WOF Dispatchers are refreshed and ready for the season
Whenever a Working on Fire (WOF) Team is requested to do prescribed burns on a farm, is deployed to a wildfire somewhere in the mountains or needs to be transported to an event or training camp, or aircraft are deployed to a wildfire, Dispatch and Coordination is involved. According to Tracey Carter, HOD for WOF Dispatch and Coordination, Dispatch is an integral part of Working on Fire’s operations and therefore its staff always need to be at the top of their game.
From 01 to 07 November the Working on Fire Type 1 and 2 Dispatchers attended the pre-summer fire season refresher training in preparation for the 2018/2019 Cape Summer Fire season. The training took place in Dinokeng, Gauteng.
During the training the attendees revise daily dispatch procedures as well as operational protocol. Their base station operators radio licenses are renewed every second year and their first aid certificates every 3 years.
“This job requires a great deal of structure, attention to detail and extreme focus in often stressful situations,” explains Carter. “It is imperative that our staff members are proficient and comfortable with their tasks and stay up to date with any changes in operational procedures. Rightly so, these training sessions are then also a CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) requirement for dispatching aerial and ground resources to wildfires.”
At the end of the training, attendees need to complete a written and practical exam, for which they have to score a minimum of 80% to pass.
“This year, we took a different approach to our training. For the ‘written’ section of their training, each Dispatcher had to do two unprepared presentations of topics allocated to them. They were accessed on their knowledge, and this also lead to open discussions around these topics, giving them an opportunity to express how the processes is practically implemented in his or her respective center,” Carter explains.
For the practical exam, the dispatchers had to do a simulation of a live dispatch and were accessed on their performance.
The training this year was very interactive. Everyone participated with enthusiasm and made suggestions and voiced their opinions. The dispatchers stated that they really enjoyed this year’s training and are ready to tackle the season ahead.
“One of the challenges our department faces is, that since our staff work on seasonal basis, we often have to train new dispatchers,” Carter explains. “This season, we are greatly privileged to not have had to train any brand new dispatchers. Lack of experience is a huge concern in our line of work and being able to retain that experience and knowledge is a huge advantage.”
3 seasonal Dispatchers that worked the winter season, will be joining us for the summer season as well. The Bela Bela Dispatcher is doing a season in Newlands, the Stutterheim Dispatcher in Porterville and the Vryheid Dispatcher in Stellenbosch.
Working on Fire has seven active Type 1 Dispatch Centers situated in Western and Southern Cape. There are eleven Type 1 and 2 Dispatchers manning these Dispatch Centers.
Working on Fire also has seven Type 3 Dispatch Centers manned by 29 Type 3 Dispatchers active in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, KZN, Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng. These Dispatch centers are active 365 days of the year.