The delivery of Fire, Rescue and Hazmat services in today’s complex operating environment presents significant challenges for leaders within Emergency Services. Improving today’s operational performance in addition to planning for the challenges and changes of the future requires a high level of integration across functional units within an agency, as well as close collaboration with other organisations.
One Australian Emergency Service organisation has challenged and changed the way that they have previously developed operational capabilities and as such are improving operational service delivery and sustainability.
Fire & Rescue NSW is the largest urban fire service in Australia and is responsible for preventing and responding to fire emergencies, providing direct protection to 90% of the State’s population in major cities, metropolitan areas and towns across regional NSW. They are the largest accredited rescue provider in NSW, as well as being the combat agency for the State’s urban search and rescue capability. Fire & Rescue is the also the combat agency for hazardous material incidents and has capability to deal with chemical, biological and radiological hazards, including those resulting from acts of terrorism. In addition to these responsibilities, the agency supports the State Emergency Service during major storms and floods, and the Rural Fire Service during major bush fires. In some locations, they also assist the NSW Ambulance Service with medical first response.
Under Commissioner Greg Mullins leadership, Fire & Rescue has implemented an operational capability framework to improve its ability to better manage its service delivery. The development of Fire & Rescue’s operational capability framework was undertaken by Noetic Solutions and is based on work undertaken by the Australian military. In order to define these services, Noetic worked with Fire & Rescue to develop a taxonomy of its current operational capabilities, comprising high level capabilities such as Firefighting, Hazmat, Rescue, Incident Management.
Fire & Rescue has a long and proud history of providing rescue services to the community of NSW. From its early involvement at major rescues such as the 1977 Granville train disaster, 1997 Thredbo landslide, the day-to-day industrial and motor vehicle accidents, through to its International Urban Search and Rescue deployments, their rescue operators have been at the forefront of rescue in NSW as well as on the National and International scene.
To ensure the organisation remained a leading rescue service Commissioner Mullins instigated a Rescue Summit which brought together firefighters from all over NSW to evaluate their existing rescue capability. The Summit assisted Fire & Rescue to build a shared understanding of its role in rescue service delivery – and explored the current and future possibilities. It also identified key issues for rescue capability and a set of priorities to develop a roadmap into the future.
Throughout 2014 the Operational Capability Directorate within Fire & Rescue led extensive consultation with all Operational Commands and key Directorates to develop an integrated whole of agency plan for rescue capability over the next five years. For Fire & Rescue, operational capability is the ability to deliver their services within specified time frames and then sustain that service delivery for the time required – whether it is rapid response to a structure fire or working alongside the Rural Fire Service or the State Emergency Service for many weeks during a campaign event.
Fire & Rescue Chief Superintendent Paul McGuiggan commented that, “an operational capability framework provides us with the means to more closely coordinate our operations and corporate support functions, the intention of the framework is to assist us to conceptualise, generate and manage capability in a more comprehensive way, and by under pinning the process with good project management, we hope to better sustain our operations and improve service delivery”.
The capability framework proposed for FRNSW comprises four elements:
- A description of the seven inputs to capability; Personnel, Organisation, information, Support, Training, Equipment and Doctrine grouped under the acronym POiSTED.
- A capability taxonomy which provides a listing of all of the operational capabilities generated by FRNSW including their subordinate, or contributing, capabilities.
- A Capability Lifecycle beginning with the identification of capability Needs and progressing through the definition of Requirements, the Acquisition of new capability or Implementation of changes to existing capability, the Management of the capability in-service and its eventual Withdrawal and Disposal.
- Agovernance structure which aims to embed the needs of the capability lifecycle in Fire & Rescue’s decision making processes.
POiSTED + Readiness + Sustainability = Fire & Rescue NSW Capability
The POiSTED inputs to operational capability are tightly integrated. This means that, while each input may not have the same importance in delivering an operational service, they must be considered and addressed. Some examples of the POiSTED inputs to specific operational capabilities are:
This input incorporates the recruitment, development and retention of people with the appropriate skills to deliver the services required. For firefighting, this includes the permanent and retained firefighters, as well as the trades and administrative officers required for the necessary support functions.
This input incorporates the command and management arrangements to ensure that our operational processes are effective and that performance is monitored and evaluated. For our capability to respond to a terrorist incident, this includes maintaining partnerships with the NSW Police Force, Ambulance Service and the Australian Defence Force.
This input incorporates information and communications technology, as well as the software and data that are used as the basis of decision making. For incident management, this includes the computer aided dispatch system, geographic information system, mobile communications, as well as the outputs from operational debriefs.
Support and facilities
This input incorporates the infrastructure and services that support operations for Fire & Rescue, including those administrative and corporate services associated with capability. For Hazmat service delivery, this includes our Hazmat technical servicing facility, as well as breathing apparatus servicing and cylinder filling stations.
This input incorporates the training required for each operational capability and the ongoing validation of training against operational performance to ensure that it continues to meet our needs. Training is closely related to Personnel, Organisation and Doctrine. For rescue in NSW, this includes the public safety competencies established by the State Rescue Board.
This input incorporates major plant and equipment, including pumpers, aerial, rescue and Hazmat vehicles. It also includes the acquisition and safe use of equipment required for specific capabilities e.g. personal protective clothing for structural firefighting, decontamination equipment for Hazmat, and hydraulic equipment for rescue operations.
Doctrine is defined as “collective knowledge that has been structured and systematised to facilitate its application in practice and prepared for dissemination in a way appropriate for its intended audience” (AFAC, 2011, p. 2). It will enhance the effectiveness of operations through standardisation, provides a shared view of capability and is also the foundation of effective training. For Fire & Rescue, doctrine includes operational policy and procedures such as Standard Operational Guidelines and Recommended Practices.
The implementation of an operational capability framework, with the appointment of a dedicated capability management branch, represents a significant change in the way that Fire & Rescue NSW will develop and manage operations. There is still a large amount of work to be done, but with the finalisation of Fire & Rescue’s Rescue roadmap the organisations executive is confident that they have the building blocks of our new operational capability framework in place.
Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, 2011, Fundamentals of Doctrine: A best practice guide, East Melbourne, VIC, AFAC Limited.
Brown M, 2012, Implementing an Operational Capability System within Fire & Rescue NSW, Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council Conference Paper, September 2012.
For more information, go to www.fire.nsw.gov.au