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An Open Letter from the Chief Officer

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11 Feb 2016
MFB serving the community

Much is being discussed in the public domain at present regarding the role of firefighters, the industrial relations environment, and diversity recruitment at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).

As Chief Officer I wanted to set the record straight on a number of key points, and above all reassure the Victorian public that MFB and its firefighters remain ready, willing and able to provide a world class emergency service to the community. Our men and women take great pride in the job they do. It is not a job for everyone, and very few have the qualities and attributes required to achieve the high bar set during selection to qualify as a recruit firefighter.

Earlier this week, I sat down with the family of one of our popular firefighters who had tragically passed away, and I was reminded of the strong sense of family that is a common theme within Victoria’s fire-fighting service. The impact of this valued colleague’s death has rippled through our brigade, across every shift and across every station and office. The response from the family was that they were comforted by the amount of support and strength they received from friends, colleagues and fire officers across the state. At a time of great sadness there is also a feeling of great pride in leading a brigade of men and women who support each other – and the wider community - in times of difficulty and upset.

It is the sense of family and protection for their own and the community which is such a strong part of firefighting culture.  Firefighters respond to more than 35,000 calls for assistance across metropolitan Melbourne each year and provide support to other agencies, including CFA, in major fires and incidents across the state.  Currently many Melbourne residents are unaware that MFB firefighters are also Emergency Medical Response (EMR) responders, highly trained to provide unconscious, non-breathing and pulseless patients with medical care in support of paramedics and ambulance officers. 

Whether a blaze, a chemical incident, a grassfire, a heart attack, a car accident or a medical emergency, our firefighters prevent death and injury and work with the community they serve to build resilience.
It is a necessary job. It is a tough job. And often it is a dangerous job. But it is also an incredibly rewarding job.  It is why we want more people to know about it as a career and to encourage more diversity – more women, more people from different backgrounds within the community – to join MFB. We have seen the positive impact that women have in our workforce and that is why we want more to consider a career as a firefighter.

We also need to continue to improve our own brigade – the way we manage, the way we respond, our procedures, our advocacy and our ability to see trends and put policies in place. We do this by analysing the causes and impact of events such as the high-rise fire at Lacrosse, Docklands and feeding that analysis into advocacy to ensure we have the right building regulations and policies to prevent further incidents and ensure people in high-rise buildings are properly safeguarded. We have also done some fantastic work with our response to hoarding and people living in squalor.  After turning up to numerous fires in houses where people had covered every square centimetre with accumulated “materials”, we have worked with health and social welfare agencies to address this issue of public safety concern.

Our focus is on the community we serve and much of our work is about prevention. We want to prevent fires, not just put them out. We want to educate people to prevent fires, not just rescue them. 
At the moment we are in the middle of an enterprise bargaining agreement and, as with any such process, there are some people with passionate views about the right things to do. The reality is that we will keep working through that process until we strike a balance of what is right for our people and for the community.

Whatever the outcome of this process, we remain ready to serve the community as we have always been.
One thing that won’t change is the fact that when the community needs our support, when people in an emergency need our support, or when one of our own needs support, the men and women of MFB will be there. 
 
MFB Chief Officer Peter Rau

 

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