Undertaking Activities

Understanding Your Tasks

Before you start a task, you must be clear about the work to be done and the desired outcome.

We can work in dangerous and time critical conditions at times, so, it is essential to comprehend the intent of your Crew Leader and understand the directions given to you to avoid the cost and frustration of misinterpretation.

Your Crew Leader is responsible for ensuring that you understand the expected outcome and the work needed to achieve that outcome.

You are responsible for checking that you understand exactly what is required.

Leader's Intent

‘When followers clearly understand the intent behind instructions, they are enabled to make better decisions on their own when conditions or the situation has changed. If followers know what the goal is, they will be able to determine what they must do to reach it, even if the leader is absent.’ Affect Them With Intent – Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program

Before undertaking any operational activity, you should be adequately and appropriately briefed by an officer. The briefing should give you increased situational awareness, an understanding of the leader’s intent, a broad outline as to how you will achieve it, the system in which you will be operating and any specific hazards that could affect you or your completion of the task. 

A key component of the briefing is to identify any hazards that may affect you or your completion of the task as well as what precautions have been, or are to be, taken during the activity. The risks of any activity should be compared with the likely benefits. If the risks are out of proportion to the benefits, perhaps the activity should be limited or changed. The general principles to remember are that you can’t save anyone by making yourself another victim; and no property is ever worth a life or an injury.

Following Instructions

Sometimes, after receiving instructions from your Crew Leader, you may feel you need additional background information before you can do the job. If this is the case, ask for it. Also, if you have concerns about the work or can see a better way of achieving the desired outcome, explain your concerns or ideas to your Crew Leader.

A Crew Leader should have confidence in your ability to achieve the desired outcome and within reason, leave you to achieve it in the manner you think best.

You should confirm that you have understood the briefing by repeating back to your Crew Leader the key actions you are to carry out. If something has been missed in the briefing, or is unclear or possibly unsafe, you should query it. If the question is not resolved and there is a safety issue involved, you have the right to refuse to participate in the activity.

Often a briefing will be given en-route to a fire or incident, but at large scale and/or long duration operations, briefings might be carried out more formally. In that case it is probably a good idea to jot down the key points at the time of the briefing, rather than relying solely on your memory.

During the activity, you should continue to scan for hazards (/wiki/spaces/LDDEV/pages/45649997), and continually re-assess to see that the appropriate precautions are being applied and are still effective. Often this may involve confining your activities to a safer area and/or avoiding areas of particular risk. If appropriate, work areas should be clearly delineated to identify varying levels of risk.

An example is the use of parked emergency vehicles and markers to separate the traffic hazard from the work area at the scene of a motor vehicle accident (MVA).

This example shows that the work area (the immediate area of the MVA) is clearly defined and will have certain characteristics and hazards which members can be prepared for. The passing traffic which presents a different hazard/risk is separated from the work area, but members passing into that area will know where the change in hazards/risk occurs.

Working Responsibly

The work being carried out should be done so as to meet the objectives and goals agreed to by you and your Crew Leader. It should also be within the scope of the Service’s safe working practices (e.g. Fireground SOPs) and the overall strategy for the operation. Unless otherwise indicated, you should avoid ‘freelance firefighting’ as it might conflict with other coordinated activities and endanger other members or the public and counteract the overall objectives.

Ensuring that you are aware of regular updated information and Situation Reports (SITREPS) means that it should not come as a surprise when something looks like it may not work. Working autonomously does not mean working without communication and if it appears that the activity will fail to meet the agreed objectives, immediately inform your Crew Leader. If you are unable to contact them and it involves an urgent matter, you may decide to take safe alternative action. However, you should advise the Crew Leader or next in charge, if applicable, what you have done as soon as practicable.

Several serious accidents have occurred when well-intended crews have extended their activities beyond the intended scope (e.g. such as by burning off additional areas).

When you have completed any assigned activity, notify your Crew Leader of the results.

Limits of Authority

Discuss the limits of your authority with your officer in charge. Be sure you understand and agree on the kinds of decisions you can make alone and the matters you must refer back to them. If you are in any doubt about any matter, it is wise to seek advice early!

The Rural Fires Act provides powers to undertake incident control activities, but there are some occasions when special permission is needed to enter specific property or undertake specific actions. For example, entering defence or state rail property requires specific permission and for specific precautions to be effected by the controlling authorities. Be aware of such requirements in your brigade area and read and understand the SOPs that accompany them.

If in doubt, refer the matter to your Crew Leader.