The new arrangements for Heatwave events reflect the growing power play in Emergency Management in NSW as discussed elsewhere. Having been involved in the drafting of the original Heatwave Plan back in 2006-2007, some principles were recognised as necessary to the plan. Back then, these included:
1, A heatwave is a social event as it predominantly effects people's health and less so in relation to the built environment;
2, Adopting the Victorian model, a heatwave is a health issue or what is known as "Heat Health". A heatwave was generally considered a Public Health Emergency
3. NSW Health would naturally act as the lead agency and coordinate public information, and advice to agencies and overall coordination.
In other words, hot weather is not the emergency. The emergency is the significant impact upon the health and well being of the poulation posed by Heat Waves. You can't fight hot weather. That was the challenge that needed a whole of government response, headed up of course by NSW Health, the combat agency for Health Emergencies. This made sense then and it makes sense now.
However, politics has beaten sense once again. The original sub-plan has been turfed out and completely and re-written with, you guessed it, a senior police officer now "directing and controlling" all agencies including NSW Health during a health emergency. Here is an excerpt from the new sub plan:
"SEOCON is the designated combat agency for ‘Heatwave Emergencies’ in accordance with the
State Emergency Management Plan (EMPLAN)
Can you believe it? A single-person combat agency,? How crook is the system? A Police officer in charge of, as well as directing and controlling the reponse to, what can only be a Health Emergency? The substance of the existing plan was sound and as relevant as ever. Heat Health issues do not markedly change over a few years. Nevertheless the whole plan has been re-written simply to get a senior police officer at the top. The essential convention of "Stop, We Need a A Cop at the Top - No Matter What" has prevailed once again. What next? A Police officer controlling and directing responses to a Measles outbreak perhaps?
Make no mistake, this also means Regional and Local Police are now controllers of public heat health emergencies. Public health warnings and health advisories will be disseminated with an earmark of the State Emergency Operations Controller attached. We will be hearing media announcements such as:
"The State Emergency Operations Controller has advised that due to Heatwave conditions, people should keep out of the sun, avoid strenuous activity, drink lots of water" etc etc, and "This has been a message from the NSW Police" etc. etc etc. Dont laugh, NSW Police are keen to let the public know that they are in control. Its part of the culture.
The new (2018) Heatwave SubPlan can be found here:
https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Docume ... atWave.pdf
The discussion could go on, but here is the issue. If Senior Police can be in charge of, by "controlling.and directing", as the new plan states, NSW Health during a health emergency what does this mean for fire agencies and the SES in the near future?
Think it will never happen to FR RFS and SES? Commissioners of fire and SES are not going to stop it, as they have already agreed to the SEOCON controlling part of their organisations' activities, as part of the recent SERM Act amendments. Getting the big fish of NSW Health into the net lends weight to Police taking over the lot and that is obviously the plan.
After the Tathra Review the Fire Services are in limbo to a certain extent with their call-taking and dispatch arrangements set for overhaul. I will bet that the new call-taking and dispatch arrangements will ultimately be contolled by Police, because Senior Police can see the opportunity (and believe me they are constantly looking for them) right there to control the lot, in a single manouvre. When that occurs there will indeed be only one combat agency calling all the shots and all the media announcements.
Politics may also play a role here though. Both the FBEU and the RFSA are on the record as being against Police control of their members and operations. In the upcoming NSW election If the Libs remain they will back the RFSA's view against being absorbed as a police controlled entity. as they have done in the past. The Libs do not care about any such position taken by the FBEU. If on the other hand Labor gets in, it will readily listen to the FBEU, but does not care one way or the other about the RFSA. Remember the Vic Labor government and its treatment of the CFA, and you get the picture. The problem is that the RFSA and the FBEU are not exactly willing to agree on most matters.
General discussion & common topics (e.g. Rescue)
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