This Quarter 4 (Q4) FY 2021-22 Fire Services Outcomes Framework Progress Report provides an update on the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) fire services performance indicators, in line with legislated requirements.
Reporting on Outcomes
The Year Two to Five Fire Services Reform Implementation Plan (Year 2-5 Plan) outlines a shared course of action for fire services agencies over four years to implement the vision set out in the 2017 Fire Services Statement (Fire Services Statement). The Year One Fire Services Reform Implementation Plan included CFA actions 1.17 and 1.18 and FRV actions 2.16 and 2.17, which provided a level of agency accountability to prepare and report on Outcomes Frameworks, indicators, and measures. The Year 2-5 Plan does not include actions relating to Outcomes Framework reporting, however legislative provisions in the Fire Rescue Victoria Act 1958 require CFA and FRV to provide FSIM with quarterly performance-based updates measured against their individual Outcomes Frameworks.
Both agencies recognise that adopting an outcomes approach is a long-term proposition. There are no legislative requirements for CFA and FRV to produce Outcomes Framework indicators that specifically provide insight into Fire Service Reform outcomes and the indicators that inform CFA and FRV performance are determined by each agency. While agency outcomes broadly align to fire services reform outcomes, the supporting measures, baselines, and data are insufficient to tell a comprehensive story of fire services reform impact and complementarity.
Two years into reporting on outcomes, agencies have improved indicator selection and data identification, collection, and analysis. However, explanations of baselines, targets and supporting data for many of the agencies’ indicators is immature and some indicators and measures are still being refined. Further work needs to be done to clearly communicate how indicators and the supporting measures demonstrate progress towards defined, agency-specific outcomes. Settling this work will allow agencies to focus on the right data and information to make better decisions to improve service and program delivery for Victorians.
In Q4, FSIM has presented the data provided by the agencies and made commentary where possible on specific trends, risks, and successes, however a clear story of how each agencies’ activities and programs are influencing outcomes for the community is not yet achieved.
Service Level Agreements
Finalising Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is a key outstanding program of work arising from reform implementation and is fundamental to reform success. FSIM acknowledges that service level agreements have been challenging and complex and agencies have developed interim work arounds where a solution is yet to be agreed. However, two years into reform, these foundational agreements – which set out operational and service delivery expectations and requirements – are not finalised. This is impacting service delivery effectiveness and efficiency. The ongoing delays, and in some cases, inability to finalise agreements highlights an absence of agreed principles that underpin new service arrangements and will be a focus for FSIM monitoring in year three.
COVID-19 related restrictions continued to impact CFA and FRV engagement with personnel and the community into FY 2021-22. However, CFA and FRV have seen improvements in engagement in the latter part of the year through increased adaptability to, and the lifting of, restrictions.
CFA’s annual Attitudes and preparedness of households in high bushfire risk areas survey shows that CFA continues to trend above 93% for community trust in the CFA brand, noting that this trust continues to increase. CFA continues to actively engage with the community at events, community education programs, home and property visits and e-learning modules. FSIM notes that CFA is engaging with nearly 50% of residents in extreme fire risk areas however there is still more work to be done to improve engagement with communities in extreme fire risk areas. FRV continues to make progress providing community education and risk reduction programs this quarter however did not meet its target set in FY 2020-21. FRV anticipates that results will improve in FY 2022-23 following increases in staff training to deliver programs and work to improve reporting.
CFA introduced a new indicator this quarter to count the number of volunteers sitting on steering committees and project governance committees. FSIM is supportive of CFA providing more opportunities for volunteers to have input into CFA’s policy and strategic direction. FRV met the target of 100% for ‘stations and work sites visited against schedule’ in Q4. This result builds on an improved Q3 result arising from eased COVID-19 restrictions.
CFA has reported a significant increase in staff unplanned absences this quarter. CFA report that this is due to a substantial increase in staff reporting absent due to COVID-19 isolation protocols. CFA volunteer compensation claims reported are below baseline but have recorded a substantial increase in claims since Q3 FY 2021-22. CFA report that there is often a delay (unless there is some immediate serious impact to an individual) in compensation claim submissions where incidents may have occurred in previous quarters, which could account for this increase in Q4.
FRV monitors separations of all FRV staff to assist in identifying issues relating to workplace culture and capability and exceeded its turnover target by 1.3% in Q4. This target was set to establish a more diverse and inclusive workforce, recognising its aging workforce profile. However, exceeding this target can have consequences for FRV service delivery due to reduced workforce capacity. There is a possible correlation emerging between exceeding the workforce turnover target and not meeting its permanent non-operational staff FTE target, resulting in FRV needing to fill higher than anticipated corporate services support roles.
While CFA and FRV are both making progress against their respective capability indicators, there are some outstanding issues arising primarily from a backlog of training due to COVID-19 restrictions. Capability will remain a key area of focus for FSIM in FY 2022-23 noting the reform objective that firefighters have the right skills and access training and support.
CFA introduced a new indicator in this quarter to report on the number of digitised training courses made available online, demonstrating adaptability in response to COVID-19 related restrictions. CFA met its baseline regarding satisfaction with overall baseline and reported just below the baseline in satisfaction with digitised training. However, CFA did not meet its baseline for an increase in the average number of courses completed by CFA members. While CFA have been able to respond and adapt to impacts to training, it is not resulting in more CFA members undertaking training courses.
FRV made considerable progress against its specialist skills indicator by addressing COVID-19 induced backlogs in emergency medical response (EMR), trench rescue and heavy rescue. In Q1, FRV reported a result of 24.3% against a target of 100% by Q4 FRV had progressed this result to 83%.
FRV has consistently not met its core skills maintenance target across the year with a result of 86.7% of Division A staff having completed core skills training against a target of 95%. FSIM notes that Division B staff are currently not captured in results for this indicator and as a result FSIM cannot effectively evaluate skills maintenance results of all FRV firefighters. FRV advises it intends to incorporate Division B results in FY 2022-23 reporting.
Fire Fatalities & Prevention Activities
CFA and FRV have both reported fire fatalities in Q4. This is the first time FRV have reported preventable fire fatalities as part of their Year Two Outcomes Framework reporting.
CFA did not meet its aspirational target of zero fire-related fatalities and injuries this quarter. There were four fire related fatalities in Q4, which exceeds the four-year rolling average baseline by three fatalities. CFA also reported nine fire related injuries in Q4, which is an improvement on their four-year rolling average baseline of 74.
FRV reported on the number of preventable fire-related fatalities recorded by the FRV Fire Investigation Unit in FY 2021-22. This is the first time FRV have reported on preventable fire related fatalities in their Year Two Outcomes Framework reporting as a part of their best practice emergency response outcomes and recorded 12 preventable fire-related fatalities during the FY 2021-22. FRV reports that smoking, mobility issues and hoarding contributed to these deaths.
FRV reported fire-related fatality prevention measures such as increases in hoarding and residential risk referrals in Q4. In addition, FRV collaborated with CFA in a joint smoke alarm campaign focusing on the importance of having multiple smoke alarms in the home. FRV reports that the campaign evaluation found that awareness and perceived importance of installing interconnected smoke alarms was significantly higher for those exposed to the campaign.
CFA continues to report increases in homes where CFA has installed smoke alarms, replaced inoperable smoke alarms, and have provided fire prevention devices to vulnerable community members this quarter. FSIM commends CFA and FRV on their fire prevention activities, in particular their collaborative smoke alarm community engagement activities, and looks forward to better understanding of the impact of CFA and FRV prevention approaches on fire-related fatalities and injuries in future reporting.