Report 17

Support and Preparedness of Fire and Emergency Services Volunteers

Volunteer training has improved but access can be difficult

DFES developed its new training program, Professional Pathways, as part of its response to the Perth Hills Bushfire Review 2011. Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, DFES will invest nearly $4 million in Professional Pathways (Table 2). The project identifies prerequisites, ongoing training and individual progression pathways as key requirements.

Table 2 - Professional Pathways project budge 2012-13 to 2015-16

Table 2: Professional Pathways project budget 2012-13 to 2015-16

The project aims to align training with roles and pathways. Effective allocation of resources will depend on DFES’ planning of training needs.

An important component of the project will be the introduction of an online Enterprise Training Management System (ETMS). This will allow volunteers to view the courses they enrol in and monitor progression against their pathway.

DFES’ 6 800 volunteers will be required to use the new system. However, the ETMS will be optional for the approximate 22 200 LG volunteers. The use of the ETMS requires that volunteers have access to a computer and the internet. Volunteers based in regional and remote locations do not always have reliable internet access. DFES also know that many of its older volunteers do not use computers.

Widespread uptake of the ETMS will provide DFES with improved information about training needs and training delivered to volunteers.

Inaccurate training records, discussed earlier in this report, has delayed the roll out of the pathways project. This is because the lack of training records prevented DFES from matching volunteers to their appropriate pathways. DFES is addressing this issue by distributing training packs to volunteers, who then verify if the records are correct or require amendment. At 27 February 2015, DFES had distributed around:

  • 27 000 firefighter training record packs, amended records and issued 1 512 Volunteer Firefighter 1 Pathway Certificates
  • 2 597 SES training record packs, amended records and issued 495 SES Fast Track 1 Pathway Certificates.

This represents around six per cent of volunteer fire fighters and 19 per cent of SES volunteers that have had their base training confirmed. Additional certificates are being issued monthly.

Access to training is affected by cancellation of courses and limited availability of DFES trainers and assessors

Although DFES has made considerable changes to improve how training is structured and delivered, we found that volunteers are often unable to access training due to limited availability of DFES trainers and assessors and cancellation of training courses. Ensuring volunteers have easy access to regular training is important for operational capability as well as volunteer engagement and retention.

During our site visits, many volunteers talked about having had training cancelled at short notice. While we could not confirm this from DFES records, it was evident from our survey responses that access to training needs improvement. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that it was difficult to access training with another two per cent saying that it could not be accessed (Figure 8).

Figure 8 - Office of the Auditor General 2015 volunteer survey responses - Question 12

Some of the evidence we gathered suggests that perhaps not surprisingly, the more remote groups wait longer for training. For example, one DFES volunteer group in the East Pilbara told us they had been waiting over a year for some of their refresher training. They explained this is due in part to District Officers attending major incidents, accumulating leave, then being required by DFES to clear that leave liability. When they go on leave, training is cancelled. The volunteers stressed that they did not feel this was a reflection on the District Officers but of the way DFES resource trainers and assessors.

The 2013 DFES Survey indicated that provision of advanced and refresher courses is limited. Our site visits confirm that this is an issue for volunteers. For example, in 2014 there were only 11 entries in the training records system for Advanced Bush Fire Fighting courses. However, there were 299 introductory Bush Fire Fighting courses in that same period. Advanced and refresher training plays an important role in operational capability as well as volunteer engagement and retention. The DFES Survey also found cancellation of training is another core issue for volunteers. Training is cancelled for a number of reasons, such as insufficient participants or trainer availability.






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