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Union Calls to Annul Chief Fire Officer Appointmen

23 February 2009 - For Immediate Release

Firefighters Signal Warning over Safety Scare

Union Calls to Annul Chief Fire Officer Appointment

The Union representing firefighters is demanding the Fire Service annul the appointment of an Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer in Auckland.

The call comes after it was revealed the individual is a non operational officer who has not passed his physical competency assessment which is required of all Fire Service staff working in operational roles. The Union has also revealed the Fire Chief has not had an operational command role since 1996.

Fire Service 111 operators are also facing the consequences of the appointment, and the NZ Professional Firefighters Union wants the man at the centre of the scandal sent back to his operational planning role to sort out serious data problems which have been neglected since his appointment.

NZ Professional Firefighters Union Auckland Local President Jeff McCulloch has signalled safety concerns to his members and now fears a disaster waiting to happen as 111 call centre shortcomings are brought to light.

McCulloch says “it’s unbelievable that despite the Northern Gateway Toll Road having been under development since 1997 and construction commencing in 2004, the 12-years notice was still not enough time to get new Fire Zones for the Puhoi Tunnel and Northern Gateway into the Fire Service's multi-million dollar emergency dispatch system”. Union members working within the emergency centre confirm that vitally important Fire Zones for the new motorway and tunnel are missing from their maps. Fire zones determine the Fire Service’s response to an emergency and without them; an accurate and appropriate response to an incident cannot be achieved. The risk could see wrong fire trucks sent to calls.

McCulloch says the Johnstone’s Hill twin tunnel is just one example where the Operational Planning Officers energies have been abandoned.

Not only do dangers exist for members of the public, in a rare move, the Firefighters Union this week issued a warning to every Auckland firefighter. McCulloch is warning firefighters to seriously consider the validity and safety of any operational instruction given to them by the Operational Planning Officer. To carry out such instruction may result in the health and safety of firefighters being compromised.

The NZ Professional Firefighters Union believes that to carry out an operational instruction from any non operational staff member could leave that member open to the possibility of prosecution under the Act.

McCulloch says "it's essential that firefighters bare in mind the requirements of the Health and Safety in Employment Act which requires that employees take responsibility for their own and their colleagues’ health and safety while at work."

Meanwhile, 111 operators work day to day taking emergency calls hoping that one will not be coming in from the Puhoi Tunnel.

ENDS

Read More: www.nzpfu.org.nz

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