On 1 July 2020, FSA Training Division became People First Fire Pty Ltd, Australia’s first national Indigenous fire-safety and emergency training provider, operating with a unique focus on ‘putting people first’ in community safety.
Under the leadership of owners Jason and Grant Hardy, and General Manager Dean Broadwood, the People First Fire (PFF) entity has evolved from a five-year working relationship with FSA, and a shared incentive for delivering employment and development opportunities to Indigenous Australians.
The company is one of the country’s most trusted life-safety boutique training providers, offering industry-leading fire-safety and emergency training solutions and emergency management documentation, customised to the needs of each client. PFF’s training expertise and people-first focus is backed by user-friendly compliance software, a national footprint for seamless multi-site servicing, and innovative tech offerings including 3D and virtual evacuation diagrams.
PFF’s emergency training is delivered by a network of highly experienced Indigenous and non-Indigenous fire professionals, which means their content for customers’ emergency preparedness and readiness training includes the latest front-line practices.
Jason and Grant are proud First Nations People from the Ualarai nation of Western NSW and have both worked as professional firefighters for nearly two decades.
Jason says that engaging with Indigenous businesses is becoming increasingly important within the Australian economy and creates a significant and measurable social impact. PFF is committed to working with and giving back to the Indigenous community, by supporting community-led initiatives and providing employment opportunities to Indigenous people across Australia.
Yana-ngila-ya (Let’s walk together)
‘For us its more than meeting regulatory requirements,’ Jason says. ‘Our people, our clients’ people, the communities in which we live and work – people come first. We combine this new focus with our long-standing, trusted industry expertise to strengthen the safety of our clients’ people and facilities.’
PFF’s decision to use firefighters to deliver training emerged from Jason and Grant’s own professional experience in the firefighting industry, and it’s something that differentiates the company within the Australian training marketplace. As well as holding formal training qualifications, all PFF trainers are field experts, with real-world experience and first-hand knowledge of emergency management and evacuation procedures. ‘Our trainers know what the emergency services are expecting from the emergency control organisations and emergency management teams when they arrive,’ says Jason. ‘You can only get that from a firefighter.’
As a nimble, innovative organisation, PFF are able to work in partnership with their clients to design training programs that are tailored to their own specific facilities, with elements such as location, building design, staffing numbers etc. all taken into careful consideration. ‘We sit down and discuss with you and design a site-specific training programme that not only meets compliance but will also meet the individual needs of your site,’ Jason says. ‘This individual approach is part of our people-first focus.’
The company has invested substantial R&D into developing its own proprietary Training Management System and platform to support clients’ training programmes. Because it’s been created in-house, the platform is completely customisable to clients’ varying requirements and is easily integrated into clients’ existing systems to optimise automation. With their focus on technology, PFF also ensure their system is also kept up to date with the latest technology trends and changes to address their clients and the market’s ever-changing needs.
Aimed at simplifying reporting and auditing procedures for all PFF clients, the management system includes a compliance dashboard, maintains trainee history via QR codes and allows the export of trainee history. It is also a document repository for the client’s emergency management documentation.
‘Having that customisable compliance dashboard allows clients to see exactly what’s happening with their compliance at a glance. It’s particularly useful for multi-site clients, allowing them to easily track compliance and training schedules across their different facilities,’ Grant says.
The system can be set up with different levels of access, so national property managers can oversee all sites, while state or regional facility managers can only access data relevant to the properties they manage.
‘The PFF Training Management platform is flexible and user-friendly and saves clients time by simplifying compliance audits. Managers can also utilise it for accurate and customisable internal reporting,’ Grant adds. ‘Following an audit at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast, the auditing entity commented to the management team that our system was the best they had seen.’
Despite PFF’s national footprint, they’re small enough to be agile and respond quickly to clients’ evolving needs. This put them – and their clients – in good stead when the sudden arrival of COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing, threw established training processes into disarray.
PFF’s response was swift and decisive. ‘Even though everyone was suddenly working from home, our clients still had to meet their legislated compliance requirements,’ Jason says.
From the early stages of the pandemic, PFF successfully monitored the situation in each state on a daily basis to ensure we were giving the best advice possible to clients. ‘Although operational circumstances and regulations evolved at lightning speed, PFF managed to adapt our service delivery to meet government-imposed regulations, and steer and support our clients in the maintenance of their facility compliance during the toughest times in commercial and retail history.’
Some of the solutions implemented by the company included:
- Webinar training and evacuation instructional videos, with generated QR code recording attendance in our Proprietary Training Management System.
- PFF conducted live Chief Warden EWIS Panel and scenario training in fire control rooms using smartphones and the Microsoft Teams platform.
- PFF developed a COVID-safe Evacuation Exercise Plan which included guiding the management team through pre-exercise preparation, suggested roles for the exercise, safe practices during the exercise, and post-exercise responsibilities and actions.
The company’s innovative application of virtual training will continue to offer ongoing benefits for clients across Australia. Utilising advanced technologies to overcome some of the difficulties traditionally associated with remote training – such as verifying attendance – has made it a viable alternative for businesses in remote regions to maintain their fire-safety compliance standards. ‘Training needs to be accountable and clients need to ensure they know which staff are attending sessions and who has completed their programmes,’ Jason explains. ‘By developing a rigorous check-in system that confirms attendance and participation, we’ve made virtual training an accountable, reliable and cost-effective solution for clients in remote areas where face-to-face training is less accessible.’
While new and forward-looking, People First Fire has evolved from one of Australia’s leading established fire-safety training providers, FSA Training, and the new business continues to maintain a large number of long-standing corporate clients – some of whom have been with the business for up to 12 years. With a strong historical track record for excellence, PFF is respected for its broad national expertise and helps maintain high-level safety and emergency management procedures across a range of iconic sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. In 2015, the company (then operating as FSA) won the AMP Best Contractor Award — chosen from hundreds of contractors.
As a ‘people first’ company, PFF’s reputation for reliability is built on their personal, client-centric and responsive approach. ‘Our customers appreciate the fact that they can call us and speak directly to a fire-safety expert – be that Jason, myself or our GM Dean. We all have decades of fire-safety expertise on both sides of the fence, as firefighters and private fire-safety consultants. As a regulatory expert, Dean, our GM will shortly also be joining the Standards committee.’ Grant says. ‘While we have the national footprint and can deliver training based on state-specific regulations across Australia, we’re boutique enough to really give each customer individualised attention.’
For more information, go to www.peoplefirstfire.com.au