LEADERSHIP, CULTURE AND CHANGE IN EMERGENCY SERVICES

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					     LEADERSHIP, CULTURE AND CHANGE 
          IN EMERGENCY SERVICES 
                                      

PRESENTED TO:         AFAC CONFERENCE 2008 

PRESENTATION TIME:    WEDNESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 
                      11:00 AM 

 

PRESENTED BY:         MARY BARRY 
                      CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER 
                      VICTORIA STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE 




 
 


           LEADERSHIP, CULTURE AND CHANGE
                        IN EMERGENCY SERVICES



BACKGROUND
Like many other social, political and cultural institutions, emergency services in Australia
were initially developed in isolation driven by a diverse range of interests and needs. Police,
Fire and Ambulance perceived as the traditional emergency services can trace their origins
back to the early 1800s; while State Emergency Service’s can trace their origins back to the
Second World War. With the exception of Police, emergency services in Australia
commenced as volunteer based services.

Over the last 150 years demand and community expectations means that today some
services operate with a mixture of paid career staff and volunteers, some operate only with
paid career staff while others are totally dependent on volunteers.

The continued evolvement of the different services has varied from State to State with some
States such as Queensland and Western Australia having a number of services under one
umbrella such as Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) and Fire & Emergency
Services Authority (FESA), while other States such as Victoria and New South Wales have a
number of separate agencies ( eg. Victoria has three fire services MFB, CFA, DSE and until
April 2008 had three ambulance services which were amalgamated to form Ambulance
Victoria). It also has more recently established services such as VICSES and Life Saving
Victoria which represent a very different perspective on what constitutes an emergency
service.

Life Saving Victoria, a public company limited by guarantee was established in 2002 as a
result of the consolidation of two organisations - Royal Life Saving Australia Victoria Branch
(est. 1904) and Surf Life Saving Victoria (est. 1947).

VICSES emerged in the context of the Cold War in the 1950s as a volunteer-based civil
defense agency which could be activated quickly in the event of war. During the 1960s its
role was enhanced to include peace time disasters and emergencies, in 1976 it was renamed
the Victoria State Emergency Service and in November 2005 it was re-established as a
Statutory Authority.      Its functions today include emergency management planning;
emergency response to floods, earthquakes, storm, tsunamis; rescue services including air,
rail, vertical and urban search and rescue (USAR) as well as providing support to the Police
and fire services.




              Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer                Page 2 of 7
                                   Victoria State Emergency Service

              Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
              Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am
Leadership, Culture and Change in Emergency Services
 
 
CHALLENGES FACING EMERGENCY SERVICES
Irrespective of their history or whether they are reliant on volunteers or paid career staff all
emergency services are facing the same challenges over the next 10-20 years. Their culture
which is significantly impacted by their history will, however, play a crucial role in each
organisations’ ability to meet these challenges. Challenges which include but are not limited
to:

   •   Climate Change
       Higher temperatures, longer/more severe droughts, more severe weather events such
       as fire, flood, storms and cyclones
   •   Demographic Changes
       Ageing, isolation, cultural diversity, increased service dependence, sustainability of
       current volunteering levels
   •   Lifestyle – (Urban and rural changes)
       Urbanization, suburban sprawl and growth corridors, rural growth/decline, and
       changing hazard profiles, changing population centres, culture of dependence
   •   Economic and social factors
       The threat of economic downturn, housing affordability, social cohesion and workforce
       participation
   •   Technology
       Ensuring that emergency services are equipped with appropriate technological
       capacity to respond, increasing technological dependency, and risk of system failures
   •   New and unexpected events
       Geophysical hazards, pandemic/disease pollution and waste management
   •   Global and Regional security threats
       Such as terrorist attacks


Over the past five years Australia has experienced an increase in the number and intensity of
fires, storms, floods and cyclones. These include the Canberra bushfires (2003), Cyclone
Larry (QLD 2006), the 2006/07 bushfires in Victoria and NSW and the severe storms and
floods that hit NSW, Victoria, SA and Tasmania in 2007/08.

As well as dealing with these large scale events emergency services have to respond to day
to day incidents that also consume considerable resources including staff/volunteer time. As
urban, rural and coastal communities continue to grow and change these day to day
incidents will inevitably increase and put greater pressure on emergency services.

As major Australian cities continue to accommodate an increasing residential population,
there will be an increase in both population density and footprint in these cities. The increase
in footprint will result in a greater potential impact area where disasters strike, while
population density will result in far greater potential for damage in all catastrophic emergency
events making the role of emergency services even more crucial.


               Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer                Page 3 of 7
                                    Victoria State Emergency Service

               Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
               Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am
Leadership, Culture and Change in Emergency Services
 
 
The role, behavior and response of the community and individuals to emergency events will
impact the role of emergency services. While people in rural and remote Australia have a
history and legacy of resilience due in part to relative isolation and a greater exposure to
natural environmental hazards this is not necessarily true for urban dwellers. Urban dwellers
tend to have developed a notion of service delivery even during times of crises. There is an
expectation that emergency services will come and fix the problem. Engaging these
communities in emergency management planning, education and awareness will become
crucial if emergency services are to assist in the development of community resilience thus
enabling communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies as efficiently
and effectively as possible.

The provision of accurate, timely information during events is also critical for emergency
services. Keeping relative government departments, the community, local, national and
international media posted on what is happening is proving to be as important as planning,
preparation, response and recovery. Continued advances in technology and 24 hour news
coverage around the world have contributed to the media attention given to emergency
incidents today.



MEETING THE CHALLENGES FACING EMERGENCY SERVICES
To deal with these challenges emergency services will need to review how they work
together, not just from an operational capability but from a more holistic and strategic
approach. They will need to look at how they share information, how they can strategically
plan better together, how they can better utilise existing resources and expertise and
determine priorities across the sector in relation to scarce funding and resources. The
organisational culture of each service will determine how successfully agencies can integrate
and work together to meet these challenges.



ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE
Organisational culture is a mixture of values, beliefs and behaviours. It provides the glue that
creates a sense of trust and shared purpose. It is essentially the organisations “soul” shaped
and influenced by its heritage, success and setbacks.

As culture is all about people and people are what make organisations effective, efficient and
productive an organisation’s culture can determine the organisation’s ability to move forward,
to adapt to a changing environment and to meet the current and future needs of its
stakeholders including its people, government and the community.




               Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer                Page 4 of 7
                                    Victoria State Emergency Service

               Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
               Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am
Leadership, Culture and Change in Emergency Services
 
 

VICSES CULTURAL REVOLUTION
In November 2006 Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers and staff
voluntarily took part in a cultural audit to determine the current culture and the culture they
thought was required to enable the organisation move forward.

This audit while determining that mangers, staff and volunteers did share some similar
values, behaviours and beliefs also highlighted a culture of “them and us” between Victoria
State Headquarters (VHQ), Regional Headquarters (RHQ) and volunteer SES Units;
between uniformed and non-uniformed staff and between operational and non-operational
staff. This also applied externally where there was a sense of rivalry with other emergency
services and a tendency not to work co-operatively across the sector. The key values of the
organisation were seen as hard work, independence, tenure, hierarchy and safety in the field.
Staff and volunteers agreed that there was a tendency for pacesetting and directive behavior
within the management team which led to lack of alignment, isolated decision making, poor
regional communication and poor change management skills.

There was acknowledgement that this culture had to change if VICSES was to survive, make
a successful transition to a more independent statutory authority, gain parity with other
emergency services and be seen and perceived by government, other emergency services
and the community as a professional and capable emergency service. The cultural audit
also determined the values the whole organisation needed to embrace and adopt to move
forward. These values are: Our people, Commitment, Trust, Community focused and
Integrity.

When asked if they had a magic wand what were the two/three most important things
VICSES needed to move forward the answer was clear - more funding/resources and good
leadership.



So what has happened since the cultural audit in November 2006?
Following an Output Price Review in 2006 VICSES’ submission to government was
successful gaining an extra $40m over four years commencing on 1 July 2007. The
recurrent annual budget has increased from $19m in 2005/2006 to $29m in 2008/2009.

All senior managers participated on a 12 month leadership development course during
2007/2008. A second leadership course commenced in July 2008 with a further 17 staff
taking part. Volunteer Unit Controllers have attended the VICSES Fireline Leadership
Course tailored to the needs of VICSES with many others enrolled for the coming 12 months.

A monthly CEO Newsletter and Bulletin keep staff and volunteers fully informed on what is
happening at VICSES and more importantly what staff are doing to support volunteers. As


              Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer                Page 5 of 7
                                   Victoria State Emergency Service

              Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
              Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am
Leadership, Culture and Change in Emergency Services
 
 
CEO, I meet regularly with all volunteer Unit Controllers who have now been incorporated as
a level of management of VICSES. Task Forces involving staff and volunteers are regularly
established to deal with policy issues that affect volunteers/staff. We are working profusely
to break down the “us and them” barriers and improve communication across the
organisation. All VICSES volunteer Units have got access to Broadband which makes
receiving and sending communication much easier.

VICSES has also established a partnership with CFA to adapt their current Operational
Information Management System (OIMS) for use by VICSES staff and volunteers. This will
commence roll out in September/October 2008. VICSES has established a partnership with
MFB enabling VICSES to use MFB’s SAP Finance and Asset Management System. This
went live on 1 July 2008. VICSES has also worked with DSE to develop an IT link between
the two organisations’ headquarters enabling VICSES to utilise the DSE Statewide iECC for
large scale operations.

The level of interoperability with other agencies has also increased substantially with VICSES
providing logistical and staging area support to the fire agencies during the 2006/2007 fires,
supporting NSWSES during the 2007 floods and seeking assistance from CFA, MFB, DSE &
DHS during the 2007 Gippsland floods and November storms. VICSES also sought
assistance from NSWSES during the April 2008 storms.



FUTURE CHALLENGES
In an increasingly complex emergency services environment, there are many unprecedented
challenges facing emergency service organisations.

Interoperability and co-operation between emergency services is an area of increasing
interest to Government and the community. This is on the basis of seamless delivery of
emergency management outcomes and the equally pragmatic reason of cost and efficiency.

Following Hurricane Katrina in the USA, the OECD noted that “interagency co-operation is
adversely affected by pre-existing personal, political and jurisdictional antagonism.”

Meeting our future challenges will require more than good relationships and good will
between agencies. It will require a shared culture that supports a willingness to improve and
further develop the level of integration and co-ordination across all agencies in a strategic
sense. It will require visionary leadership incorporating a culture of open co-operation, where
the role, expectations, operational capability and the financial capacity of all agencies is
clearly understood and acknowledged.

Today most agencies develop their own strategic plans which are an absolute necessity for
any organisation. However, many of these plans developed independently of each other
outline the same challenges faced by agencies. This has resulted in agencies working in


              Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer                Page 6 of 7
                                   Victoria State Emergency Service

              Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
              Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am
Leadership, Culture and Change in Emergency Services
 
 
isolation looking at innovative ways to meet these challenges and in some instances
competing for the same scarce resources to address the same challenges. This approach
does not give a clear message to government about what the sector sees as the key
priorities for emergency services.

This could be described a bit of a scatter gun approach to emergency services strategy
which has resulted in inequity amongst agencies and barriers to adopting and implementing
a multi-agency approach to emergencies.

Addressing the challenges of the 21st Century will require a culture of acceptance,
recognition and acknowledgement that all emergency services irrespective of whether
provided by career staff or volunteers have a crucial role to play in partnership with the
community in preparing for, planning, responding to and recovering from emergencies.
Agencies working in isolation will not be tolerated by governments or the community. All
Emergency Service Organisations need to acknowledge each other’s role, and work together
to ensure we can all respond effectively and efficiently to the emergencies for which we are
legislated to respond to, and work together to ensure adequate funding, research and
resources are available to all services to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.



We should not tie ourselves to our past; we should tie ourselves to our potential.




              Presented by:        Mary Barry, Chief Executive Officer             Page 7 of 7
                                   Victoria State Emergency Service

              Presented at:        AFAC Conference 2008
              Presentation time:   Wednesday 3 September at 11:00 am

				
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