During the last challenging fire season our firefighters sustained an incredible work rate both in Victoria and interstate. But as committed as our firefighters are, they can’t do it alone.
One of the many groups of people supporting their frontline efforts are our peers. When on deployment to a major fire, peers can carry out numerous invaluable duties:
- Visiting local brigades and speaking with captains to help them understand the work of the Peer Support Program and to give peers insight into what support brigades need.
- Phoning strike team members to allow for follow-ups to occur and referrals to other peers or agencies to be made.
- Providing support to everyone working in an ICC.
- Networking with community liaison members and members of other emergency services organisations at the start and end of each day.
- Liaising with members of the community through formal and informal visits.
- Creating and strengthening links with communities and brigades through sharing meals and enjoying the hospitality offered.
Pam Young, a peer from district 12, gave the following insights from her time deployed to the Tallangatta staging area in north-east Victoria.
“Being in the same place for the whole deployment was valuable,” Pam said. “It meant people could see a familiar face rather than a new one each day.
“Walking up to the main street, I not only gave a smile and hello to locals but also to those in the Parks Victoria and DELWP offices and the town’s relief centre at the hall. I was there when needed by CFA, FFMVic, SES, St John Ambulance (who carried out first aid at the staging area) and the catering team who put in long hours. I also often consulted the staging area manager to source something that was needed and to find out contact details - knowing who to go to is invaluable.
“I was able to acknowledge the work being done by everyone. Whatever their role, what people were doing was crucial and important. Everyone needs someone to talk to without being judged for how they feel. As a peer, when this happens I’m doing my job.”
Hilldene brigade member and peer Lesley Read (pictured with District 24 peers Greg Dale and Penny Perfrement) was deployed to the Hawksbury region of NSW.
“Our days started at the staging area and then we travelled around and chatted to as many of the crews as possible, keeping an eye on everyone,” Lesley said. “As the trucks arrived back at the staging area at the end of the day we talked to each crew to check that everything was OK and to find out if there was anything they needed.
“We had a couple of hospital trips, chased up some speciality needs like gloves, sunscreen, hydration sticks, and sorted out some funny situations like ripped pants and the need for sugar-free lollies. We tried to keep things light where we could and hopefully everyone felt they could come to us.
“I was lucky to have a great team. We worked as one. All three of us had similar ways of handling situations as they came up; nothing was too hard or too small.”