During the HIGH THREAT PERIOD (December to April) Western Australia can experience bushfires, tropical cyclones and flooding. Most volunteer brigades, groups and units are now preparing their teams for response rather than recruiting new volunteers and training during this time. Please be mindful of this, look out for specific recruitment messages put out by your local brigade, unit and group and consider volunteering towards the end of this period.
Emergency Services Volunteering
Emergency services volunteers are a vital component of a resilient and safe community. They give up their time to save the lives of others and reduce the loss of property and the environment. Being a volunteer is also incredibly rewarding and provides a sense of well-being, achievement and giving back.
Supporting the safety and wellbeing of a local community is everyone’s responsibility.
If you aren’t an emergency services volunteer you can help by supporting them and encouraging your local community to support their work. This includes preparing your own home and family for emergencies and disasters. DFES Safety Information.
Volunteering during an Incident
Often when a natural disaster takes place many people in the community offer their assistance.
While all offers of help are most appreciated, it is unlikely that members of the public will be able to offer immediate assistance directly to the emergency services. This is because:
- All emergency services volunteers must first undergo an approved induction and probationary period that includes minimum competency training which can take at least three months. This is to ensure all volunteers, when called to attend an emergency, are capable and stay safe.
- Food and shelter for all emergency responders is provided and catered for by the agencies responding. For safety reasons community members will not be able to enter a disaster affected area to deliver any packages and it is not recommended this be attempted.
In relation to supporting the community:
- During major emergencies the Department for Child Protection and Family Support will manage an evacuation centre for community members impacted by the disaster – providing ongoing information about the disaster, shelter, medical needs, food, clothing, financial assistance and capacity to register and inform other family members of their safety, and
- The affected Local Government will also address needs to support pets, stock and wildlife.
- There may be calls for the community to assist in other ways, depending on the nature of the incident. Keep an eye out in the media or contact Volunteering WA at www.volunteeringwa.org.au for any opportunities.
If you would like to know more about emergency services volunteering as an ongoing activity, please read the “Frequently Asked Questions” below.
Volunteering after an Incident
If you would like to offer assistance to communities affected by the disaster this can be done via the Local Government or Shire, nominated financial institutions, or by registering with Volunteering WA, the Red Cross, Rotary or Lions Clubs.
Quite often there is plenty to do during the ‘recovery’ phase after a disaster and some communities welcome help. Please ensure that you register your help before attending, to ensure the area is safe and that the community is ready to engage support.
Emergency Services Volunteering – Frequently Asked Questions
1. What types of volunteering opportunities are available in the fire and emergency services?
The emergency services in Western Australia are referred to either as a fire brigade, volunteer marine rescue group, or a state emergency service or fire and emergency services unit. Below you can click on the links to each volunteer service to find out details about their work:
Emergency volunteer services are spread across more than 800 locations throughout Western Australia and in order to respond rapidly, you need to live reasonably close to your local service. Some specific volunteer roles are not linked to emergency response and do not require a minimum arrival time.
2. What roles and activities can I do as an emergency services volunteer?
There are numerous roles you can undertake as a volunteer in an emergency service. It will depend on which service you join and what volunteer roles are available at that particular location but generally these are the activities a volunteer can do:
- Emergency response (structure firefighting, bushfire fighting, attend to storm and flood damage, land and sea search and rescue, re-supply for isolated communities, road crash response, cliff rescue);
- Communications (radio, mapping, driving)
- Administration (secretariat, rostering, marketing and accounting support)
- Social media (creating and supporting a Facebook page, Twitter account and /or web site)
- Community education (schools, community events and general community disaster preparation)
3. Can I be a volunteer firefighter if I live in the Perth Metropolitan area?
Several volunteer fire related services (volunteer fire and rescue brigades or bushfire brigades) are located on the fringes of the Perth metropolitan area. For example, there are fire brigades at Wanneroo, Joondalup and Yanchep in the north; Cockburn, Rockingham and Armadale to the south and Kalamunda, Mundaring and Roleystone to the east. The Perth metropolitan area is managed primarily by full time paid firefighters.
The State Emergency Service and Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services have units in the metropolitan area such as Stirling (Nollamara), Northshore (Leederville), Melville, Cockburn, Belmont, Bayswater and Bullsbrook, while the Marine Rescue Services Groups are located at Fremantle, Two Rocks, Rockingham and Mandurah.
4. Where are the volunteer services located near me?
To find which services are located close to you please click on the following:
5. Who can join?
Emergency services volunteering has a role for everyone. The minimum joining age varies slightly between services but generally age 16 to 17 years is the minimum joining age (with appropriate parental/guardian consent) and in some areas junior and cadet training programs are offered to young people aged 11 to 15 years.
6. How do I Join?
- To find out which volunteer Brigades, Groups and Units are located in your area please click on the emergency services links at question 4 above.
- Contact details are displayed for each service so that you can make direct contact with them. Please note that many of the telephone numbers are located at volunteer sites which are not occupied every day. Leave a message and allow at least a few days or more before expecting a response. This will be dependent on the level of activity around the volunteer service at a specific time.
- If you require further information please complete the Volunteer Enquiry Form.
7. How long will it take before I can attend an emergency incident as a volunteer firefighter, marine rescue crew member or state emergency service rescue volunteer?
On average it takes at least three months to complete the training required to enter a fire ground, crew a rescue vessel or be part of the front line operation of a rescue/support team. Your safety and the safety of other volunteers is paramount so the right training is vital. Not all volunteer roles require the same level of training so a new volunteer member may be able to take on support activities initially. Not all volunteer members choose to take on front line tasks. You can discuss your preferences with the officer in charge.
8. What are the health and fitness levels required to be an emergency services volunteer?
There are no specific requirements but depending on the volunteer role you choose, there may be a need for someone with a specific medical condition to undergo a medical examination in order for a doctor to certify what role(s) are appropriate for that individual and identify any volunteer roles which need to be avoided. A reasonable level of fitness is recommended for active frontline response roles.
9. What time commitments are expected from emergency services volunteers?
Volunteers generally train for 2-3 hours on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This varies between services with some meeting on a weekday evening and others may train on a Sunday morning. Volunteers who are employed in jobs involving shift work or fly in/ fly out arrangements can negotiate their volunteer training and incident response hours with the officer in charge. Similarly, volunteers with family or other regular commitments may only be available during certain hours of each day (eg parents with children at school who are available to volunteer between the hours of 9-3 daily while children are at school or in day care etc).
10. Do new volunteers require special skills/qualifications before joining?
Prospective new volunteers are required to undergo a Criminal History Check prior to commencement. This is arranged by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) at no cost to the volunteer. Some volunteers also require a Working with Children’s Check if their DFES volunteer role involves “child related work”. The Department or relevant local government will cover the cost of that process if required.
All training for emergency services volunteers is provided by the Department or relevant Local Government at no cost to the volunteer members.
11. What are the costs to volunteers?
No direct costs are incurred by individuals apart from the gift of your valuable time. (Some indirect costs such as phone calls, commuting to the brigade, group or unit for training and meetings may be experienced). Uniforms and safety gear are supplied by the Department.
The State Government has implemented a fuel card scheme to help mitigate the overall incidental costs to brigade, unit and group volunteer members.
12. What benefits do volunteers gain?
Emergency services volunteers are offered a range of training to meet the needs of the volunteer role they choose. This includes first aid, firefighting, driver training (including Heavy Rigid License and on and off road driver training), sea and land search and rescue, boat handling, road crash rescue, communications and radio operations, map reading and navigation, supervision, management-leadership skills and so on. Many of these skills are highly valued by employers for use in outside employment, away from volunteering.
In addition to new qualifications, volunteers enjoy the experience of making new friends, assisting their local community, gaining new skills and developing their own personal capabilities.
13. What insurance coverage is offered to volunteers if they are injured?
Registered volunteers are covered for all DFES authorised activities including training, attendance at emergency incidents and travel to and from DFES activities.
14. If there is a current incident, can I volunteer to help immediately?
In the interests of safety, DFES does not send new volunteers straight to an emergency incident. There is a formal registration, induction and training process to ensure emergency services volunteers are ready to attend. Responding to a bushfire, cyclone, storm or flood can be very dangerous and volunteers are only deployed after they have completed the training and other safety requirements.
However your help could be used during the recovery phase. See the section about “volunteering during an incident” above.
15. If I am already an emergency services volunteer in WA, in another State or from overseas, can I go and join the emergency response as I am already trained?
DFES does not send individual volunteers to an emergency incident. During a major incident when extra assistance is needed the Department will seek additional support through pre-planned agreements and processes with brigades, groups and units. You can register your willingness to attend via your local brigade, group or unit.
16. If I am a registered WA emergency services volunteer on holiday in another part of the state, can I volunteer with the local brigade, group or unit near my holiday location?
You should register your interest before travelling and ask your Captain/Commander/ Unit Manager to contact their equivalent colleague at your holiday location to discuss your training, skills and experience.
17. I am visiting Australia on a travel visa/ student visa etc, can I join up as an emergency services volunteer?
You are welcome to join us but there are some conditions and considerations:
- You will need to confirm with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that your visa allows you to volunteer in Australia. Generally if your visa conditions allow you to work in Australia they will usually allow you to volunteer.
- Your volunteer membership will need to take into account your location, duration of your stay and the volunteer role you choose. Given that some of the training can take three months to complete your prospective volunteer leader will discuss options with you.
Every year thousands of people consider volunteering with an emergency service. Emergency service brigades and units are unique in that they are made up of individuals, retired people, families, full time, part time and shift workers, the unemployed and many others.
Our Volunteer Services
DFES coordinates the following key volunteer services:
Information for Employers
DFES highly values the support that employers give to their employees who volunteer with the emergency services. The support of employers and self employed volunteers is invaluable and without it some individuals would not be in a position to volunteer.
To recognise the support that employers give to the WA community, DFES has developed a quality assured accredited Volunteer Employer Recognition program. Click here for further information.
For copies of recruitment pamphlets and information on volunteer roles please click here .
Click here to send an online enquiry.
Volunteer Information Line (free call): 1800 628 141