This question comes from a NSW emergency services volunteer:

I’m wondering if this is something you can look into. I’ve recently been advised that personal items lost/damage etc are not covered by agency insurance.

Compensation for volunteers in NSW emergency services is governed by the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW).  This Act not only ensures that volunteers with the Rural Fire Service, the NSW State Emergency Service and other rescue workers receive workers compensation even though they are not employees.  The Act also provides for compensation for the loss of personal effects.

A volunteer firefighter is entitled to compensation for the loss of personal effects whilst fighting a fire or on a relevant journey with respect to firefighting.   Generally speaking, the damage has to occur at or near the place of the fire or whilst proceeding to a place to perform one’s duties (s 12). A firefighter cannot obtain compensation if there is access to other insurance, so if a firefighter’s car is lost and it was insured, they are expected to claim on their vehicle insurance rather than from the Bush Fire Fighters Compensation Fund (s 13(4)).   An insurance company cannot increase the firefighter’s subsequent premium on the basis of that claim (s 28B).  Similar provisions apply for members of the State Emergency Service and other rescue workers (ss 28 and 28A).

With respect to firefighters, the Self Insurance Corporation can allow a claim even where the equipment wasn’t with the firefighter if ‘it was necessary or reasonable for the article to be where it was at the time of the destruction, damage or loss’ (s 14).   There does not appear to be an equivalent provision for emergency and rescue workers.

In other circumstances, for example if equipment is lost by theft or damage of the depot or station, the liability to pay compensation would depend on whether it is possible to allocate ‘fault’ to anyone.  If it is not, then any compensation would depend on the good will of the agency or the terms of the building or contents insurance (if any).