.
I hope that this blog provides an opportunity for us to share and learn from each other.
Garry Nash, Deputy Group Officer, Wangaratta Group