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TFS Delegates help protect state and Members

TASMANIA Fire Service Delegates Maree Hinton (left) and Kelly Marriott spoke to the CPSU after the recent bushfires. Maree is a Corporate Services Clerical Support Officer and Kelly a Community Fire Safety Team Leader.

Both are based in Hobart and worked on the Incident Management Team (IMT) during the Meadowbank bushfire in late February.

When an incident like this happens, the TFS uses the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS). This “enables the seamless integration of activities and resources from multiple agencies for the resolution of any emergency situation”.

AIIMS is used for a variety of incidents – not just fires but other natural disasters as well.

Like other TFS employees Kelly and Maree are trained to respond to idents like the Meadowbank fire, they agree team work, communication and initiative are paramount during such an incident, though working in the IMT can be quite stressful.

“You do all your training, you have all that knowledge; and once you get there, it’s just about doing what you can and doing the best you can,” Kelly said. “We’re dealing with people on the fire ground, so their stress levels are multiplied by 1000 compared to us. “We don’t have eyes up there, all we’re doing is communicating by telephone or radio; just ensuring you’re doing all you can to assist them up there because what they are going through is 1000 times harder than what we are.”

Kelly worked within the Incident Resource Management System at the recent fire, which deals with personnel. “We are responsible for tracking the time crews go on and off the fire ground, this is a crucial role in the IMT as everyone needs to be accountable and we need to ensure all personnel get off fire ground safely,” she said. In situations like the Meadowbank Fire, fatigue management is crucial to ensure both the fire fighters and other staff are safe and alert.

During the fire Maree was working on the logistics side of things. “It’s about coordination and procurement,” she said. “At one stage there were 44 crews on the fire ground, with roughly four people in each of those crews. “That’s a lot of people to look after and make sure they are safe. “Basically I was in charge of the catering for the fire ground. “We rely very heavily on local businesses to make up sandwiches, rolls and dinners.” Logistics also means looking after accommodation needs of crews on the ground, and getting heavy machinery to fires. “Anything anyone wants for the fire, it’s up to us to procure it,” Maree said.

What’s it like to be on the IMT during such an incident? Both Kelly and Maree agreed it was full on, with situations often changing quickly. “The fire started about 4.30pm on Saturday – we were really, really busy,” Maree said. “On Saturday we quietened down, then on Sunday in the afternoon things picked up again. “It’s a bit exciting working in such a high pressure situation, and it’s very challenging. “You have to be thinking and alert all the time. “But at the end of the day you are contributing. You’re not sitting in an office tapping a way at the computer.” Kelly said the adrenaline takes over to some degree. “You have to be a people person to work in that type of environment. You need to be able to communicate quite well.”

Days are long and intense during these times. For Maree, Kelly and others on the IMT, it’s all about supporting people at the fire ground: making sure that they’re safe, they’re fed properly, and they’ve got water and everything else they need.

Not only helping out on incidents that threaten the state, both women are CPSU Delegates and working to help Members in their workplace as well. While Kelly has worked in the role for years, being a Delegate is quite new to Maree.

Both chatted to the CPSU about their experiences as a Delegate:

Kelly: “I became a Delegate when we went through the reclassification process, which was quite some time ago, because I was passionate about that subject. Pay parity – all that sort of stuff. Sandra Barber is another Delegate, so we’ve got three in this building; the aim is to get another Delegate in Cambridge.”

Maree: “I’ve only been a Delegate since December. I became a union Member and a Delegate at the same time. The reason why I became a Delegate was I believed everyone should be treated fairly at work. It might sound like a standard line but I believe it. One thing we need to work on is increasing our numbers. We want to give people the chance to see how the union can fit into our workplace and what it can do for them.”

What’s the best thing about being a Delegate?

Kelly: “Making positive change in the workplace. Even if it’s something like uniform, it’s being able to have a voice for our Members. The last few months have been good because it’s showed people they do have support here, and together we can achieve things, even if they are small.”

Maree: “I like dealing with people, and I like helping them if they have issues. I don’t think people always know what their rights are, or think they should stick up for their rights. I like empowering people, so they know what their rights are. We want to have a stronger relationship with management as well, so it’s not a them-and-us situation, and we can work towards having a great workplace for everyone.”

What are the challenges?

Kelly: “The most challenging thing is the knowledge about our rights and awards and being able to represent our Members the best we can. At the moment that’s challenging because we don’t have that immediate knowledge of the conditions or our awards, that puts up some barriers and restricts us a little bit. But that’s something we can work on.”

Maree: “Mine’s probably more a personal one. I need to realise that I can’t fix everything. I lose sight, sometimes I think “Well, that’s not right, that needs to be fixed” and I lose sight of what is able to be done.”

One piece of advice for new Delegates or people considering the role?

Maree: “I just think it’s very easy to sit back and criticise the way things happen. Sometimes in the workplace people can take a very passive role, and think “well things happen, I can’t do anything”. If you’re interested in making changes – become a Delegate. Be willing to back each other as well.”

Kelly: “It’s not even just about encouraging people to be Delegates, but to become members of the union – that’s what makes us stronger. I think that’s what we need to achieve here, in this organisation, to build up that membership.”

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