Hidden support behind RFS volunteers honoured


Employers are a vital part of the volunteer firefighting effort in NSW and today Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres awarded 12 businesses with Special Commendation for their outstanding support.

Mr Ayres said that employers that actively encourage employees to volunteer are contributing to a safer community.

"NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers continually dedicate their time to protecting communities across the State and this couldn't happen without supportive employers behind the scenes," he said.

"The businesses receiving Special Commendation today have not only been generous with releasing employees for volunteer duties, but have gone above and beyond in their support, including creating specialised leave, promoting volunteering achievements and providing donations to NSW RFS brigades."

Mr Ayres also acknowledged the thousands of other employers not recognised today who offer support, including 80 businesses who have received a NSW RFS Certificate of Appreciation since January this year.

"Without question, the support of these employers is one of the key elements in helping NSW RFS volunteers protect their local community," he said.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons highlighted the vital role employers played during the difficult 2013/14 bush fire season.

"This past season was the busiest in over a decade, with damaging fires occurring as early as August. With 6,643 fires burning some 599,398 hectares across NSW, the strain was not only on volunteers but on the businesses that spared their valued workers," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

"While we lost more than 200 homes along with livestock and other property, it is clear those losses would have been much greater if these employers, and thousands of others across the State, had not allowed their staff to join the firefighting effort."

The businesses honoured today range from universities and government agencies, through to small businesses and medium enterprises, along with large corporations.

The Supportive Employer Program was launched in March 2013 to recognise the essential contribution employers make to the volunteering effort. Since then, 147 businesses have been presented with a Certificate of Appreciation and 24 have received Special Commendation.