In order for volunteers to work with the community and keep it safe, a number of groups and organisations provide financial, logistical and infrastructure support. With these three groups working together, both the community and volunteers become better equipped to face future challenges.
The local community and not-for-profit groups provide support by working collaboratively alongside volunteers before, during and after emergencies. This ensures that everyone takes responsibility for building resilience within the community.
Local government bodies work actively within the community to support bush fire brigades and other volunteer groups. During emergency incidents, local governments help to facilitate response and recovery efforts.
A number of State Government departments assist communities and help them prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies. These departments include the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Parks and Wildlife Service, WA Police and Department of Communities.
The Emergency Services provides a wide range of volunteering opportunities for people over the age of 16. These range from response roles such as firefighter, search and rescue and canine and horse units, through to administrative and response support roles such as community engagement and social media.
There is something for everyone regardless of age, gender or abilities across five main emergency volunteering services:
- Bush Fire Brigade
- Fire and Emergency Service
- Fire and Rescue Service
- Marine Rescue Western Australia
- State Emergency Service
Depending on your skills and interests, you can also volunteer with other groups such as Maps-WA, Education and Heritage Centre or the Vintage Fleet Restoration Group. As an adult, you can also volunteer to be an instructor for Youth Programs.
There are a wide variety of roles for volunteers, either directly responding to an emergency or behind the scenes in a support role. You will only ever be asked to respond to incidents for which you are trained, so if you are in a support role you will not be expected to respond to emergencies.
Some of these support roles include:
- Administration (secretariat, rostering, marketing and accounting support)
- Social media (monitoring and managing)
- Community education (schools, community events and general community disaster preparation)
Yes, there are three ways under 18s can become an emergency services volunteer.
1. Youth Volunteers
If you are aged between 16 and 18, some services will allow you to join as a volunteer, providing you have written permission from your parents. Please check with your local brigade, group or unit to see their policy on taking on volunteers under 18.
As emergency services work can be potentially confronting, please remember that there will be restrictions on what a young volunteer will be allowed to do.
2. Cadets and Juniors Program
If you are between the ages of 11 and 18, you may be able to join a Cadets/Juniors program at select brigades, groups and units. These programs are generally run once a week during the school year and may provide opportunities to learn skills needed to volunteer in the emergency services, about the hazards volunteer’s respond to and to access First Aid training, obtain a Skipper’s Ticket, attend State Camps and participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
Please keep in mind that Cadets and Juniors are not volunteers and are not able to respond to emergencies.
3. Emergency Services Cadet Corp (ESCC)
The Department of Education and Cadets WA host the ESCC in a number of high schools throughout WA. This program provides students between 11 and 18 years of age with opportunities to learn about all the emergency services in WA.
As participants in this program, ESCC cadets can attend State Camps with participants of the Cadets/Juniors programs, which is a great opportunity to meet other young people from around the state.
To ensure the safety of volunteers and the best possible outcome in emergencies, only fully trained volunteers can be part of an emergency response effort.
It’s important to remember that support volunteers are equally important to the efforts of the volunteer emergency services. So, if you can’t make an ongoing commitment, please consider whether you can contribute to any special projects, periodic programs or support efforts within your local community.
Recruitment occurs all year round, but you may find that recruitment is limited for some services during the high-threat period of December to April. This is when their volunteers are spending time responding to seasonal emergencies.
Check on the volunteer roles page regularly to see which brigades, groups or units are currently recruiting, or contact your local BGU to find out their requirements.
Volunteering opportunities are spread across more than 800 locations around WA, with higher demand for volunteers in regional areas.
If you volunteer as a frontline responder, you may be required to live in close proximity to the area you’re volunteering in. Whereas in a support role, your location may not be as restricted. Other volunteer services with greater location flexibility include Maps-WA, Heritage Fleet or the Education and Heritage Centre.
There are several fire-related volunteer services located in outer suburbs of Perth including Armadale, Baldivis, Falcon, Gosnells, Kalamunda, Kwinana, Lancelin, Mandurah, Mundaring, Rockingham, Roleystone, Secret Harbour, Wanneroo and Yanchep. However, structure fires in the central metropolitan area are primarily managed by paid career fire fighters employed by DFES.
Please also keep in mind that the volunteer fire services may require you to live within close proximity of the Brigade or Unit. If you don’t live close to the Brigade or Unit you may not be able to volunteer with them.
The State Wide Operational Response Division (SWORD) based in Kewdale is home to a Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services Unit, which provides secondary support to brigades and units throughout WA. This unit is an option if you’d like to be a volunteer bush firefighter in the Perth Metro area, but please keep in mind that many of their responses involve multi-day deployments across WA.
In addition to the above services, you may wish to consider joining the State Emergency Service (SES) which are active within the Metropolitan Region.
You can search for volunteering opportunities in your area on this website. These roles are frequently updated, so if you do not find an opportunity immediately, please check back later.
You can also find your local brigade, group and unit by visiting the Contact Us page on the DFES website, contacting the relevant Volunteer Association, speaking with your local Volunteer Resource Centre or contacting your local Shire or Council.
Depending on the role you wish to volunteer for, there may be some health and fitness requirements. Before you volunteer, we encourage you to speak with your local brigade, group or unit to gain a better understanding of each role.
If you have a specific medical condition, you may need to undergo a medical examination by a doctor to certify what role(s) are appropriate for you.
As a frontline responder, it can take three months or more before you attend emergency incidents. This is to ensure you have first been approved by your duty manager and have the appropriate training keep yourself and your fellow volunteers safe.
Due to the unpredictable nature of emergencies, it’s not possible to determine the number of times you will be called to respond. As a volunteer emergency responder, you will train consistently so that you have the current and practiced skills and knowledge and are ready to respond when an emergency happens.
You are unlikely to attend all incidents, but you are encouraged to attend as many emergencies as you can, balancing family, work and responding.
Every volunteer is provided with the necessary training to develop and strengthen their skills and ensure both their safety and the safety of others.
Each role requires a different level of training, varying from online courses, formal training sessions, to weekly or fortnightly participation at your brigade, group or unit.
As an emergency services responder, you will be required to attend a weekly or fortnightly training night for 2-3 hours, generally either on a weeknight or on a weekend. The amount of training varies between the services and the brigade, group or unit (BGU) that you join.
If you have any time restraints or prior commitments such as shift work or fly in/fly out arrangements, we encourage you to discuss this with BGU leader before you agree to volunteer.
Please keep in mind that some volunteer emergency services may maintain a roster which will require you to be available at short notice, should an emergency occur. These rosters vary, but are generally scheduled for one week in each month.
The Workers' Compensation and Injury Management Team at DFES provide assistance and support services to emergency services volunteers who have sustained an injury, illness or condition while volunteering.
Volunteers (except Bush Fire Brigade members who are supported by local government) are entitled to lodge a personal accident insurance claim for injuries that occur while undertaking approved volunteer activities. The claim provides funding for reasonable medical and rehabilitation expenses and a weekly entitlement if the volunteer is unable to work which is assessed by the insurer on a case by case basis.
Please note, all Bush Fire Brigade volunteers are covered by their local government. Talk with your Bush Fire Brigade leadership team about this process to obtain support from your local government.
Lastly, DFES has a range of wellbeing support services provided free of charge to volunteers and their families.