Page 971 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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(1) Have fire-fighting personnel with (a) ACT Forests and (b) Parks Brigade at any time been given a directive not to respond to reports of bushfire incidents, that is to say, to engage in Urgent Duty Driving for example driving in a manner where the road rules may be broken where reasonable to do so;

(2) If such a directive has been issued, (a) on what basis was it issued, given that fire-fighting personnel from these brigades have in the past responded to fires, (b) on what date will fire-fighting personnel be again able to respond to bushfire incidents and (c) what interim measures have been adopted to ensure that fire-fighting personnel can respond immediately;

(3) Have fire-fighting personnel received any training, instruction or tuition on procedures or requirements when responding to emergency incidents;

(4) Is there a national recognised training standard for responding to emergency incidents;

(5) Has the Emergency Services Authority received any legal advice relating to the legalities of emergency services personnel responding to fires; if so, what did it say;

(6) Have there been any instances where fire-fighting personnel from the Parks or Forestry brigades have been directed to respond to a report of a bushfire on a day of orange or red bushfire readiness, and the fire-fighting personnel only proceeded to the report of fire without breaking the road-rules where reasonable to do so.

Mr Stanhope: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

(1) Staff forming the Parks and ACT Forests Brigades have been instructed to comply with speed limits and traffic lights while travelling to bushfires. Where appropriate, trained and competent personnel may use lights and sirens to negotiate traffic and impediments.

(2) (a) Environment ACT and the Department of Urban Services provide fire fighters to the ACT Rural Fire Service under a Memorandum of Understanding. While involved in bushfire control operations, these personnel are under the command and control of the rural fire service but they remain employees of these agencies, and government land managers maintain a duty of care for their employees. It is important to ensure that personnel undertaking fire fighting duties including urgent duty driving, are appropriately trained and work in accordance with safe work practice. This includes understanding and accounting for the limitation of fire fighting vehicles designed for off-road situations, and having the skills and correct mental attitude to undertake urgent duty driving. Training and assessments are being undertaken to ensure that personnel responding to rural fires meet these requirements, and those of the ACT Rural Fire Service. Land Managers are working closely with the ACT Rural Fire Service to refine existing training and operational procedures.

(b) Six EACT staff attended urgent duty driving training and passed the assessment on 21 and 22 February 2005. A further twelve EACT staff will undertake this training and assessment in the next few weeks. These staff will respond to bush fires according to the Standard Operating Procedure, which is currently being reviewed by the Rural Fire Service with input from government land managers.

(c) Parks and ACT Forests Brigade staff have been responding to Emergency Services Authority directions to attend bush fires immediately and within the road regulations.

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