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Role of Operational Support

The role of Operational Support tends to vary a little depending on where you are — the needs typically being governed by local circumstance.   Operational Support Personnel are an ‘Operational Support‘ facility (in the dictionary sense of the words) and are created as a component of the Fire Service under Section 28 of the Act.   Fire Brigades can use volunteer non-fire fighters for a variety of tasks, and the role that Operational Support fulfill is usually a combination of the tasks as defined by NZFS.

Operational Support traditionally carry out tasks often required in support of the Fire Brigade, without being directly involved in extinguishing a fire or dealing with any other emergency that the Fire Service have been called to attend.   They have also been called the Tea and Coffee Brigade but their role is much wider than that.

Typically therefore, their role is:

·           Traffic Control and Points Duties

Fire and other Emergencies almost always require some form of traffic management.   Fire Appliances are not small vehicles and simply having one parked outside a building may create a Traffic Hazard.   Operational Support are often called upon to manage a traffic situation — Shunts, Diversions and Points Duty are used to keep traffic flowing as well as possible and reduce impact on the public at large.

·         Crowd Control & Scene Safety

The Fire Service obviously have safety as a very high priority.   Safety of the Fire Crews, other emergency services personnel and the public is usually an area of responsibility for Operational Support - Cordons, Scene Protection and of course Traffic related issues being the major areas involved.

·         Scene Lighting

There is often a need to set up portable lighting equipment at an emergency scene.   Operational Support can be utilised in this role, leaving qualified Fire Fighting personnel free to concentrate on their other duties for which they are trained.

·         First Aid

All NZFS Personnel are trained in emergency First Aid as a matter of course.   Beyond that, though, in some regions the local Fire Brigade provide a first-response Ambulance service, mainly in situations where it is likely that Ambulance response would be delayed, and where that delay would be life—threatening.   Co/1st- Responders are trained in first aid to a higher level than other Fire Service personnel, with training provided by the Ambulance services.   Note:   This is usually the case in rural areas where professional ambulance response is often seriously delayed, and is a case by case arrangement via a Memorandum of Understanding between NZFS and the Ambulance service concerned.

·         Salvage

Salvage is the term given to the art of saving property from Fire, Smoke and Water Damage that tends to go hand in hand with Firefighting.   Being a non-firefighting task, Operational Support may be trained to assist in the removal or relocation of personal property, as well as covering items of furniture, appliances etc with Salvage Sheets if they cannot easily be removed.

·         Emergency Logistics & Coordinated Incident Management System roles

o    Communications and Logistics—related tasks in particular.

o    Personnel Resource at all areas of an incident including the Incident Command Post (ICP)

·           Waterways Assistance

Whilst not a primary function of Operational Support, usually basic training in this area is provided in order that members are prepared to assist as required in an emergency.

·           Portable Dam

A ‘paddling pool‘ type arrangement put together in a hurry with Ladders, Poles, Sheets and Rope, used for various cooling purposes such as Gas Cylinders which have been exposed to fire.   They are also used as a water store in areas without a reticulated supply, being filled from nearby streams and rivers.   Operational Support may be involved both in the creation of a Portable Dam and in the manning of it - ensuring it remains full of water.

·         Refreshments

Operational Support are often playing the role of ‘Canteen’ or ‘K19’. This may involve anything from cold-drinks- and biscuits right through to a full meal at a large incident, depending on local capabilities.

·         Any other ancillary duties within the scene of an incident including supporting victims until the arrival of trained Victim Support persons.   As well, being familiar with Incident Ground protocol, Operational Support often provide a 'go—fer' resource.

Operational Support may be trained in any combination of the above, depending on local needs.   Because of the training and abilities of Operational Support, and the strong relationship between the NZ Fire Service and the NZ Police, they are often called upon by the Police to provide assistance.