Today’s correspondent asks
What protection do Civilian volunteers have when assisting the NSW RFS on a fireground?
One group officer told me that if —‘the neighbours and anyone else shows up to help fight the fire write their names down and they are covered [by insurance]’.
Is their protection/compensation available for machinery and or personal injury sustained by a volunteer helping the NSW RFS on a fire ground fight a fire?
The short answer is ‘yes’.
The Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW) provides for compensation for injuries and other losses suffered by firefighters and other emergency workers. For the purposes of that Act a firefighter is (s 5):
(a) an official fire fighter, being the captain, deputy captain or any member of a rural fire brigade or the group captain or deputy group captain of any rural fire brigades,
(b) any person who, without remuneration or reward, voluntarily and without obligation engages in fighting a bush fire:
(i) with the consent of or under the authority and supervision of the captain, or deputy captain of a rural fire brigade or the group captain or deputy group captain of any rural fire brigades, or
(ii) in conjunction with any civil authority, and
(c) any person who, without remuneration or reward, voluntarily and without obligation engages in fighting a bush fire and who, in the opinion of the Self Insurance Corporation having regard to all the circumstances, should be deemed to be a fire fighter.
If ‘the neighbours and anyone else shows up to help fight the fire’ and act as part of a coordinated firefighting effort with the RFS they are, for the purposes of this Act, a ‘firefighter’. They are then eligible for personal injuries compensation (ss 10-11) and for loss of personal property (ss 12-14).
Thank you for confirming. I did get their names, did a quick check on their skills and knowledge, confirmed communications and they were very useful.