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Volunteering Time to Support a WA Island Community

Nov 15, 2021

Seven of Programmed's Rottnest Island team members took time out of their busy schedules to become volunteer firefighters.

Programmed's Rottnest Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service members
L-R: Lenny Kilmartin, Deanna Kilmartin, Tim Floyd, Julie McManus, Jason Brookes, Fred Bijens and Rie Takahashi

Meet Programmed’s newly qualified Rottnest Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service members.

Rottnest Island is a Western Australia icon and one of the busiest places in the state during the warmer months. 

Programmed have a team that live and work on Rottnest, and island life is busy! They manage the utilities, facilities and support services. That covers everything from managing and maintaining the power station, wastewater facility, the desalination plant and roads to accommodation, housekeeping and the grounds.  

On top of that, seven team members took time out of their busy schedules to complete a Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) accredited course. Safety is paramount at Programmed, so the addition of new volunteers is beneficial to the company, the brigade and the island community.

Programmed team member Liam O’Brien is Captain of the Rottnest Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service. He shared Lenny, Deanna, Tim, Julie, Jason, Fred, and Rie’s journey to becoming volunteer firefighters and how it will benefit the Rottnest community. 

How many Programmed team members did the DFES course and why?

Seven Programmed volunteers went through the DFES training – so we are now a crew of eleven. We have to have four firefighters available at all times. 

Over here, there’s a lower number of emergency incidents than the mainland. But when there is a fire, you must have a competent group of people because your backup is 20km away on the other side of the ocean. So, the addition of our new recruits helps contribute to the safety of the Rottnest community.

All seven people who completed the training are residents of Rottnest Island, so they also just wanted to protect and serve the island.

Programmed's Rottnest Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service members
L-R: Programmed’s Deanna Kilmartin, Tim Floyd and Lenny Kilmartin
What did the course cover?

The course goes through fundamental theory and practical skills. The volunteers learned about bushfire safety, survival and behaviour, map reading and communications, tools and equipment, ropes and ladders, crew protection, and the AIIMS system we use to deal with incidents. The course also includes first aid training but Programmed already had that covered. 

The course brought the new recruits up to the minimum standard needed to be active members. They can now safely attend a fire ground or incident. The more experienced volunteers like myself have done additional courses over the years. We have to do many as we can because we have a responsibility to be able to deal with all sorts of incidents. 

The course was about sixty hours’ worth of training. Special mention to the rest of the Programmed team for their support! Their efforts meant the volunteers were able to attend their training sessions each week.

Programmed's Rottnest Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service members
Captain of the The Rottnest Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service, Liam O’Brien
How will it benefit the Rottnest Island community?

The island is now better protected — the community, infrastructure, wildlife, and vegetation benefit from having more qualified volunteers on the team. 

There’s a range of risks on the island, with potential for structural fire, bushfire, marine fire, aviation fire, HAZMAT incidents, rescues, and medical assists. 

We have turned up to every kind of incident over the years. So having additional volunteers also increases the level of safety on the island. 

There can be about 10,000 people on and around Rottnest over the course of a day during the busiest parts of summer. We are now even better prepared to tackle any challenges when they happen.    

What was the graduate’s favourite part of the course?

They definitely enjoyed the practical part of the course — ladder exercises and learning how to safely and effectively use the tools and equipment. There are so many different incidents that can occur on the island, so they got to try their hand at using hydraulic tools, ladders, hoses and axes. 

All the graduates did well. They only had good things to say about the course, but the hands-on part was a favourite. 

Programmed's Rottnest Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service members
Programmed’s Clint McDonald
How will the training help the graduate’s in their roles at Programmed?

The graduates will undoubtedly have a better ability to manage risk and work safely in dangerous and sometimes extreme situations. They can now also be on standby for emergencies during work hours as a Programmed member and off shift to cover the island. 

This boost in numbers is not only a big help; it also means we have significantly improved part of our safety requirements on the island.

Congratulations to Lenny Kilmartin, Deanna Kilmartin, Tim Floyd, Julie McManus, Jason Brookes, Fred Bijens and Rie Takahashi for completing the training! Thank you to Liam and the rest of the Programmed volunteers for helping to keep the Rottnest community safe.

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