Critical support for communities

Acting Train Crew Compliance Officer Mick Jackson volunteering with the RFS

During Tuesday’s catastrophic bushfire conditions, the network came together to support customers, maintain operations and ensure safety across Greater Sydney — while some Sydney Trains volunteers went above and beyond.

A grateful customer

Across Sydney Trains, Tuesday’s focus was on preventing heat stress and ensuring hydration for both employees and customers. Services were maintained and plenty of customers were thankful to be handed some cold water (see Tweet) while waiting on hot platforms.

Maintenance teams across Sydney Trains cancelled all hot works and remote work and any Station works were also cancelled or put off to avoid sparks from grinding and welding, as well as the risk of working in the hot winds.

At the ROC, special teams held hourly reviews of the situation and operating conditions to ensure everyone was prepared in case of emergency.

Network Operations makes a difference

Before the catastrophic conditions hit, the Network Operations team from EMD’s Network Maintenance Division had already been helping the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) north of Sydney to be able to do back burning at Awaba. This was done to stop the rail line being affected by fire and prevent any flames jumping the corridor.

Back burning by the rail line at Awaba

Sydney Trains volunteers

Meanwhile, before, during and after Tuesday’s threat, a large group of Sydney Trains employees who’ve trained with the emergency services provided – and continue to provide – essential support a long way off the tracks.

With dozens of volunteers across EMD, Customer Service and TC&S, and many more across other directorates, Sydney Trains has a significant presence in the NSW RFS. Some, such as Major Works’ Keith Lang who is Deputy Captain of his local RFS at Woodford, have now been helping when they can for over two months.

In two other examples, EMD’s Team Manager Civil, Jon Giffney began helping with the North Coast SES on Sunday and remains in the area; and TC&S’s Acting Train Crew Compliance Officer Mick Jackson stepped up as a volunteer firefighter with the NSW RFS in Greater Sydney on Tuesday and has since travelled north to help at Grafton.

Mick spoke to Crew Connect‘s Sam Mulligan about the bushfires and gave some advice about living and working in fire-prone areas. Be sure to read the Q&A below.

Let’s help the rural fire service

If you’d like to support the work of the rural fire service yourself you can donate as little as $5 each week through the Sydney Trains Workplace Giving Program. It’s easy to set up a regular donation and the money is deducted from pre-tax pay so no need to keep receipts for tax.

  1. Download this form –
  2. Fill in “NSW Rural Fire Service” in the “other” field
  3. Email the completed form to your Payroll Officer.

We’re a big workforce so our contributions could make a real difference for this vital service in communities across NSW during what is already a fire season of unprecedented severity. We’ll try and keep you updated on how much Sydney Trains has given throughout the fire season

Mick Jackson Q&A

Mick, Tell us about your experiences on Tuesday…

Mick Jackson

As a volunteer firefighter, I took special leave and joined members of my brigade as part of a Macarthur Strike Team. Thankfully, the fires in and around Sydney remained under control and our services were only required a few times, including at the bushfire at Llandilo.

In saying that, the bushfires in our State’s north east are still burning and I’m expecting to be up there on Thursday (14 November) to help with containment efforts.

Will you be up there long?

I expect to be there for about five days initially. A ‘Section 44’ has been declared by the NSW RFS Commissioner which essentially means that emergency procedures are in place and that I can take the time as Special Leave.

It’s never easy being away from family here, but hundreds of homes have already been lost and they are in need of help.

What’s it like mixing work and your volunteer work?

I’m lucky to have a supportive family and a great team at work as well. This obviously helps in juggling the two.

I feel fortunate that I have the time and ability to be able to volunteer in the Rural Fire Service and I think the work I do for the organisation is of value to our community.

How did you get into volunteer firefighting?

Prior to joining Sydney Trains I worked in the Police Force. Through this, I became more and more aware of the great work the RFS was doing. Once I left the Force, I decided to sign up as a volunteer and I’ve been in the Narellan Brigade ever since.

It’s a great station and we train every Monday night. I’ve learnt a lot by doing it and made some good mates too.

Any safety learnings from your work as a firefighter you can share with the the rest of us at Sydney Trains?

I think a big crossover between the work I do in Train Crewing and the Fire Service is hazard identification and the constant need to assess risk.

There’s also the importance of being fully aware of your responsibilities and carrying them out with the utmost care. Just like in Train Crewing, your colleagues rely on you to keep them safe so a lot of emphasis is placed on doing your work as you’ve been trained to do so.

So what lies ahead now for bushfire season?

Although the conditions have calmed somewhat since Tuesday, we all need to be ready to act. Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and we have just been through a very dry winter.

Hopefully summer passes without incident, but I can tell you that we are preparing ourselves in case we see a return of Tuesday’s conditions.

What can we as individuals do to reduce risk in bushfire season?

If you live or work near bushland, you need to prepare a bushfire survival plan. Everything you need to do this is on the RFS website.

I also urge you to download the ‘Fires Near Me NSW’ app and carry out fire reduction tasks around your home such as clearing out gutters and reducing overgrowth.

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