The Australian Fire Season Continues

Reinforcements from overseas are finally starting to arrive in force. They couldn’t be here at a better time. This firefight has been a long one, and with many more months to go, Australia with its collection of state services, volunteer and paid agencies simply cannot do it alone.

I for one am truly thankful for their arrival.

I do question though, and maybe now isn’t the time, whether moving people across the globe, across different time zones and massively different time zones is as simple as we make it seem? In essence, are we doing everything we can to make sure that we return these helpers back home in the state they were loaned to us.

I see two major problems that need to be addressed

  • Heat acclimatisation – Many are coming from the northern winter. This means that they are not acclimatised to the 40 degree temperatures that they are now facing. They will fatigue faster and suffer an increased risk of sustaining a heat injury than those they are working alongside.
  • Circadian Shift – As many come from the opposite side of the planet, at least in the early stages of their deployment their bodies will be conditioned to their own timezones. This means they won’t be getting the adequate rest they need, again increasing the risk of premature fatigue and poor decision making.

Some of these problems are simply part and parcel of our new global reality. Come wintertime it will be our people heading north to return the support we have so graciously been gifted. I simply ask that, our new reality needs new thinking.

  • Monitor their fatigue and acknowledge it with proper rostering that may need to be different to the locals.
  • Properly ensure that heat stress risk and hydration are managed, above and beyond the efforts we make with our own people. They are at a risk that we simply aren’t acknowledging or properly understanding.

I like everyone am truly thankful for these people giving their time to help us in our time of need. I simply ask that, as a community, are we doing everything we can to ensure that they stay safe.

Written by Anthony Walker

I'm a human performance specialise, using cutting edge research and science to optimise the performance of workers in high pressure environments.

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