By JR on Sunday, September 18, 2011
The ones in charge of the Qld. SES seem to
AN SES storm hero awarded for her dedication and bravery was stood down for six weeks because she forgot to wear her hat.
Brisbane State Emergency Service group leader Jan Irons was one of the organisation's shining examples, receiving two awards during her 31 years in the SES.
She received the Australia Day Emergency Services Medal in 2002 after placing herself in "very real personal danger" on helicopter rescue missions.
Three years ago she was named SES Member of the Year, and was presented the award by Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts at a Brisbane ceremony.
"Jan is regarded throughout the state as one (of) the most dedicated and hard- working members of the SES," Mr Roberts said at the time. "She is the kind of volunteer who gives 100 per cent, 100 per cent of the time."
But the praise faltered this year when Ms Irons was suspended from her group leader role for six weeks after arriving at an Anzac Day parade without her SES hat.
Ms Irons confirmed the disciplinary action when contacted by The Sunday Mail last week but said she had accepted the punishment as an order had been issued ahead of the parade for members to wear their hats.
However, she described feeling "disappointed" by the reaction.
"It was threatening rain. I was standing in the shade of a building. I had all the sunscreen on and I just didn't think about the hat," she said.
"I brought it with me. It was in the car. I just didn't think to put it on. The whole thing was so trivial. I disobeyed an order, so you pay the consequences."
Ms Irons said she was able to continue as an SES volunteer during the suspension, with a fellow volunteer temporarily stepping in as group leader.
News of the disciplinary action comes weeks after The Sunday Mail revealed frustrated volunteers were quitting over excessive safety rules and training requirements.
David Fahy has resigned from the SES after almost 30 years of volunteering over disciplinary action against another SES volunteer.
"I believe that gunboat diplomacy and military discipline have no place within a volunteer organisation like the SES," he wrote in his resignation letter.
An Emergency Management Queensland spokeswoman said Ms Irons was not suspended for failing to wear a hat, but for her "inappropriate response to the direction to wear a hat".
She said a directive to volunteers to wear broad-brimmed hats was in the SES Operations Doctrine, reinforced at this year's Anzac Day parade.
Do bureaucrats hate volunteer workers? (2)
The ones in charge of the Qld. rural firefighters seem to
RURAL firefighters say unrealistic training requirements are forcing volunteers to follow the example of their SES counterparts and quit the service.
Repetitious training, over-regulation and a broken prior-learning recognition scheme have been accused of pushing Rural Fire Service volunteers to the limit.
"There is that enormous frustration of people going through training levels then having to repeat them again and again because of some slight change," Rural Fire Brigade Association CEO Dick Irwin said. He said the problem was discouraging members at a critical time for the service, with prime conditions for a menacing bushfire season.
Training problems were among issues discussed at a Rural Fire Service conference in Cairns this weekend. Firefighter Ian Bell from Colosseum, south of Gladstone, said members were struggling to find time outside of their full-time jobs for repetitive training exercises. "They continually forget that we are volunteers," he said.
"Most of the people in this area, having lived on the land, they know more about the fires than the people doing the training anyway."
It comes as government documents substantiate claims in last week's Sunday Mail that more than 5000 SES volunteers had quit the service. The documents reveal 12,818 active SES volunteers and another 10,000 inactive members were identified following a 2001 audit. That compares to about 7000 active volunteers today.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts had previously denied a dramatic drop, saying clear records were not kept until a few years ago. "There were a lot of inactive members included on the list," he said of old SES records.
But former SES deputy director John Baker said an audit in 2001 had separated active volunteers from inactive members as part of an equipment roll-out. "It was imperative at the time that accurate numbers were established," Mr Baker, who worked for the SES from 1993 to 2006 as a paid employee, said.
He believed the SES had been starved of support and resources by the State Government for decades, resulting in volunteers leaving the organisation. Mr Roberts last week said a new SES funding package would provide another $9.9 million over five years on SES support and buy 56 new flood boats.