Chief Executive Update

  Comment Banner April 2010

A message from the Chief Executive

David Place - medium portrait
  Well here we are in April, Easter has come and gone, the election has been finalised, summer is officially over and we wait the arrival of winter. Although the first quarter of the year has been a very busy and productive period, it has certainly passed us by quickly.

March 20 saw South Australians re-elect the Labor Government for the next four years. The Hon Michael Wright MP was also re appointed as the Minister for Emergency Services. This continuity ensures we can re-engage our already established plans and continue on with the many projects already underway and those planned for the coming months.
  There have, however, been some changes within the Minister's office - Jeremy Makin has been appointed as the Ministerial Advisor for Emergency Service and Melissa Cocking is now the Ministerial Liaison Officer.

As I reflect on the Easter long weekend I am reminded that we are often faced with tragic situations. Once again Easter was a busy and difficult time for our staff and volunteers. Tragically three people lost their lives on the roads and a number of people were lucky to survive significant house fires at Para Vista and Lockleys. These unfortunate events impact on our community at many levels. They can lead to emotional and psychological trauma for the members of the public who are often unfortunate bystanders and for this reason the Government has established the Road Trauma Support Team of South Australia. The support service provides counselling to those affected by vehicle collisions and is an initiative supported by the CFS, SA Police and SA Ambulance Service. You can read more about this important service within this edition.

This brings me back to my original point, as fire and emergency service staff and volunteers, we too are often exposed to traumatic situations. It is important to seek support following a distressing experience, and I encourage all members of the sector to consider the Stress Management and Peer Support Program available.

As I think back to the summer that has passed, we have endured a long, hot and sometimes testing fire danger season; however we are now on the home straight. The fire danger season has already come to a close in the North West and North East Pastoral districts and by April 30 the South Australian fire danger season will officially have ended in all districts. As a sector we have worked together to achieve some positive outcomes throughout the 2009/2010 fire danger season and now is the time to begin evaluating our successes and areas for improvement.

This period of evaluation is occurring on a national stage as well. All fire and emergency service organisations around the country are keen to determine how the learnings and changes implemented so far, as a result of the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires, have made an impact. There will be further changes and the outcomes of the inquest into Australia's worst ever bushfire event will continue to guide the enormous amount of work that still lies ahead.

In our State the evaluation has already begun on stage one of the PREPARE.ACT.SURVIVE. campaign with initial research findings indicating the campaign is fostering behavioural change and having an impact on the way our community engages with bushfire preparations and response. Stage two of the campaign is set to start soon with a focus on residents in high fire risk areas and what they can do during the "off season" to help mitigate bushfire risks ahead of the next fire danger season.

Another positive outcome from this fire danger season was the successful completion of phase one of the Alert SA project. The emergency alert system was effectively activated nine times following its launch in December 2010. Phase two of the Alert SA project will kick off soon with plans to implement further emergency alert technical developments prior to the 2010/2011 Fire Danger Season. This will include an all-hazards web facility and Emergency Information Line. A public education campaign will begin in June to increase awareness and understanding of the telephone warning system. This will be coupled with a sector-wide internal communications plan.

While the evaluation gets underway following the fire danger season, it has been "mad March" for the SES. Not only did they respond to over 1,000 taskings during late February and early March here in South Australia, at the beginning of March the SES sent a team of volunteers to assist SES Victoria after widespread extreme weather resulted in 7,000 call outs. Only weeks later a second call for assistance was received, this time from Western Australia, in the wake of a wild thunderstorm that hit Perth and resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage. This willingness to help our interstate counterparts is the result of a strong partnership that exists between all emergency service organisations around the country and I commend our SES volunteers for putting up their hands to help.

As we embark on the last quarter of the financial year, we are set for another busy period. At the recent Board meeting held in the southern suburbs it was advised that a review of the sector's budget indicated we are in a good position heading into the end of financial year, however all projects will continue to be monitored closely. The update From the Board and a wrap up of the Board's visit to Aldinga, including the Volunteer Employer Recognition & Support Program (VERSP) event host by SAFECOM, can be found within this edition.

Lastly, the 2010 South Australian Police and Emergency Service Games gets underway on Friday, 30 April and I invite all sector volunteers and staff to participate. The Games were officially launched last Wednesday at MFS headquarters and as with previous years the 10-day event is set to be a great success. To find out how you can get involved and get behind the 'unity in sport' theme, view the article in this month's edition for all the details. Best of luck to all those involved.

David Place

Michael Wright - portrait

The Hon Michael Wright MP
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