The 1st of July this year heralded the first significant change to fire services in New Zealand for 40 years, as the New Zealand Fire Service and some 40 Rural Fire Authorities unified to become a single national organisation called Fire and Emergency New Zealand, or FENZ.
Although our towns and cities have had Fire Brigades since the 1850’s, the New Zealand Fire Service wasn’t formed until 1976. This was when the various local Fire Boards administered by Councils and Local Authorities were amalgamated into a national organisation. Unusually given the small size of our country, the New Zealand Fire Service became one of the largest Fire Services in the world, and one of few responsible for an entire nation (internationally, most are run at a City or State level).
While the NZFS protected our urban areas, rural communities were still covered by the Local Authorities which resulted in disparity in the levels of capability from area to area. And while our country was punching above its weight in terms of best practice (especially around Fire Safety and Risk Management), the legislation that created and enabled the Fire Service didn’t keep up with the changing roles of our firefighters.
The Fire Service Act 1975 was heavily weighted towards the prevention and suppression of fires. That model didn’t cover the increasing requirement to attend incidents like:
- Traffic Crash and specialist rescue incidents;
- Hazardous Materials emergencies;
- EMS Medical Calls;
- Urban Search and Rescue;
- Storm and Natural Disaster Response; plus
- The array of other work we expect from a modern Fire and Rescue Service.
SUBTLE FENZ CHANGES
Reviews of how Fire Services were delivered in 2012 and 2015 resulted in a range of recommendations, and an opportunity to transition into a fit for purpose organisation. The result is Fire and Emergency New Zealand. For the end user (you and I) we probably won’t notice the subtle changes to how FENZ operates in our communities. There is a new logo, but the emergency number is still 111 and whenever you call for help a Fire Appliance will still arrive quickly.
For Building Owners, the Fire Safety and Evacuation from Buildings Regulations still apply and have been carried over with the transition. This means Relevant Buildings still require an approved Evacuation Scheme, and you must continue to meet the conditions of those Schemes (including conducting regular Trial Evacuations).
Interestingly, in their Statement of Intent, Fire and Emergency New Zealand have three identified priorities:
- Reducing the likelihood of unwanted fires;
- Reducing consequences from emergencies; and
- Helping build resilient communities.
In the Health and Safety industry likelihood and consequence are the two factors we use to assess risks and the effectiveness of controls, so it is very satisfying to see that our objectives in keeping our people safe are closely aligned to those of our emergency services. Firefighters use the concept ‘we will risk a little to save a lot, we won’t risk a lot to save a little’ and I think this is an excellent mantra for any industry.
We have an obligation to manage risks in our workplaces, and if the likelihood and consequences are within acceptable parameters, then risking ‘a little’ is OK. Doing nothing and letting significant risks go unmanaged is certainly not.
Planning for reasonably foreseeable emergencies is a requirement for any business, and an important part of what we do at All About People. We share the values and objectives of Fire and Emergency New Zealand and strongly advocate for capable and resilient communities. We even have Volunteer Firefighters in our team.
If you’re not sure where to start in your emergency planning, or are looking to build your capability then take a look at our services. To get in touch with us phone 0800 023789 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on FENZ click here…
Darren Hodgetts, All About People Fire Safety Specialist