Home » Changing season for local emergency services

Changing season for local emergency services

Daniel Bouwmeester    March 8, 2023    6 min read   

The Queensland Government recently announced a commitment to investing $400 million into the state’s fire and emergency services capabilities and bureaucratic structure.

It comes as Greater Springfield awaits the construction of a new centrally located fire and emergency rescue station in Augustine Heights.

The announcement followed the completion of an independent review that recommended “more resources, more personnel, [and] improved equipment for crews,” including nearly 500 new full time frontline staff, according to Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan.

“Queenslanders can be assured that the high standard of service delivery they have come to expect will not only be maintained, but will be surpassed,” Mr Ryan said.

“[We] will enhance the delivery of emergency and fire services in the face of the increasing challenges from climate change, and the expected intensification of impacts from emergencies and natural disasters on communities.

“Queensland experiences more natural disasters than any other state in the country and it is crucial that we continue to be well prepared.”

The government will also launch a Reform Implementation Taskforce, as was recommended in the review.

Mr Ryan said the reforms are “a strong show of support for our frontline emergency services personnel and their life-saving role in natural disasters.”

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Jordan MP Charis Mullen at the construction site in Augustine Heights. Image: Charis Mullen MP.

Fire updates for Springfield

Progress on Springfield’s new Fire and Rescue Station is on track, according to Jordan MP Charis Mullen.

“We want to ensure that we have all of the necessary services to help keep people safe in our community,” Ms Mullen said.

“Whilst we are currently well serviced by both the Camira and Ripley Fire Stations, a dedicated Fire and Rescue Station in Greater Springfield will ensure that we can continue to grow with certainty when it comes to the emergency response from our firefighters.”

The announcement comes hot on the heels of a brand new universal fire ratings system launched across the country.

Ms Mullen said the site for the station, located at 74 Gateway Drive, Augustine Heights was ideal for the operational needs of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES), with good access and close proximity to the Centenary Motorway.

“Since QFES received handover of the land under a Social Infrastructure Agreement between Springfield City Group and the State of Queensland, early works on the site have started,” she explained.

“This includes the clearing of the site and enabling road infrastructure to be constructed for access purposes.”

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Important structural shift

Queensland’s Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and Rural Fire Service (RFS) will merge into a new overarching Queensland Fire Department.

Meanwhile, State Emergency Services (SES) and other emergency services groups will unite under Queensland Police Services (QPS) – as recommended in the independent review conducted by KPMG Australia.

Mr Ryan, who also serves as Police Minister, explained QPS will now be responsible for managing the SES and marine rescue services – such as Royal Life Saving Society Queensland – which will form a new sub-department called Marine Rescue Queensland (MRQ).

He added that the RFS, SES, and MRQ would each adopt a dedicated budget to better support the volunteers who risk their lives.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Greg Leach welcomed the recommendations of the review and the steps to implementation.

“With Queensland experiencing more than 60% of disasters in Australia, it was crucial that underpinning any new model, Queenslanders receive the same service they have come to know and trust,” Mr Leach said.

“I can assure Queenslanders that during this period of transition, our level of service delivery will not change from what Queenslanders have come to expect, particularly with the severe weather season on our doorstep.”

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Life saving changes

Jordan MP Charis Mullen praised the announcements, calling them “big changes”.

“Following an independent review, the Queensland Government has announced major reforms to better combat our changing climate, and help keep Queenslanders safe in the face of natural disaster,” Ms Mullen said.

“It includes a commitment of $400 million over four years to boost resources, personnel and equipment for our emergency services.”

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the changes will streamline co-ordination and improve interoperability with existing capabilities in the QPS.

“We welcome these services, their volunteers and staff, and know they will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to strengthen not only our Service, but our commitment to community safety.”

Royal Life Saving Executive Director Paul Barry said he was pleased with the restructure.

“We have a good strong working relationship with Minister Ryan, who has supported volunteer and lifesaving organisations since he has been in the portfolio,” Mr Barry said.

Royal Life Saving runs swim learning and training sessions in the Springfield community and provides vital support to public activities in and around local pools and waterways.

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Ms Mullen standing with the hardworking rural firefighters of the Greenbank Rural Fire Brigade. Image: Charis Mullen MP.

New fire ratings system

Residents will progressively see a newly overhauled national bushfire warning system when travelling on the road.

The system was implemented country-wide to reduce confusion, and first came into effect in September last year.

The new Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS). Images: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).

Known as the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS), the new system has four levels of alert and an “off” level, each defining the potential level of danger should a bushfire begin, according to the QFES.

Over the summer, parts of South East Queensland had entered the “High” risk category, with some predictions of “Extreme” danger.

The QFES offers the following advice during “High” fire danger:

  • Make sure your bushfire plan is in place;
  • Be alert for fires in your area;
  • Clear any flammable debris around your home; and
  • Use power tools and machinery with caution and vigilance.

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During the original October announcement, the Queensland Government committed to:

– A substantial increase to the SES annual baseline budget to approximately $60 million for more staff and more resources, including crucial safety equipment, vehicles and vessels;

– The establishment of MRQ with an annual baseline budget of approximately $27 million for frontline support, resources, vessels and equipment, and delivering on the Government election commitment for a sustainable single integrated marine rescue service for Queensland;

– A resourcing boost to the RFS of more than 100 extra FTE positions and additional funding for new appliances, facilities and equipment;

– An additional 143 firefighter positions for the FRS (bringing the total commitment to an additional 500 firefighter positions over 6 years from 1 July 2020); additional funding and 30 extra FTE positions for the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) to support further disaster preparedness programs and initiatives;

– Dedicated annual funding of approximately $20 million for disaster management functions.

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For more information about the changes to QEFS and all current fire warnings and alerts, visit www.qfes.qld.gov.au.

Daniel Bouwmeester

Daniel was born in a mining town in New South Wales to Dutch and Welsh immigrants, before relocating to Logan City, where he attended Canterbury College for twelve years. He pursued his passion for music by completing a first-class honours degree at the University of Queensland (UQ), and later signed with a local record label. He has travelled the world from a young age, including a student exchange in rural France, a job working the ski lifts in Colorado, and visits to the islands of the South Pacific. After a six-year career in market research, Daniel returned to UQ to complete a Bachelor of Journalism and Arts dual degree, majoring in political science. His varied experiences at home and abroad have contributed to a passion for spreading good news while defending the truth buried inside complex societal paradigms.