Did you know that in South Australia there are 13,500 Country Fire Service volunteers? That number includes a cohort of cadets coming through the ranks as well. Each volunteer belongs to a brigade and there are 420 Fire Brigades dotted across the state. Each Brigade is equipped with the tools they need to fight fires and it is not just bushfire. I am talking about structure fires, hazmat incidents and attending road crashes. The CFS has a significant tool kit and amongst it are more than 800 fire fighting appliances.
Last Summer was milder than anticipated but a call to arms for more volunteers was rightly made. What might be done to entice more emergency service volunteers into the fold? It certainly is not for everyone.
According to Volunteering SA & NT, the peak body for volunteering in our state, ‘in South Australia alone there are almost 1 million volunteers’. That said I do wonder though how the global pandemic may have impacted those numbers in 2020. The site also calculates the value of that contribution to be around $5 billion dollars annually. That is $5 billion dollars annually. I would argue though, that especially so in the realm of emergency services, that value is simply priceless.
Now we have a rich history of volunteering and a volunteer’s commitment to their community, yours, and mine, is selfless without a doubt, and for our volunteer Emergency Services contingent they are under more pressure now than ever.
A changing climate means that our summers and fire danger seasons are burning hotter and longer. It is not just our Country Fire Service volunteers who contribute to fire prevention and fire fighting and other related activities so to do our farmers some of whom are also volunteers.
The CFS recognizes that in many parts of our state farm fire units are an essential and intricate part of our community’s response to fire. I think we need to consider how we can still capture the essence of the volunteering culture that exists but also give something back to those who contribute to our fire fighting and other emergency services efforts.
I do not propose that we start to remunerate those who currently provide their services voluntarily as that would immediately remove the notion of unpaid work. I do wonder how we may assist our volunteers in other ways and let us include our farming community in that as well.
I am proposing to waive vehicle registration charges, especially for those associated with farm fire units. Of course, they would be required to be registered with the CFS and certified, but wouldn’t it be a good place to start?
A simple and useful form of recognition for our farmers and their ongoing commitment and why stop there.
With that measure, perhaps we could also look at a flat rate uniform reduction in vehicle registration to assist other volunteers in Emergency Services and to entice new membership.
What are your thoughts?
And while I am pondering capability, what about the CFS ready reserves? It is a fabulous initiative, and it is not dissimilar to the Army Reservists.
Reserve firefighters aren’t the first responders, but they are called in to provide support in the event of major bushfires both in our state and interstate.
Is it also a time to consider a broadening of a scope and capability of that Peri-urban base unit? Perhaps it is?
Have a seat with me, share your views.