Chief Executive Update

  Comment Banner Dec 2009

A Message from the Chief Executive, David Place

David Place - medium portrait

Many South Australians love this time of year, invigorated by the arrival of warmer weather and celebrating the onset of the festive season. While many are looking forward to the joys of summer and to winding down for the festive season, the summer months signal a heightened level of risk for our sector and we are all bracing ourselves for the worst that summer can throw at us.

While the threat of structure fires, severe weather and road crashes are year-round risks, the summer months bring the added risks associated with seasonal pursuits like swimming and boating, and the perils of bushfires and extreme heat.

  Led by the SES, the new whole-of-government approach to managing extreme heat was triggered in mid November. The first stretch of hot weather for the season allowed the new framework to be tested and refined, and allowed each agency - from our ESOs and SAFECOM to Health, PIRSA, Transport and others - to check their readiness.

The heatwave earlier this year not only triggered this new approach to extreme heat, but also precipitated the Black Saturday fires in Victoria which have since provided a renewed focus for making SA as fire safe as possible.

The State Government recently announced an additional $5.2 million to extend the Bushfire Ready advertising campaign and CFS's community education program. Part of the new funds made possible the Sunday Mail insert that kicked off the campaign recently - hopefully putting important PREPARE. ACT. SURVIVE. information directly into more than 300,000 households. It also funded the new educational DVD that was sent to 220,000 households in fire risk areas this week.

More importantly, the funding will boost the number of community educators to deliver practical preparation and survival information at the grass roots level where the greatest behaviour change can be effected. Recruitment has already commenced so we are hopeful the new recruits can make some quick headway.

Amendments to the FES Act have seen changes including increased penalties for fire safety breaches, streamlining the bushfire management framework from three tiers to two, and the provision for urban bushfire risk areas. Given this greater urban focus, the Bushfire Ready campaign will draw attention to the bushfire threat that is just as real in urban fringe areas as it is in regional areas, and campaign materials will be co-badged with the MFS and CFS logos.

The national telephone messaging system, which will provide an SMS to the billing address of mobiles and voice messages to the physical location of landlines, is progressing with the project being expanded in SA to include further complimentary communication tools including a dedicated all-hazards emergency warning website, a Mass Incoming Call Capacity and an Emergency Call Centre.

Telstra has completed the system to deliver the messages, public testing has been completed in Victoria and Australia-wide training of relevant personnel took place in late November. It was launched in SA on 4 December 2009 with the first stage of the system set to be tested in mid December.

While a lot of changes have been focused on the immediate summer threats, your Board is initiating its strategic planning process to chart the way forward for the sector over the next 24 months. Board members, including the Chiefs, volunteer association representatives and the newly appointed UFU nominee, have embarked on a series of workshops with executive teams, key managers and stakeholders from across the sector to develop our new strategic plan. Stay tuned for more on this. Stay vigilant and stay safe.

David Place - Signature

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