Major incident reviews of the WA bushfires

Major incident reviews of the WA bushfires

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The WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) coordinates emergency services for a range of natural disasters and emergency incidents.

The reviews sought to improve the response to future bushfires in WA

Nous conducted major incident reviews for the WA DFES into the Lower Hotham and O’Sullivan bushfires in February 2015 and, subsequently, the Esperance bushfires in November 2015. The reviews sought to identify key lessons in relation to how DFES and other fire agencies responded to and managed these incidents, and provide practical recommendations to strengthen the capacity of the WA fire sector to respond to similar incidents in the future.

We thoroughly tested our hypotheses and developed practical recommendations

Our approached to the review focused on:

  1. identifying the ‘root causes’ of the incidents, rather than reporting the symptoms
  2. triangulating evidence sources to substantiate key findings
  3. developing recommendations that provide clear pathways to action.

We developed a review plan that identified the key lines of enquiry to be tested through stakeholder consultation and desktop review. We conducted extensive consultation with government agencies involved in the response at incident, regional and state level and with local government and volunteers. This engagement was used to test our initial hypotheses of the root causes. Finally, we developed a number of practical recommendations to address the root causes of the identified opportunities for improvement.

The review will improve the capability of the DFES and protect the citizens of WA

The WA DFES has published both major incident reviews and the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner has supported the recommendations put forward. These recommendations will continue to improve the ability of the WA fire sector to effectively manage and respond to major incidents, and thus protect the safety and livelihoods of WA citizens.

What other organisations can learn:

When conducting a review, don’t let the symptoms distract you from the root causes

The experience of those involved is important but needs to be tested with others sources of insight

Focusing on the key findings is much more useful than long lists of recommendations.