Firsthand experience: NSW deployments

Message from Deputy Chief Officer Gregg Paterson AFSM, Executive Director Training

Firefighting crews in NSW are going through some of the toughest firefighting conditions we’ve seen. They've been active for nearly seven weeks - and their resilience has been incredible.


CFA's DCO Gregg Paterson AFSM, OM Trent McKinnon (Victorian Liaison Officer) and Katerina Sirianos (Victorian Liaison Management Support) were all deployed to NSW FRS headquarters.

My deployment commenced on Thursday 31 October, and I was based at NSW Rural Fire Service’s (RFS) headquarters in Olympic Park, NSW. It was without doubt, one of the most interesting deployments I have been involved in.

I undertook of the role of AFAC National Resource Sharing Centre (NRSC) National Deployment Manager, which is a coordination role that supports the planned or actual deployment of resources, and to support collaboration between interstate fire and emergency services.

The role has been operating since 2016, and it’s forever being moulded as we find new ways to support interstate deployments. Its key focus is about building relationships and providing strategic guidance.

I worked closely with the interstate liaison officers to ensure their resources were being appropriately deployed and supported.

My key focus was to ensure that there were positive relationships between all emergency services, and that they remained strong, and were working as a united front in the face of some terrible circumstances.

Another key function of my deployment was to identify key improvements required and implement solutions where practicable.

We identified that the key risks and issues were not being captured so a risk and issues register was implemented. This provided a more strategic focus on capturing risks and issues and allowed informed conversations around mitigation strategies and tactics.

We implemented a daily “RU OK? meeting” to focus on the team’s welfare, capture key risk and issues as well as any positive learnings. We took these positive learnings and embedded them in our processes.

New South Wales RFS had community safety at the forefront of their planning.  The experience levels of the interstate liaison unit provide a wealth of knowledge to support this planning and the safety of their people and communities were of highest priority at all times.  

I can’t speak more highly of all agencies involved who, given the extreme circumstances, were so incredibly resilient despite constantly having to face new challenges.

Everybody I worked with was accommodating, helpful and friendly throughout the deployment, and the strength of those on the front lines and in the control centres should be highly commended.

As of 13 November there were still 16 Watch and Act warnings in NSW and over 80 advice messages around the state for fires. 

I will again be deployed tomorrow for eight days, and I look forward to supporting our fire and emergency services from around the country again over the coming weeks.

To all those Victorians who are assisting our NSW counterparts in any way, thank you - I wish you well and stay safe.

Author: DCO Gregg Paterson ASFM; Executive Director Training