SES Volunteers Association of Western Australia (Incorporated)

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24/10/2011 – Poor training shocks FESA CEO

Fire services chief Wayne Gregson has flagged big changes in the way bushfires are fought in WA, including more training for firefighters, saying he was “gobsmacked” at some of the inadequacies within the Fire and Emergency Services Authority.  Five weeks into the job, after the sacking of former FESA chief executive Jo Harrison-Ward, Mr Gregson spoke out about reforming the troubled agency at a forum in Boyup Brook on Saturday.  Mr Gregson said he was astounded at the lack of training and the apparent inability of some FESA bureaucrats to make a decision.  He warned more heads would roll within FESA if staff were not prepared to change.

Mr Gregson also flagged new legislation to change the State’s prescribed burn program.  He said he had been astounded to discover there was not one uniformed operational officer at FESA’s upper echelons, on the sixth floor of FESA house.  “I was surrounded by bureaucrats and that’s going to change,” Mr Gregson said.  FESA was just weeks away from signing a new agreement with the Department of Environment and Conservation, in a bid to heal the notoriously poisonous relationship and work together.  “I want officers who can lead,” Mr Gregson said.  “I’ve had some discussions about who should be calling the shots on the fire ground and I’ve said openly I don’t care what discipline they come from.  “I don’t care if they’re a member of the bushfire brigade, or from career fire and rescue or whether they’re from the Country Women’s Association.”  He said he wanted better co-ordination between all groups involved in fighting fires. 

“I am gobsmacked at the lack of training across the emergency services service delivery and I’m not just talking about career firefighters, who seem to stop at station manager level, but I’m talking about everybody who is involved in responding,” Mr Gregson said.
“We’re going to have a very good look at what sort of training if you are on a deployment. It is not OK just to have an election and sing Kumbaya to decide who’s going to be commander in the field.  “What is needed is someone who has got some experience, training and competencies.”  Mr Gregson dismissed criticism he had no operational experience. “The only fires I intend to put out are political ones,” he said.  “I’ve got five weeks in the job now and I’m still alive, so I’m counting that as a small victory.”

Sourse; GEORGIA LONEY, The West Australian October 24, 2011



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