Firefighting expert: ‘We have the tech - let’s use it’
BRENT Clayton know better than most about the troubles facing the nation when it comes to the seemingly ever-increasing bushfires.
As a trainer and active firefighter from Melbourne who travels the country offering support for aspiring professional fire fighters, he has had plenty of time and experience to develop a good understanding of the state of bushfire management in the nation.
What he has noticed is repetitive under-preparation despite devastating fire taking hold almost every fire season.
"It seems like we're getting a big reminder every 12 months that we're still not equipped for this," he said.
"It's a bit of a game of catch up which isn't ideal when you're dealing with people's livelihood."
He believes the short comings stem from several areas including an unwillingness to use new technologies, states being under resourced and mismanagement.
"We need to use all available technology to make sure we're not putting people at risk, both fire fighters and members of the public," Mr Clayton said.
He believes arming responders with real-time data and mapping of fires is key to staying on top of blazes.
Thermal imaging aircrafts and live videolinks made directly available to crews on the ground are just some of the technologies that Mr clayton said should be made more readily available.
"We're putting people into the field without that situational awareness," he said
"Most firefighters on the ground never have an aerial view of the fire they're fighting.
"It's nearly 2020 and the fact that we're not using the technology that's available which is cheaper than operating the larger waterbombers - it seems like a bit of a no brainer that we should be trying these things.
"We need to use all available technology to make sure we're not putting people at risk, both fire fighters and members of the public."
He said he had seen first-hand fire crews relying on old fire maps that were no longer representative of the fire they were fighting once they made it to the crews on the front line.
Another shortfall of resources is the allocation of firefighters as some are moved interstate to assists with blazes, leaving their state exposed.
A trend Mr Clayton has noticed is a spike in volunteer and professional recruitment during fire events, however he said the increased recruitment still didn't "hit the mark".
As for the discussion surrounding volunteers and whether they should be compensated for their time away from work fighting fires, he said money could be better used preparing for bushfire season and minimising risk.
"If you're running a business that has the capacity, or if the government has the capacity to do that - that's fantastic," he said.
He said the New South Wales Retained Firefighters model - much like the Army Reserves- was appealing
Retained firefighters are paid part-timers called upon to assist with a wide range of duties, as well attending fires and other emergencies like motor vehicle accidents or chemical hazards.
Mr Clayton's company, Fire Recruitment Australia aims to support applicants to give them the best possible chance at securing employment as a fire fighter.
Mr Clayton said the perks of working professionally as a firefighter included the chance to work closely with a tight-knit team, and the chance to maintain a fit and sporty lifestyle while on the job.
He warned it was a competitive industry and applicants were likely to be exposed to trauma and shift work.
"Most people know that's what they're signing up for."