April 2016 | Edition: 2 Deputy Commissioner's Update

Thursday, 21 Apr 2016


It’s been two years now since Queensland Fire and Emergency Services was established as a department.

While the change from a division within the former Department of Community Safety to a stand-alone department occurred some time ago, the implementation of structural changes required to allow QFES to operate as a modern and mature department has not, until now, taken place.

Earlier this year the Government accepted recommendations from the review of the Public Safety Business Agency (PSBA). This means 11 functions which sat with the PSBA will transition back to QFES. Commissioner Katarina Carroll has determined that the return of these functions presented an appropriate opportunity to also review the QFES capability statements and structure.

There are a couple of points that need to be made about the review and its impact on volunteers.

The Commissioner has said there is no intention to change the chain of command as they relate to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the State Emergency Service (SES).

There is also no position to change legislation as it relates to the RFS, SES or Disaster Management. Any future QFES structure will be implemented within those current frameworks.
We are in the very early stages of this review and recently the Commissioner released a capability map which was developed in consultation with QFES executives, unions and both the RFBAQ and the QSESVA. I have included the current version of the capabilities map for your consideration.
Click on the map to enlarge.

The capabilities map is being developed to ensure we know exactly what functions all of QFES needs to service the community.

The capabilities listed are at a very high level and we acknowledge that a lot of functions currently delivered by volunteers are rolled into these.

Once we know all the capabilities we need as a department then we can determine how QFES will deliver the services. The finer detail is not yet determined but will be informed by the results of consultation and by the commitments above.

Only when we have the capabilities finalised can we start considering a detailed QFES organisation design.

Any current speculation on what a QFES organisation may look like in the future is just that. We simply do not have that level of detail at this stage of the process.

If you have any feedback on the capabilities map please direct them to us through your Area/Regional office or direct to the implementation team at


Mike Wassing
Deputy Commissioner
Emergency Service Volunteers (ESV)


Regional visits
In recent weeks I have been fortunate to meet with volunteers and staff from across numerous locations and services including Mackay, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Fernvale and Emerald. I am appreciative of the time people have taken to attend meetings, with many travelling several hours round trip from home.  

While there are always different local issues and opportunities to discuss, there have been some underlying common themes at these meetings. Consistent across all locations were passionate individuals that work together within their respective service and hold their community roles in the highest regard. The desire to improve communications between services, groups and brigades, and with local Area, Region and State staff has also been a consistent theme.


In response to improving communications and connectedness, we have started to address many aspects including Area staff consolidation and the design and development of the Volunteer Information Portal (VIP). The portal is part of the broader workforce communication and engagement strategy, which includes volunteers. There are also improvements regarding cross training and exercising. We know there is a lot more to do in this area and I acknowledge that this may not be occurring fast enough to address local needs. It does remain a priority that we are working hard to progress.

I look forward to future opportunities that let me engage with our people in their local areas and support our frontline staff.

Office of Bushfire Mitigation
The importance of prevention, preparedness and mitigation must be at the forefront of our capabilities. That is why this year QFES is increasing its focus on bushfire mitigation. We are taking a stronger leadership role, building partnerships with land managers and coordinating efforts across stakeholders, while also recognising the responsibility for managing risk remains with the landowner.

This focus builds on past work but we are also adopting a more strategic and targeted approach. This involves obtaining our partners’ information in areas including fire history and firebreak construction, and supporting an evidence-based approach to potential risk identification.

When this information and other mapping data is combined with local knowledge from our Rural Fire Service teams, QFES staff and our partners in the fire management groups, it will drive the identification of what the real current risks are in any areas. These will then become the priorities for mitigation during Operation Cool Burn. In these high risk areas the mitigation activities are being targeted at the areas closest to our communities (the bushfire interface zone), which is where research shows mitigation is most effective.

Risk mitigation activities are not restricted to hazard reduction burning. Instead, we are using all mitigation tools including improving fire breaks and education efforts targeted towards residents in at risk locations so they are better prepared. This way we can reduce not only the likelihood of bushfires but also the impacts of any that may occur.

To ensure land planning decisions consider bushfire risks appropriately to minimise future issues we are also using our data to influence state planning policy.

While QFES has embraced this new mitigation focus through the establishment of the Office of Bushfire Mitigation, the change will not be perfect immediately – it will be an ongoing process. As we move forward some things will work well but there will be mistakes, as is the case with any change. If we don’t start somewhere we won’t ever get there so we are taking an evolutionary approach, evaluating the outcomes of our efforts, learning, improving and building partnerships as we go.


Operation Cool Burn hazard reduction underway at Highfields early April 2016.
Update on uniforms
I am happy to advise we are in the final design stages of the State Emergency Service (SES) and Rural Fire Service (RFS) shoulder badges.

An implementation plan is being developed to support the roll-out of the agreed light blue shirts as part of the interim uniform wear to SES staff and RFS staff and volunteers in the upcoming months. It is expected that RFS staff and volunteers will commence receiving their uniform wear items in July 2016.

Further consultation and work will be undertaken on the SES volunteer uniform wear items over the coming months. The finalisation of the design of items is expected to be completed by mid-year 2016 with the roll-out to follow.
Upcoming events and important dates
Volunteer Week – 9-15 May 2016

Each year, more than six million volunteers actively give their time and support to a variety of causes throughout Australia. In Queensland, National Volunteer Week will be held from 9-15 May. 

On behalf of QFES, I would like to extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to all volunteers supporting our communities, not only within QFES but also those who volunteer in other organisations too.


Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW) – 11 May 2016

Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW) will be held as part of National Volunteer Week on Wednesday 11 May. WOW is a national day dedicated to celebrate and show support for the State Emergency Service (SES) with a number of events being coordinated across Queensland, both internal to QFES and those organised more broadly within local communities. 

Whether it is an informal morning tea, community BBQ or simply a thank you in person, we can all demonstrate our support and recognition of our SES members by getting involved in any activities within our areas, and most importantly, by wearing orange!

For more information on the day please visit the WOW website.

RFS Volunteer Summits
Rural Fire Service (RFS) will be holding the first of their two Volunteer Summits in Townsville from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 May 2016.

The Townsville Volunteer Summit will be an opportunity for volunteers to come together and discuss current issues, visit trade displays and benefit from meeting other volunteers from the north of the State.

The Gold Coast Volunteer Summit will be held from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June 2016.
Centres of Excellence — opportunities to showcase Better Practice Models
In my last newsletter, I mentioned ‘Centres of Excellence’ and ‘Better Practice Models’. I acknowledge that there are many brigades, groups and areas that have developed ways of operating that enhance community and partnership engagement, and use local knowledge to develop and deliver local solutions. I would like to encourage you all to share your stories of where you have implemented innovative initiatives, promoted new ways of working together and developed local solutions to support the learnings and sharing of ideas between our services across the State.   

If you have stories and ideas to share, please send them to
Video update

In case you missed it, above is last month's video update where I spoke about the new Rural appliances, SES storm trailers, Tasmanian fires, RFS & SES cross training, Peer Support, progress on the new Volunteer Information Portal and the Queensland SES Volunteer Association.

Alternatively, you can also view the transcript here


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