PORT Lincoln council staff may be able to respond to fires under the council banner in the future but it will be up to them whether they go.

Port Lincoln, Lower Eyre Peninsula and Tumby Bay council chief executive officers have been working with the Local Government Association, CFS and others to look at what is required to enable the safe use of council resources – both physical and human – when required in bushfire emergencies.

Port Lincoln council chief executive officer Rob Donaldson said the three councils all had slightly different approaches and historically Port Lincoln council staff had not been allowed to be involved in the emergency response to fires unless they were a volunteer who had “clocked off” from their council job.

Mr Donaldson said there were still a lot of details to be worked out and worker safety was of “paramount consideration” but there was a move toward councils contributing community owned assets to support fire emergency response, in line with community expectation.

Councillor and Port Lincoln Bushfire Prevention Committee chairman Neville Starke said the Port Lincoln council had received flack in the past for staff not being involved.

Mr Donaldson said the key issues for councils were, taking a strong risk management approach and clarifying the coverage offered by the councils’ workers compensation scheme.

The council would also have to provide appropriate training for affected staff.

Mr Donaldson said staff support would be critical.

He said he had spoken with the relevant council staff and told them the idea was being looked at but assured them if it went ahead they would be asked individually if they would be prepared to undertake that role.

n By Billie Harrison

Port Lincoln council staff may be able to respond to fires under the council banner in the future

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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