WE ARE heading into another hot and busy fire season where the community will once again call on the skills and expertise of their local CFA volunteers to keep them safe. The CFA is built upon the selfless commitment of everyday people protecting the lives and properties of others. I am immensely proud to lead an organisation which is valued, respected and relied upon by millions of Victorians.
As the Chief Officer and CEO of the CFA, it is my role to balance the needs of the community while ensuring the health and safety of our own members. "Safety first" is a motto of ours that I strongly stand by. It applies to both the service we deliver to the community and the priority we place upon member working conditions. Our ability to protect the community is reliant on keeping ourselves safe and injury-free.
Two scenarios which we know present significant risks of serious injury and death to our people are falling trees and vehicles becoming entrapped by fire.
In 2013 two firefighters from the formerly named Department of Sustainability and Environment tragically lost their lives when a tree fell on their vehicle near Harrietville. There have been innumerable "near misses" in the ensuing years, including one of our own trucks being crushed by a tree in Jumbuck last fire season. Mercifully no one was inside but I am chilled by the thought that we nearly lost another crew of firefighters, family members and friends that day.
Likewise, the possibility of a firetruck becoming encircled by flames is a terrifying but present risk in the work we do. CFA has had no deaths or serious injuries since we installed crew protection systems such as sprinklers and radiant heat shield blankets in our tankers in 2006. It's clear that the systems are saving lives and therefore it is crucial that all our operational members are regularly drilled in their use.
There has been recent coverage in the Wimmera Mail-Times about CFA's required training on these two deadly scenarios. I have made it clear over a number of years that in addition to CFA's mandatory, entry-level training, known as "minimum skills", all members responding to emergencies must have also completed a 20-minute online hazardous trees training package every three years and a short vehicle entrapment drill annually.
Without these two regular exercises, a CFA volunteer could complete their minimum skills package at the age of 18 and undertake no further upskilling or training for 40 or more years of active service. The nature of our equipment, processes and indeed the emergencies we respond to are ever-evolving, so it's crucial that our people engage in regular training and refreshers.
We are doing everything we can to proactively support brigades and members to comply with these training requirements, but I do not believe the small time commitment once a year is unreasonable.
Volunteers are only ever on loan to the CFA from their family and friends. The responsibility of returning them to loved ones in one piece weighs heavily upon my shoulders and those of our local managers. It's an invaluable and dangerous service that our volunteers provide to their communities and the least we can do is ensure they are trained and prepared to face those challenges as safely as possible.