Emergency Management Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey

The Emergency Management Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey is the largest and most comprehensive volunteer survey undertaken in Victoria.

The survey was expanded in 2016 to include not just CFA and SES volunteers but all emergency management volunteers.  The survey has been conducted for the last five years for CFA and for the last two years for SES volunteers.

The ‘opt in’ survey was open from 15 July until 6 September 2016 and received about 4,185 volunteer responses, making it the largest and most comprehensive sector-wide welfare and efficiency survey in Victoria, specifically designed for emergency management volunteers.  

Volunteers from the following agencies participated in the 2016 survey.

  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Country Fire Authority (including Volunteer Coast Guard Brigades)
  • Life Saving Victoria
  • Red Cross – Emergency Services
  • The Salvation Army – Emergency Services
  • St John Ambulance
  • Victoria State Emergency Service
  • Victorian Council of Churches – Emergencies Ministry

Importantly, the survey structure and questions are specifically designed for emergency management volunteers, by emergency management volunteers.

Individual agency and sector reports have been designed, developed and produced. The Individual Agency Reports provide specific data on the perspectives of volunteers within each organisation and offer agency specific insights for CEO / organisations consideration. The Sector Report provides an overview of the emergency management sector as a whole and does not identify individual agencies apart from a comparison on demographics. 

These reports provide the State Government, Emergency Management Victoria and emergency management agencies and organisations with baseline data to measure improvements and close gaps. It is also designed to be a catalyst for constructive conversations and provide opportunities to address identified gaps in training and development, consultation and decision making.

The overall results are positive, highlighting that volunteers are satisfied with their roles as volunteers and their expectations are being met at a local level. Volunteers also rated diversity and creating a welcoming environment for new volunteers to be extremely important to them now and into the future.

This is not to say there are not challenges which need attention. The survey highlighted that gaps exist between the expectations of volunteers and the reality for them in their various roles in our emergency management system. The gaps are in relation to access and availability of training and development opportunities, and their experience of consultation and decision making at the state management/corporate level.

Importantly, the 2017 survey and beyond provide the ideal mechanism to measure progress toward closing the gaps and identifying areas where there has been no progress towards improvement. There are many people in many roles across the emergency management system that need to work together to ensure we retain a strong and evidence based focus on the sustainability, efficiency, effectiveness and welfare of our volunteers.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria created, developed and managed the survey, tools and systems with grant funding from the Valuing Volunteers Program (VVP) over a period of four years. The Survey Project Officer worked closely with participating agencies to identify any specific needs and adapt the survey to suit those needs, while maintaining the integrity of the survey purpose, design and structure. EMV and the VCF provided support for the 2016 survey and production of the Individual Agency Reports and Sector Report.

In preparation for the 2017 Survey, the VCF will sponsor a formal evaluation of the 2016 survey. This will broadly cover systems, security and processes. The intent is to capture lessons learned and opportunities for improvement such as evolving and fine-tuning the survey to better address differing agency requirements, to ensure overall survey is improving as a system.

These results must now be used as a catalyst for constructive conversations about gaps that have been identified and, as importantly, what is working well and can be shared or applied more broadly.

The survey is a valuable tool that provides emergency management volunteers with a voice to government, agencies and the sector. In time it will continue to build in value and provide trends, data and evidence as we focus on the areas for improvement and on new or emerging challenges.

Victorian communities are highly   dependent on the dedicated work of more than 100,000 emergency management volunteers. This is why the Victorian emergency management reform program recognises the fundamental role of volunteers’ before, during and after emergencies. Volunteers are one of the major strengths of the state’s emergency management system and must be valued, encouraged, enhanced and developed. More effective and efficient volunteers mean better outcomes for Victorian communities and building community resilience now and into the future.

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