New Zealand Fire Service
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|New Zealand Fire Service|
|Motto: Working with communities to protect what they value|
|Established||1 April 1976|
|Staffing||524 management and support
76 communications centre
|Strength||1,700 Career firefighters
8,300 Urban volunteer firefighters
|Fire chief||Paul Baxter|
The New Zealand Fire Service (Whakaratonga Iwi in Māori) is New Zealand's national fire fighting body. While its founding legislation, the Fire Service Act 1975, only provides for this role, the organisation has assumed (often on the basis of public expectation) responsibility for several other areas.
The New Zealand Fire Service has defined for itself a Mission, Vision and a Values statement which reflects their business. The New Zealand Fire Service's key aims, as required by statute, are fire safety and fire prevention.
The New Zealand Fire Service Commission developed a statement of strategic direction in June 1999 which comprised 4 elements:
- Focus on fire prevention, fire safety and fire outcomes (This placed a greatly increased emphasis on fire prevention and fire safety while also working to improve the outcomes from traditional emergency response activities).
- Resource reallocation and 'value for money' expenditure (This aimed to appropriately resource the increased fire prevention and fire safety work. It also required all resourcing decisions to pass a risk-based 'best value for money' test).
- Best practise organisation (This aimed to achieve a culture of continuous improvement and reform in the Fire Service through constant exposure to best practise in general organisation).
- Strong Fire Service governance and management (This is to enable the Fire Service to: Deliver on its statutory mandate, Respond to the needs of all stakeholders, Become resilient to shocks through good risk management, Support the Government's emergency management reforms).
The NZFS is somewhat unique, internationally, in that it has jurisdiction over the entire country with no division by region or city. It is the result of the New Zealand Fire Service Act (1975) which nationalised the various District-level brigades which had developed across the country.
The New Zealand Fire Service is predominantly configured as an Urban Fire & Rescue Service. The Fire Service Act places responsibility on the NZFS for firefighting in gazetted Urban Fire Districts, totalling about 3% of New Zealand, with the remainder of the land covered by Rural Fire Authorities (RFAs) that act under the Forest and Rural Fires Act. Fire Service brigades respond outside their Districts to deal with structure and rescue incidents, and usually undertake the initial suppression attack on wildland fires.
(Note: The New Zealand Department of Conservation is a RFA with responsibility for firefighting within recognised State areas, including National Parks, totalling about 30% of the country. The New Zealand Defence Force is responsible for all Defence Areas as defined through the Defence Act. With these two agencies included, the NZFS and territorial local authority RFAs form the bulk of the firefighting capability in New Zealand. There is some contribution from Industrial Fire Brigades (those run by commercial entities, for example forestry companies or Airport Authorities). At present, there are about 80 RFAs, but the number is being reduced through the formation of enlarged Rural Fire Districts.)
The entire organisation reports to the Minister of Internal Affairs, by way of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. The Commission is composed of five members, and the Minister is required by law to appoint at least one person who is either a fire engineer or has experience as a senior operational fire fighter. The New Zealand Fire Service Commission is also the National Rural Fire Authority.
Chief Executive / National Commander
Beneath the Commission are the positions of Chief Executive and National Commander. Currently both positions are filled by Paul Baxter. Mike Hall, who was formerly the chief of the Queensland Fire Brigades, held these positions up to the end of 2011. Where the Chief Executive does not have operational fire fighting experience, a separate National Commander is appointed to be the most senior operational fire fighter in the country. The National Commander may take control at a particularly serious incident, though this happens very rarely.
Chain of Command
The country is broken into five fire regions, each in the charge of a Fire Region Commander. All FRCs report directly to the National Commander, and are promoted from the ranks of operational staff. An FRC may take control of a major incident, and is ultimately responsible for any incident at which they are present even if they are not the Officer-in-Charge.
Reporting to the Fire Region Commander are the Area Commanders and Assistant Area Commanders who manage the 24 areas contained within the regions. Assistant Area Commanders are primarily responsible for managing the career districts, while the Area Commanders have overall responsibility for the area as well as for the volunteer Chief Fire Officers of each volunteer fire districts within their areas . These are the officers who are ultimately entrusted - via the Fire Service Act - with the powers that are exercised at the scene of an incident in order to 'deal with' the emergency. These powers are far-reaching - they provide authority to commandeer, demolish or destroy whatever is required in the course of their duties, given no more suitable options.
Each Chief Fire Officer (CFO) will have a Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) and a number of Senior Station Officers (SSOs) and Station Officers (SOs) reporting to them. A typical career appliance will be manned by a crew of 4: With a typical volunteer appliance being manned by anywhere between 4 to 6 Firefighters.
- Station Officer (SO) - In charge of the crew and the officer with the delegated authority of the CFO at any response.
- Senior Firefighter (SFF) - an SFF is an experienced Firefighter who is in a position to provide leadership in the absence of a Station Officer. Suitably qualified SFFs may stand in for an SO on a temporary basis.
- Qualified Firefighter (QFF)
- Firefighter (FF) - the baseline rank within the Fire Service.
An SSO may run in place of an SO as required or at their own discretion. In career districts the SSOs are strategically located to provide a more experienced command officer who is usually placed such that they are responded to most incidents of significance.
The NZFS was originally designed and equipped as a Firefighting Service, as made obvious by their name. However the additional role - that of a rescue agency - is now of greater significance (in fact the success of the Fire Safety message being put across is that the incidence of 'other' responses (Rescue, etc.) is now greater than that of fire).
Over and above firefighting, the New Zealand Fire Service provides first-response to essentially all emergency situations that are not otherwise handled by the New Zealand Police or a local Ambulance service. This has mainly come through necessity, but also because Firefighting equipment is often useful for the work involved.
- Road Crash Rescue - Extrication of entrapped persons in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident
- High Angle Rescue - Rescue from the side of buildings; dangerous terrain (cliff faces, etc.)
- Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) - The containment of a hazardous substance and decontamination of an environment or persons affected by a hazardous substance
- Natural Disasters - Addressing the problems caused by heavy rain and high winds (lifted roofing, power lines and trees down onto properties or across roadways, flooding)
- Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) - The New Zealand Fire Service is the lead agency for New Zealand USAR operations (Civil defence & emergency management Act 2002) They also manage three USAR Task Force level teams, providing communications and resources. Being the lead agency, the New Zealand Fire Service also coordinates the 17 NZ Response Teams which also provide light USAR support. Paid career NZFS firefighters have a baseline level of training in USAR techniques and make up the vast majority of the actual USAR team members.
These additional areas have led the NZFS to begin the process of rebranding; it is now actively promoted as being the New Zealand Fire and Rescue Service as this is seen as a more accurate representation of their role in the community. At a government level the much-expanded role of the New Zealand Fire Service has been recognised, and as such the Fire Service Act 1975 (the legislation under which the service operates) is currently[when?] under review, with a view to replacing the Act with newer legislation which better supports their work.
The equipment operated by the New Zealand Fire Service is typical of that run by most Fire Brigades world wide. In both Volunteer and Career districts a typical appliance will be equipped to respond primarily to Fires, having a supply of hoses, a Pump (either driven off the Appliance Motor or separately, depending on the pump configuration; most of NZ's mainstream appliances still use a single motor for both drive and pumping capability controlled via a special gearbox) and a combination of High and Low Pressure Deliveries.
Additional equipment carried may include:
- Standpipe and Bar for access to Fire Hydrants
- Suction Pumps and other equipment in order to gain access to water sources other than the Reticulated Supply
- Assorted Rescue Equipment - Hooligan Tools (aka Halligan Tool in the US), Axes, Sledgehammers (for use in burning buildings etc.)
- Misc wooden lengths suitable for shoring up unstable structures
- First Aid Equipment including an AED
- Salvage Sheets or Groundsheets suitable for holding water in or out
- Portable Generator and Lighting equipment
- General purpose Ropes and Lines
- Additional assorted handtools
- Aluminium or Wooden Ladders (conventional type)
For Rescue incidents volunteer trucks designated as Pump Rescue Tenders (PRT)'s will carry equipment suitable for Road Crash Rescue response:
- Hydraulic Spreaders
- Hydraulic Cutters
- Hydraulic Jacks
- Airbags (for lifting)
- Handtools to support / stand in for the above
- Vehicle Stabilization Equipment
- Winch (Tirfor)
Career Staff trucks used for Rescue incidents are designated as Emergency Tenders (ET)'s which will carry all of the above Rescue equipment plus more specialized items used for Industrial Rescue, light USAR and High-Angle Line Rescue.
Additional specialist appliances are usually strategically located in each fire district:
- Aerial Monitors
- "Snorkel" or other types of Elevating Platforms
- Hazardous Materials Response
- Command Vehicles
- Breathing Apparatus Tenders (e.g. Auckland 2015 - Located in Auckland City. As seen here Auckland 2015)
- Incident Support Vehicles (carries extra BA equipment, communications etc. (assists with HAZMAT operations)
- Lighting & Power Generation Units (e.g. Birkenhead 8219 - Located in Birkenhead, North Shore. As seen here Birkenhead 8219)
- Foam Tenders
- Water Tankers (e.g. Takaka 3911 - Located in Takaka, South Island. As seen here Takaka 3911)
- Technical (Heavy) Rescue Tender - Auckland Fire District only
In New Zealand most designated Rescue Tenders and Emergency Tenders are also Pumping Appliances, known as Pump-Rescue Tenders (PRTs) and may be responded for either requirement.
The NZFS works closely with the NZ Police in many respects - a key one of those is that the three Communications Centres which coordinate the Fire Service response across NZ are colocated with their Police Equivalents in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The radio network utilised by the Fire Service for its nationwide coverage is provided and supported by the Police, although most urban areas provide for an exclusive Fire-only radio channel or channels.
In rural areas, the channel may be shared between both services. Generally this is an acceptable arrangement, though when either the Police or the Fire Service are particularly busy in an area with shared radio services, this can cause the other service some grief. In contrast, the fact that Police have ready and direct access to the Fire Communications Centre is occasionally of some value in terms of inter-agency liaison.
At the scene of an incident, VHF and UHF simplex frequencies are generally used. These are usually common between NZFS, NRFA, DoC and NZDF firefighters and discrete from the Police. Access to shared liaison channels is also provided, allowing for Ambulance, Police, Fire and other resources (for example aircraft that may be called upon to assist in firefighting) to coordinate.
The New Zealand Fire Service was one of the key developers of the Coordinated Incident Management System which is now in widespread use throughout the NZ Emergency Services environment. This provides for a common set of terminology and procedures which lends itself to multi-agency incidents.
The New Zealand Fire Service employs 1,713 professional career firefighters, 444 support staff and 80 communication center staff. Career firefighters and communication center staff work a "four on-four off" roster consisting of two day shifts followed by two night shifts then four days off. The rest of the employed staff work hours and days similar to a standard five day working week.
Career Firefighters respond to 85-90% of the incidents the NZFS attends and protect 80% of the population.
Training for career firefighters is done on an intensive 12 week residential course at the national training center in Rotorua that covers not only traditional firefighting subjects but others required of a modern professional Fire and Rescue Service. Topics such as; urban search and rescue (USAR), motor vehicle extrication and hazardous materials.
Career firefighters provide the NZFS personnel that staff the nations specialized USAR Response teams. Additional specialized training is provided for these personnel, however all paid career firefighters are trained to a baseline USAR 'Responder' level.
Competition is high for career positions in New Zealand Fire Service with large numbers of applicants, often in the thousands, going through a rigorous selection process for the 25 spots on a recruit course.
The majority of the manpower available to the New Zealand Fire Service is the approximately 8,000 volunteers who receive no payment for their time or labour. Professional career firefighters are available in the cities and large provincial towns only, and in some cases are supplemented by volunteers from other urban and urban-fringe Fire Brigades.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and are trained for their role with a seven day residential recruit course, normally at the National Training Centre (NTC) based in Rotorua, or the Woolston Training Centre, based in Christchurch, that covers the basics of modern firefighting. Training includes, hose drills, ladder drills, portable pumps, and breathing apparatus use (BA), which is carried out in BATB (Breathing Apparatus Training Building) and RFTB (Realistic Fire Training Building) simulators.
The BATB is a gas fired training facility and the RFTB is a live fire scenario.
Volunteer firefighters respond to 15-10% of all incidents the New Zealand Fire Service attends.
Volunteer units within the NZFS organisation also provide support services over and above the role of the Firefighter; various Operational Support Units manned by volunteers are attached to Fire Districts and Brigades across NZ to provide assistance to firefighters (both paid and volunteer).
The New Zealand Fire Service has a minimum age of Sixteen (16) ( Volunteer ) and Career Firefighters ( Paid ) of eighteen (18) . However it is generally thought that young people have more time supervised in non operational roles such as equipment maintenance before moving on to basic training .
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