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Report of Operations 2007-08 - Projects to Improve Response

Class B Foam

With the phasing out of perfluoro-octyl sulphonate foams and widely-varying foam stocks, CFA needed to determine an alternative foam supply to meet its performance, risk profile, environmental, engineering and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) needs. The project involved the immediate replacement of all existing class B foam concentrate stocks from regional headquarters, other large stock piles and in appliances with a new class B foam concentrate (Angus Tridol ATF 3-6 per cent).

Implementation of the new foam has now been completed across the State by district mechanical officers and regional staff. This included the collection, flushing and disposal of all existing class B foam.

CFA now has a class B firefighting foam concentrate standard across the State. With the completion of the project, arrangements for purchasing class B foam have now reverted to CFA regions.

Firefighting with Recycled Water

Long term drought conditions coupled with climate change has led to a significant deficit in water availability for firefighting in most parts of Victoria. The lack of available water, combined with water restrictions and the introduction of recycled water in new housing developments, prompted CFA and the MFB to investigate the use of recycled water for firefighting. Together with Western Water, Yarra Valley Water, South East Water, Environment Protection Authority Victoria and DHS, CFA and the MFB set out to establish a position on the use of recycled water for firefighting, the first initiative of its kind in Victoria.

Following detailed research, CFA and MFB determined to support the use of class A recycled water for firefighting. The use of recycled water for firefighting was launched on 7 March 2008. Related management documents were implemented shortly after. Overall, the CFA/MFB recycled water project has:

CFA believes this innovative project is a good example of an industry being proactive to reduce the effects of climate change, one of the most significant issues facing Australian fire agencies today. The outcomes have been used to form the basis of a national position on the use of recycled water for firefighting through AFAC.

CFA Capability to Manage Marine Incidents

This project aims to establish, plan for and maintain a capability to manage marine incidents in accordance with CFA's statutory obligations under Victoria's emergency management arrangements. It builds on the partnership established previously with the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard.

To date the following milestones have been achieved:

Liaison and partnership work with Coast Guard progressed significantly at a local level to establish and register CFA Coast Guard brigades. To date fourteen Coast Guard brigades have been formed with another three scheduled for the second half of 2008.

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Class A Foam

CFA's current tender arrangements for the supply of class A foam have recently expired. This provided the opportunity to investigate new products on the market and compare them with CFA's current foam. An expert working party was formed to oversee this process with membership from corporate CFA, Victorian Urban Fire Brigades Association (VUFBA), Victorian Rural Fire Brigades Association (VRFBA) and the United Firefighters Union Victorian Branch. There were also observers from the MFB and Tasmania Fire Service.

The working party selected two foams for intensive performance testing and constituent chemical analysis examining environmental impact and human safety. CFA's existing class A foam was also tested as a benchmark along with water used as a control to establish the level of extinguishment benefit the addition of class A foam provided.

This scientific testing and analysis process resulted in a recommendation for a new brand of class A foam, superior in all aspects to the foam CFA used previously. The proposed new foam also has US Department of Agriculture Forest Service approvals and is approved for aircraft use in Canada, optimising its potential operational versatility.

CFA existing class A foam stocks will be reduced by attrition as this brand of foam was assessed by the analysis process as safe to use subject to CFA's existing procedures.

Catering Review

The Catering project is nearing completion with the submission and adoption of a consultant's report in December 2007. A project officer was appointed and has begun work on development of tools and guidelines for CFA members involved in planning for and delivering logistical support, including catering and related services.

The initial drafts of standards, standard contracts and operating procedures has commenced for the delivery of catering in the field. The communications strategy has been developed to keep all internal and external stakeholders informed of progress. There has been extensive contact with stakeholders including potential catering providers.

Short Message Service Gateway

The aim of this project is to allow the ability of messages sent to brigade EAS pagers (including group management teams) to be copied to selected brigade personnel mobile phones by Short Message Service (SMS), thus allowing for the redistribution of EAS pagers to brigade members who are more likely to respond. In most cases, the ability to use SMS is given to brigade members who provide 'operational support' and do not have an EAS pager.

The SMS gateway is generally via the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) CAD system and, as such, provides emergency and non-emergency information sent by the CAD. The SMS gateway project has recently been extended to include the ability of administrative messages, sent via direct VIPER access, to brigade pagers to be included on SMS.

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