Category Archives: Western Australia

Western Australia | Critical care paramedic notches 10 years

helicopter

St John Ambulance critical care paramedic Paul Davies recently celebrated ten years working on the RAC Rescue Helicopter – becoming the first paramedic to achieve this milestone.

Paul who lives in Gooseberry Hill, started work as a paramedic in 1994, before taking up a position as a Critical Care Paramedic on the helicopter in 2004.

Paul said the job was enormously satisfying and he had enjoyed the teamwork and camaraderie of working closely with the helicopter partners, CHC, Department Fire and Emergency Services and the RAC.

“Working on the helicopter can be very different than on road,” he said.

“There are moments of quiet downtime, plenty of routine paramedic type work and periods of adrenaline pumped high acuity cases – it has been a great ten years.

“Working in a pressure environment such as this on the rescue chopper, you really do need to have confidence in the abilities of your crew, which we do.

“This trust enables paramedics to do their jobs, and purely focus on the patient, no matter how challenging the situation may be.”

One of his more vivid memories involved a case where he had to fly 150km off the coast of Augusta in winter to retrieve a critically ill seaman.

“En-route my thoughts were who will come to get us if we have a problem? We proceeded to winch down to the ship retrieve the patient and load him into the aircraft in high seas. You think to yourself that was a good job, then the realisation sets in it is now I actually have to start the paramedic part of the job.”

Paul was awarded a plaque marking the milestone and a celebration was held with colleagues and main stakeholders recently at the Jandakot air base.

Also celebrating the 10 year milestone was CHC pilot Andy Greenall and Senior Aircrewman George Casey.

Western Australia | Shaping the future of emergency services

A Concept Paper outlining possible options for simplifying and modernising fire and emergency services legislation has been released today for consultation.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said the State Government was committed to an open and consultative review of the legislation with a vision to make it more effective.

Mr Francis said so much had changed in fire and emergency practices and community expectations since the current legislation was adopted in 1942 during World War II.

“It’s time to ensure this legislation is in line with current practices in Western Australia and best practice throughout the world,” he said.

“We urge the community and stakeholders to review the Concept Paper and have their say on the future of fire and emergency services in Western Australia.  This is an opportunity for people to provide their view on how to make the fire and emergency services legislation relevant, practical and effective for our State.”

The Concept Paper includes legislative options for reducing risk, emergency services in urban areas, volunteer brigades and units, and the Emergency Services Levy.

The legislation review  began in November 2012 with an initial one-year consultation period that was completed in December 2013.  This feedback has been included in the development of the Concept Paper.

Emergency services personnel, stakeholder agencies and members of the public are encouraged to comment on the paper via http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/legislationreview by the end of July.

If you require any assistance or do not have access to the internet, you can contact the project team on 9395 9763.

Fact File

  • Fire and emergency services in WA operate under the Fire Brigades Act 1942, Bush Fires Act 1954 and Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998
  • In 2006, the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee recommended one comprehensive Act be developed
  • Recommendations from other reports and reviews were also considered in the formulation of options contained in the Concept Paper

Western Australia | Fourth meningococcal disease infection

The Department of Health today reported that a child has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease and is recovering in hospital.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness due to a bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The Department of Health has identified the person’s close contacts and provided them with information, and, where appropriate, antibiotics that minimise the chance that the organism might be passed on to others.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10–20 per cent of the population at any one time. Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause serious infections.

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person. The bacterium is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.

Invasive meningococcal infection is most common in young children, older teenagers and young adults.

Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains.

Sometimes—but not always—these symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.

Although treatable with antibiotics, the infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly. With appropriate treatment, most people make a full recovery.

The incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased significantly in WA over the past decade, with around 20 to 25 cases reported each year—down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

There were 16 cases notified in 2013, the lowest number recorded in more than 20 years. This is the fourth case reported in 2014.

A vaccine to protect against the C type of meningococcal disease, which in the past was responsible for around 15 per cent of cases in WA, is provided free to children at 12 months of age.

Western Australia | High-impact ad campaign highlights importance of first aid training

St John Ambulance Western Australia has launched its new advertising campaign with a hard hitting message for people who aren’t first aid trained.

St John Ambulance CEO Tony Ahern said the confronting new ad was designed to provoke action.

“We have been highlighting the importance of learning first aid for more than a century, and while a growing number of West Australians have been trained, too many still don’t know how to save someone’s life in an  emergency,” Mr Ahern explained.

“Performing first aid before the ambulance arrives can often be the difference between life and death. It can also prevent more serious injury. For example, we know that irreversible brain damage begins if you go more than four minutes without oxygen.”

Last year in WA, St John paramedics and volunteers attended more than 250,000 cases. Research shows for motor vehicle accidents alone, up to 15 per cent of deaths could have be prevented each year if basic first aid was administered at the scene before paramedics arrived.

“We think this campaign will resonate with people emotionally and motivate them to book themselves into a course,” Mr Ahern said.

St John General Manager Metropolitan Ambulance James Sherriff said this ad is nowhere near as upsetting as it is for paramedics arriving at an emergency where no by-standers were able to perform CPR.

“You go through a range of emotions from shock to ultimately anger when you realise a patient would have had a fighting chance but no one at the scene knew first aid. That feeling is amplified when it’s a child you’re dealing with,” Mr Sherriff said.

The new campaign, which has been produced by The Brand Agency for St John, shows a mother rush to the aid of her drowning child in a backyard pool, only to be prevented from rescuing him by an invisible barrier.

Mr Sherriff said: “That’s exactly what it’s like if you haven’t had first aid training, there’s a barrier preventing you from helping the other person. No matter whether it is a loved one or complete stranger, you feel instantly powerless to lend assistance.”

“If you do know first aid, it’s surprising how the basic skills come back to you in that moment and you’re able to administer some basic help: even just ensuring the airway isn’t blocked so the patient keeps breathing until paramedics arrive.”

Last year in WA, 190,000 adults and more than 100,000 school students were trained in first aid by St John.

Western Australia | Third meningococcal disease infection reported

The Department of Health today reported that a young adult male has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease. The patient is in a serious condition in hospital.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness due to a bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The Department of Health has identified the person’s close contacts and provided them with information, and, where appropriate, antibiotics and vaccines that minimise the chance that the organism might be passed on to others.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10–20 per cent of the population at any one time. Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause serious infections.

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person. The bacterium is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.

Invasive meningococcal infection is most common in young children, older teenagers and young adults.

Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains.

Sometimes—but not always—these symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.

Although treatable with antibiotics, the infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly. With appropriate treatment, most people make a full recovery.

The incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased significantly in WA over the past decade, with around 20 to 25 cases reported each year—down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

There were 16 cases notified in 2013, the lowest number recorded in more than 20 years. In 2013, over half the cases were aged between 0–19 years. This is the third case reported in 2014.

A vaccine to protect against the C type of meningococcal disease, which in the past was responsible for around 15 per cent of cases in WA, is provided free to children at 12 months of age.

WA | Increase in biting flies across regional Western Australia

The Department of Health is warning residents and travellers across various parts of regional Western Australia to take precautions against biting insects.

Department of Health Medical Entomologist, Dr Peter Neville said recent rainfall and flooding events combined with warm temperatures has led to an increase in the breeding of biting insects.

An increase in the number of March flies has been reported from various regions of Western Australia, including the northern Goldfields and Pilbara regions. At least one species of these biting flies (Mesomyia tryphera) has a bite that can cause serious allergic reactions in some people.

“Although March flies are not known to transmit diseases to humans in Australia, their bites can cause adverse allergic reactions, including skin redness and swelling. In rare cases, people may experience serious symptoms including hives, fever, wheezing and even anaphylaxis.,” Dr Neville said.

 “People suffering from these more severe symptoms should seek medical attention quickly.”

Widespread rainfall and flooding in parts of the Kimberley and Pilbara regions will also lead to increased mosquito breeding in the next few weeks, and an increased risk of transmission of mosquito-borne Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV).

Symptoms of infection with RRV and BFV include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches. There is no cure for these viruses and symptoms can last for weeks or months, making it essential to take care to avoid being bitten.

“It is not possible to keep mosquitoes and other biting insects below nuisance levels across extensive rural areas of WA, especially when unfavourable environmental conditions reduce the effectiveness of control methods,” Dr Neville said.

“It’s important that people also take their own precautions to avoid biting insects.”

People living or travelling throughout Western Australia should take extra precautions to avoid biting insects, including:

  • avoiding outdoor exposure if large numbers of biting insects are around—for mosquitoes this is particularly around dawn and dusk (and the first few hours after dark), but it may be at any time of day for March flies
  • wearing protective (long, loose-fitting, light coloured) clothing when outdoors (there is some evidence that March flies are attracted to blue colours, so avoid wearing blue coloured clothing if possible)
  • applying a personal repellent containing 20% diethyl toluamide (DEET) or picaridin to exposed skin or clothing. The most effective and long-lasting formulations are lotions or gels. Natural or organic repellents may not be as effective as DEET or picaridin, or may need to be reapplied more frequently
  • wearing head nets if outdoors
  • ensuring insect screens are installed and in good condition. The use of bed nets will offer further protection
  • using mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors
  • ensuring infants and children are adequately protected against biting insects, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.

WA | CPR training pays off for Armadale Council staff as they save a life

The benefit of knowing first aid came to the fore at the Armadale Council’s Administration Centre last year when two customer service officers helped a woman who collapsed while being served.

Customer service officers Noeleen Johnston and Leonie Gehring acted without hesitation and commenced CPR on the woman who had stopped breathing.

Noeleen said the training provided to them by St John earlier in 2013 enabled them to help the woman.

“When a customer collapsed and stopped breathing in the reception area of my workplace, myself and a colleague undertook CPR and were able to revive the lady prior to the ambulance arriving,” Noeleen said.

“I was amazed at how calm and collected we both were during the emergency, and I believe it was due to the training we received.”

The customer service officers were given a special commendation by St John for their efforts and they had also praised trainer Jeanie-Lee Hill, who instructed them during the Apply First Aid course they took in July.

St John Deputy CEO Anthony Smith said to have one person in each household trained in first aid is a goal of St John Ambulance Western Australia.

He said this steadfast commitment to training comes from the belief that anyone can save a life.

“The first 10 minutes after an incident are most crucial, and it is critical that after the call for an ambulance is made you keep the patient’s airway clear and start CPR if the person is not breathing, as has happened in this instance.”

For more information about first aid training or to book a course, visit: www.stjohnambulance.com.au

WA | Community safety scholarships offered to Aboriginal students

A new scholarship program has been developed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to support Aboriginal university students studying units related to emergency management.
The Commissioner’s Aboriginal Scholarship Program will offer two scholarships annually of up to $5,000 each to undergraduate and post graduate Aboriginal students in Western Australia.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson said the program demonstrates the commitment of DFES to work with Aboriginal people to ensure they are armed with the knowledge to prepare for, respond to and recover from a diverse range of emergencies.
“Aboriginal students will be given the opportunity to apply for the scholarships if they are studying a field that contributes to building more resilient communities,” Commissioner Gregson said.
“The program aims to provide students with the necessary tools to assist them with employment, volunteering and inclusion in decision making for the benefit of developing and maintaining safer communities.
“At DFES we value the importance of education and recognise the opportunity a tertiary qualification provides Aboriginal people when applying for a job.
“In the long term we want to see increased employment of Aboriginal people in the public sector and it is through programs like this that we hope to achieve that.”
The scholarships can be used to pay unit fees, for sundry expenses or course materials.
Applications are now being received and close at 5pm on Thursday 1 May 2014.
Application instructions and further information can be found in this Application Document.
Alternatively, contact the DFES Senior Equity and Diversity Consultant on 9395 9300 or email workforce.planning@dfes.wa.gov.au.

Western Australia | Cyclone advice for Cockatoo Island to Port Hedland in the Kimberley

If you live in the Kimberley between Cockatoo Island and Port Hedland, you need to prepare your home and family for a possible cyclone, with the development of a tropical low of the Western Australian coast. 
This includes people in Cockatoo Island, Port Hedland, Broome and Wallal and surrounding areas.
Remember that preparing your home and family for a cyclone is your responsibility.
WHAT TO DO:
DFESs State Emergency Service (SES) advises you to:
  • Review your family cyclone plan and make sure everyone knows what to do.
  • Prepare your home inside and out.
  • Organise an emergency kit with a portable battery operated radio, torch, spare batteries and first aid kit.
  • Know the community cyclone alert system and the steps that must be taken for each alert.
CYCLONE DETAILS:
As at 2:46 pm on Saturday 8 February 2014 a Cyclone WATCH has been declared for a developing tropical low for coastal and island areas from Cockatoo Island to Port Hedland, including Broome and Wallal.
At 2:00 pm a tropical low was estimated to be 155 kilometres southwest of Wyndham and 200 kilometres west southwest of Kununurra and moving west southwest at 10 kilometres per hour.
The low is expected to move steadily towards the west southwest across the Kimberley over the weekend bringing heavy rainfall and periods of strong and squally winds.
The system may move over open water off the west Kimberley coast, in the vicinity of Broome, during Monday. If the low spends enough time over open water it will develop into a tropical cyclone on Monday or Tuesday.
Gales are not expected in coastal areas over the weekend but may develop between Cockatoo Island and Wallal on Monday if the low
develops into a tropical cyclone. Gales may then extend down the coast towards Port Hedland later on Monday.
The biggest impact from this system is likely to be flooding, which is already occurring in the Kimberley and is likely to extend into the Pilbara from late Monday. Flood Warnings are current for the Fitzroy River, Ord River and the north and west Kimberley.
 Please refer to the latest Flood Warnings for further details.
Community alerts will be issued by DFES if the cyclone comes closer.
There are four stages of alerts Blue, Yellow, Red and All Clear.
  • BLUE ALERT means prepare for dangerous weather.
  • YELLOW ALERT means take action and get ready to shelter from a cyclone.
  • RED ALERT means go to shelter immediately.
  • ALL CLEAR means that wind and storm surge dangers have passed but you need to take care to avoid the dangers caused by damage.
IMPORTANT NUMBERS:
  • For SES assistance call 132 500.
  • In a life threatening situation call 000.
  • For weather information visit www.bom.gov.auor call 1300 659 210.
KEEP UP TO DATE:
Call 1300 657 209, visit www.dfes.wa.gov.au , follow DFES on Twitter @dfes_wa listen to news bulletins.
For more information on how to prepare, a copy of Cyclone Smart is available at www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Western Australia | Chemical incident along truck route between Fremantle and Maddington

There was a chemical incident along a truck route on Tuesday evening between 4pm and 6pm.
A truck carrying herbicide in a sea container has spilled up to 300 litres.
The chemical has been identified as Paraquat. It is used as a weed killer and is toxic when it comes into contact with skin, irritation with redness and itchiness. Skin irritation can be relieved by washing the affected area with warm soapy water.
The chemical is very toxic if ingested however this is extremely unlikely to have occurred in this incident.
People with medical concerns should contact their local doctor or call Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
As a precautionary measure, people who drove along the route taken by the truck should check the outside of their vehicle for contamination. If the chemical splashed onto a vehicle it may leave aqua (blue-green) staining which can be washed off with soapy water.
The truck left DP World at the Fremantle Port and travelled the following route to Maddington:
·         Port Beach Rd
·         Tydeman Rd
·         Stirling Hwy
·         Leach Hwy
·         Kwinana Fwy
·         Roe Hwy
·         Kenwick Link
·         Royal St
·         Bickley Rd
·         Valencia Way
·         Orchard Rd
The route is currently being inspected by firefighters to identify any spillage. Clean-up crews are ready to immediately respond.
The Department of Environment Regulation (DER) Pollution Response Unit has assessed the environmental risk in conjunction with DFES and other agencies. Current information indicates the risk to the environment is low.