Improved Fire Management
Victoria’s arrangements for command and control of major emergencies were again significantly revised before the 2010-11 fire season. These arrangements address principal areas of responsibility for preparing for and managing the response to major incidents across the State.
In September 2010, a new role of Fire Services Commissioner was established in Victoria and enshrined in legislation in December 2010.
The Fire Services Commissioner Act 2010 provides the legislative framework for the new role and amends the Country Fire Authority Act 1958, Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958, Forests Act 1958 and the Emergency Management Act 1986.
The new Act has effectively revised Victoria’s emergency management arrangements so that the Fire Services Commissioner has legislative responsibility for the overall control of response activities in relation to a major fire that is burning or that may occur, or that has occurred in any area of the State. It also outlines the responsibility for ensuring the capacity, capability and interoperability of Victoria’s fire services are enhanced.
State command and control arrangements for bushfires in Victoria were signed off by the Fire Services Commissioner and chief officers of the fire agencies to provide clear and unambiguous command and control of, preparedness for, and response to, bushfires in Victoria.
The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission addressed a number of aspects of how Command and Control was exercised during the fires of February 2009.
In line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, we embarked on a change agenda known as ‘Ready for the Future’. The first part of this program was to establish Regional Commanders in all eight regions. The Regional Commanders are responsible for leadership and oversight of emergency management, preparedness, response planning, and operational recovery functions. They will establish coordinated planning and response activity at regional level and revitalise and reemphasise the command and control system by adopting the command philosophy of ‘Mission Command’.
Mission Command decentralises leadership based on the Commander’s intent − the expected outcome and its purpose. There is an expectation that subordinates will be delegated authority to act rather than being told what to do, exercising initiative as they carry out the Commander’s intent.
Delegation of authority does not, however, absolve leaders of their responsibilities or their accountability. Successful adoption of Mission Command should result in an operational system of work that promotes decentralisation through delegated authority, increases creativity and innovation, and allows subordinates to exercise initiative and freedom of action.
Forty incident control centres and extensive infrastructure in 155 divisional command locations have also been installed to enhance communication and information, and support fire command activities.
The Regional Commanders now provide a key link to the Chief Officer in the coordination at regional level for fire management planning and coordination with partner agencies, authorities and District Operations Managers.
We have established command and control arrangements to provide a level of operational preparedness that Victoria has not seen before. Incident management team (IMT) personnel are receiving additional training to improve their performance and readiness to manage emergencies across Victoria.
More than 2,000 additional emergency alerting system pagers have been supplied to CFA members across the State and we have started to provide identification cards to our members.
Our firefighting capacity is being enhanced through additional career firefighter recruitment.
A series of initiatives improved the collection and analysis of operational bushfire information. Mobile technology was maintained to ensure laptop computers, mapping software and GPS cameras were in a state of readiness. Ground observer equipment was also enhanced with the purchase of an additional three vehicles and field equipment. This increases our ability to collect and communicate fire ground intelligence.
The fire agencies selected 40 sites that were approved by the chief officers for operation during the 2010-11 fire season. These sites included 17 CFA-managed facilities that have all been maintained at or above the minimum standard. In addition, 155 CFA-managed divisional command centres are now operational.
We’ve experienced a lot and attended some huge incidents. It really bonds you together, like the feeling a football team shares after winning a grand final – the Morwell brigade is like my grand final team.
In line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, we embarked on a change agenda known as ‘Ready for the Future’.