Western Australia relies heavily on fire and emergency services volunteers. Well over 20 000 volunteers in 800 volunteer emergency service units provide an essential response capability across the state. In 2013-14, over 31 000 fires, road crashes, natural disasters and other incidents were recorded, with volunteers responding to around a third of these.
Volunteers often respond to situations that are dangerous and stressful. They work alongside career fire fighters and other paid staff, but can also be the only responders at an incident. They perform a diverse range of tasks, from frontline responses to logistics, communication and administration. Maintaining the wellbeing and safety of volunteers and by extension, the people and infrastructure they protect and serve means that our volunteers must be well trained, equipped and supported to do their work.
Responsibility for training, equipping and generally supporting volunteers rests primarily with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and to a lesser extent local government councils to whom nearly 80 per cent of the volunteers are logistically tied.
Since its establishment in 2012, DFES has significantly improved the management of emergency service volunteers. But volunteer numbers, training, equipment, support and fatigue are ongoing issues. The importance of DFES and local governments staying on top of these issues cannot be overstated.
I would like to thank DFES and the fire and emergency service volunteers we spoke with during our site visits and the 1 316 volunteers that took the time to respond to our statewide survey. This report would not have been possible without their cooperation and contribution.