Chief Executive Officer's report
From its very beginnings, CFA has been propelled by ingenuity and innovation. Whether they came from early generations of firefighters on the land or more recently scientific laboratory testing, new ideas and forged pathways have kept CFA at the forefront of emergency management for more than 60 years.
Strong partnerships between volunteers, staff and our leadership team continue to generate progressive projects and exciting initiatives for the future. From an executive viewpoint, we know that many of the best ideas come from people on the ground; and part of the management team's role is to strengthen a culture that fosters, encourages and realises the potential our industrious and forward-thinking members.
The 2007-08 financial year was again rich with innovation. While this Annual Report details activities and initiatives past, I want to highlight the ongoing projects that continue to grow and strengthen our organisation during this exciting time of change.
The safety and wellbeing of our people remains our number one priority. We continued to test and evaluate crew protection system components for our trucks this year. As a result, additional safety features were added to tanker design including the deck access hatch for dual cabin tankers.
Work began on a new design light tanker concept prototype unit that will feature remote control monitors, an ultra high pressure pump and other features to improve ergonomics, firefighter safety and firefighting efficiency, as well as minimising water use. We expect the prototype to be complete by 1 January 2009.
Each year, we evaluate new equipment and assess its suitability for CFA use. Some of the equipment we explored in 2007-08 included global positioning system units, radio frequency identification technology, chemical biological radiological response products, toxic air monitoring instruments, fuels technology for CFA's operational fleet, robotics technology, and satellite technology applications for fire observation.
Our ongoing development of operational communication channels continued as our short message service (SMS) gateway project provided an alternative to our traditional pager network. While pagers will remain the primary means for alerting personnel to an incident, SMS can be used to supplement our paging service and ensure the widest possible coverage.
The past year saw a strong focus on developing our requirements for the next generation of radio or wireless communications equipment. We are working towards integrated communications through Internet Protocol based networks that can manage voice, data, video and other forms of information traffic. This project will also increase our interoperability with other key agencies.
Our junior members are not just our future, they are our today.
Our commitment to building and protecting the ranks of our younger members is reflected in our leading edge 'Children/Young Persons Protection' policy and new management procedures. We now have 251 brigades compliant with these policies and 2,100 junior members across Victoria.
The environment is inseparable from our operations and informs our decision-making at every level of the organisation. Our primary focus in the past year has been empowering CFA leaders and office staff to provide an example of 'walking the talk'.
We highlighted 20 key environmental management priorities in a policy called The Way Forward, joined Sustainability Victoria's Resource Smart Government program, jointly won two City of Whitehorse Sustainability Awards and continued to deliver environmental training.
We also launched the Green Office project in November. Its goal is to help CFA staff to take personal responsibility for the environment within their sphere of influence.
As most parts of Victoria continued to struggle with water supplies this year, CFA and MFB joined together to investigate firefighting with recycled water. Following detailed research, we endorsed the use of Class A recycled water for firefighting and launched the policy in March.
The project has increased the capacity of CFA and MFB firefighters to train and fight fires, as well as reducing our impact on the environment and an already drought ravaged State. The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) has used the outcomes of the project as the basis for a national position on firefighting with recycled water.
Victoria is undergoing significant demographic change. The population of outer metropolitan growth areas has exploded and will continue to increase over the coming decades.
CFA needs to be at the planning table now to deal with these changes and we have built a strong relationship with organisations like the Department of Planning and Community Development, the Growth Areas Authority and VicUrban. Together, we are planning for and addressing the issues raised in the Melbourne 2030 policy to ensure our levels of service delivery and volunteerism can meet the challenges of the future.
As always, we could not have had such a successful year without the dedication and commitment of our members and supporters. It is their ingenuity, innovation and tireless commitment that continue to drive us forward.
Thank you all for making CFA what it is today, and what it will be in the future.
Neil G Bibby AFSM
Chief Executive Officer