Chief Executive Update

  Comment Banner Feb 2010

A message from the Chief Executive

David Place - medium portrait

The 12-month anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires is a time to remember the significant loss felt by so many, a time to reflect on the struggle and progress made in rebuilding communities, and a time to renew our resolve to truly learn from the tragedy.

We remember and give thanks for the courageous efforts of our own men and women who helped our interstate colleagues in their time of need, and who continue to support them as they try to move on. And it is the men and women of our services, both volunteer and staff, who can, and are, bringing about change corporately, across government and at the grass roots level to improve our preparedness.


Many people across our sector have been great ambassadors in helping the community understand the new fire danger ratings (FDR) framework, and together with the media campaign, it has helped stimulate debate, prompt people to start asking the right questions, and getting people to think differently about their bushfire safety.

Initial research has shown that 85% of those surveyed were aware of the new ratings, with 72% indicating they understood what the new levels meant. Anecdotally, one Athelstone resident has commended the FDR TV ad saying, "it is the one way I've heard it described that makes sense to me and has helped me understand when I could stay and when I should leave."

The multi-agency Bushfire Task Force has also made significant progress in changing bushfire practices with 30 out of the 33 recommendations for this fire danger season completed.

One of the major deliverables has been the introduction of the Emergency Alert system which SAFECOM has been managing. Alerts have been sent to landlines and mobile phones on nine occasions, CFS personnel have been trained in the use of system, and more than 100 volunteers from across government have been trained to staff the associated phone system.

Other significant achievements within the sector include the induction of seven community education officers, a Partners In Bushfire Safety Project Manager charged with working with organisations and community groups to improve their bushfire procedures, and a Fire Education In Schools Officer. They have all been extremely busy and have already doubled the number of Community Fire Safe groups this season.

Seeds for continuous improvement are not just sewn from tragedies such Black Saturday but need to be rooted in the culture of an organisation. On this front, we have made some headway in developing our next sector strategic plan, the development of emergency service delivery standards for application across the sector, and in preparing a unified approach to sector training.

Sector representatives have attended a number of workshops to chart a way forward for a strategic plan developed by the sector, for the sector. Our next step is to develop joint performance indicators before it proceeds to the Board for approval.

The Emergency Service Delivery Standards (ESDS) project aligns with the work of the strategic plan in developing standards across the sector in PPRR that align with risk for the major incidents the sector responds to.

In other initiatives, the Board has requested the Learning and Development Committee undertake a sector-wide review to look at opportunities to collaborate on training, and has also approved the relocation of SES to Level 8, 60 Waymouth Street.

In talking about sector collaboration, it would be remiss of me not to touch on the passing of Senior Firefighter Peter Hall. Peter was a real pioneer, initiating the Road Awareness and Accident Prevention program which brings together the MFS, CFS and SES to educate students on road safety. Peter leaves behind a strong legacy, and our thoughts go out to his family and colleagues.

The passion and drive that was exemplified by Peter is not uncommon within our sector, and I was delighted to see that a number of our personnel were formally recognised for their significant contributions to the South Australian community during the Australia Day Awards. Congratulations to all.

David Place
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