Tag: victoria

CFA makes some great tweets

These are really good tweets. Firstly, the actual towns in the Watch and Act are mentioned. Where it can fit, a suggested course of action is recommended. A capture of the EMV map is included. The only improvements I could suggest are a timestamp, and a hashtag for the job stream. Break up lots of town names by making two (or even 3) tweets to cover all the towns mentioned, and you'll have room for further info.

This is the bot tweet for this Watch and Act. Notice how town names not mentioned, and job name is not hashtagged:

This is another example of a great SMEM tweet on the same day:

Here's the bot tweet for this job:

So, the SMEM op is really good. The next most important bit of info is the direction the fire is traveling - if there is room in the tweet. Space is not a problem on Facebook.

I've been posting Watch and Acts and Emergency Warnings for years to include all the town names mentioned. Incident Alert have been doing it since before me, but they don't include as much info. When people at home search Twitter for emergency traffic in their area, they are likely to search for their town name, or the town name where they think the job is - ie: 'Tyabb'. Some may think to hashtag this, but I don't think that would be common. Once a search for the town name is done, they will find traffic with the job name hashtag on it. They click on the hashtag to find the job stream. They may scroll back through the job stream to the first tweet about the event. Some users are aware of the #vicfires hashtag and may check that first. There, they will find the job name hashtag, and the job stream. Even if the public search for the word 'fire', there is every chance they will find a tweet from the job stream with the job hashtag on it, and so find the entire job stream. This is why I always mention the word 'fire' somewhere in every tweet about a fire event.

This is great work by CFA and Emergency Management Victoria on 19th January, 2016 :)

Lights and sirens

What is it like to drive a firetruck 'lights and sirens'?

We all fantasize about doing it! Most of us have done it on video games. The most powerful vehicle on the road. Everyone gives way. Well, nearly everyone. There are some idiots.

I've been unlucky enough to have done it so many times I've lost count, over the years. I say unlucky, because you have to see the bigger picture. The only reason for a vehicle to be using lights and sirens is because someone is in danger. It's not fun. While you're busy breaking the road rules, you're acutely aware that someone is desperately waiting for you to arrive. You're listening to information about the job on the radio, and you're trying to plan what you will do when you arrive. Your crew leader is giving everyone orders. You're terrified of what you're doing, and what you will find when you get there. But don't forget to concentrate on the driving...

The first time I did it was in 1986. I was a rooky with Langwarrin Fire Brigade. I'd been with them a little while, and had nearly earned my proper firefighter's jacket. I was still wearing yellow overalls. We were called ducks. A few of us ducks were sent off with the rescue unit to check and maintain fire hydrants one Sunday morning. I was the most experienced duck, so they made me crew leader/driver. While were out checking the hydrants, we got a call on the radio telling us to return to the station 'code 1' (lights and sirens). I asked them send the message again. They confirmed. A bunch of rookies shat themselves. I remember the first red light I ever drove through legally. I remember the cars which were in the intersection. I can tell you their colours, and exactly where they stopped when they gave way. I will never forget it.

Yes, it's a huge rush. But you're terrified out of your mind. If you make a single mistake, people will get hurt.

Some drivers get what we call 'siren syndrome'. They've got such a rush of adrenaline that they break out into a dramatic sweat, and they make a lot of mistakes. It's a common thing and brigades watch for it and help people to overcome it. A driver with siren syndrome may be told by the officer in charge to downgrade to code 3 (normal road rules) to reduce risk.

One of the most dangerous parts of driving code 1 is that the public often overreact and do crazy things right in front of you. It is intimidating to have a firetruck up your arse! It's not possible for us to avoid doing it - we have to get past. Oncoming traffic freaks out and swerves off the road to try to give you room. If a car gets onto the gravel shoulder of the road at 100kmh, it's likely to get out of control. The back end slides out and when it grabs it sends them straight across the road into the oncoming traffic (and you). That's if it doesn't roll. It's happened in front of me.

Some drivers pretend the firetruck doesn't exist and ignore it. If you can't get past them, you crawl along behind them wondering how they even got a license. Everyone in the cabin is swearing. You're on the horn, and they go slower...

You learn some pretty neat tricks after a while - how to get around traffic banked up at an intersection; how to get creative when forging new pathways. I learned that if you're on the wrong side of the road, oncoming traffic is highly motivated to give way to you. But that's very dangerous, because if just one driver doesn't see you, they'll drive straight into you with catastrophic results.

If there is an accident of any kind while you're traveling with lights and sirens on, it is always your fault. The rules say you can only break the road rules if it is safe and expedient to do so. If there is an accident, it obviously wasn't safe! So you are to blame. If someone dies, you will face the coroner.

And there are accidents. They are always tragic.

When you've done it a lot, you don't get a buzz from the lights and sirens. Instead, as you begin your journey, you have butterflies in your stomach and a feeling like you've got an unpleasant task to do and you'd best just get it done.

It takes a lot of practice to do it well. You have to operate the switch for the siren as you drive - changing the tone for straight sections, and emergency vehicles need to make a different noise when they are entering dangerous areas like intersections to let everyone know. Nobody else in the cabin will touch any of the controls. They're not allowed to even operate the switch.

Driving code 1 at night has greater challenges because the lights reflect off EVERYTHING. This makes you think there's movement everywhere, and it attracts your eye. You can't help it. The lights are very bright.

The siren drives you crazy. You turn it off whenever you can get away with it. When it's on, you can't hear yourself think. It makes communicating in the cabin of the truck difficult.

Yes, it's the greatest rush you can imagine. It's not a rush you can enjoy. Being able to break the road rules does not give you freedom - it ties you up in knots.

Who's making money from solar powered homes in Victoria?

There are two secrets about the PhotoVoltaic (PV) solar energy market which are not generally known by people who don't have PV solar panels fitted to their homes.

Both these secrets are revealed in just a single day's readings from our smart-meter. By controlling the price paid for electricity, government and big business set the growth rate for the adoption of solar power in Victoria, regardless of any 'rebates' being offered for installation. Secondly, private individuals and families generating power for Victoria's grid are being ripped off, by being paid a fraction of what their power is worth. The situation is unsustainable, and will soon impact on the Victorian economy.

What a single day's readings reveal:

Yesterday, the 4th December 2014, was a pretty good day for solar power in Victoria. It's a fine example to use, so I'll break down the numbers.

In our house, we're large consumers of electricity, with 3 refrigerators and many computers which run 24 hours every day. Yesterday, our house consumed a total of 32.49 kw/h of electricity. This is slightly higher than our average as we are running an extra freezer in the lead-up to Christmas, and we used the air-conditioner for an hour or so.

We have a good-sized PV solar system (20 panels), but we don't have any storage, so our excess power is fed back to the grid. Our solar system can't generate power at night, so yesterday we bought 13.8 kw/h of electricity from the grid, via our utility provider. The rest of the power we used (18.69 kw/h) was generated by our solar panels. The numbers can be a little confusing, but note that our solar installation generated more than half of our overall consumption. It actually generated quite a bit more, which was sent back to the grid.

Now, as mentioned, we bought 13.8 kw/h, which costs us 23.32 cents per kw/h including GST, for a total of $3.22. This amount will be added to the total on the next bill from our utility provider. (This is on top of a 'service to property' charge of $75.65 on our last bill, which is supposed to cover the cost of the electricity infrastructure (poles, wires, transformers) that we use in the supply of electricity to our house.) Everyone pays the whopping service to property charge - unless you disconnect from the grid.

Our power is as good as their power:

As I mentioned, we have no storage for our solar generated power, so what we don't use, we feed back to the grid. This is the first secret of how government and big business control the market. Yesterday, our system was generating more power than we were using, and so 10.3 kw/h was sent to the grid. Here's the big rip-off. We get paid 8 cents per kw/h, so we got paid just 82 cents for all that power!

Electricity always finds the shortest route to earth. Whichever neighbour (on the same electrical phase as us) is physically closest will be the actual consumer of the power we are sending to the grid. That's likely to be a house just a few doors away who doesn't have solar power. And they will be paying more than 23 cents kw/h to buy the power we just got paid 8 cents for. What work does the service provider do to earn such amazing profits? They just maintain the wires.

The Fat Controller

So, someone is making a lot of money from power I'm generating, and it's not me. The way our whole electricity sector is set up, the utility companies, (who are nothing more than fat 'middle-men'), get to make bucketloads of money for very little overhead. This keeps coal-generated power more competitive, and this in turn keeps our economy ticking over nicely. The State of Victoria can't afford to change this unfair system because of the dramatic effect it would have on two industries - coal, and power. By keeping the buying price low, governments and big business are able to discourage people from installing PV solar power hooked up to the grid, regardless of any rebate offered for installation. A good PV solar installation costs as much as a decent second-hand car. A family has to budget carefully to acquire such infrastructure. Those of us who don't have wads of cash lying around struggle to finance it. This keeps the coal-fired power plants competitive, artificially propping up the coal industry - but not for long.

Living on borrowed time:

The Victorian economy will definitely collapse if this imbalance is not addressed. The problem is that current battery technology is nearly at the tipping point, where it's cheaper to disconnect from the grid and run a totally closed loop for your power needs, than to feed into the grid. In our case, we'll need a few more panels and enough battery power to last us through cloudy days. This technology is already available (at a price), and it has caused such an upset in the market in the USA that Florida has made it difficult to disconnect from the grid - most likely to avoid their utility companies ending up with 'stranded assets'. There will come a time when it's no longer viable to maintain the miles and miles of wires throughout the state for consumers who have no means to generate their own power. Victoria will most likely face the economics of this challenge within the next five years - 10 at most.

New technology rechargeable lithium batteries have a life-span of 20 years. This makes it cheaper to store electricity on-site than to pay the huge 'Service to Property' charge for 20 years. We plan to install batteries and disconnect from the grid, unless we can be attracted to keep putting our excess power into the grid.

How to adjust the balance:

Having a Renewable Energy Target (RET) is helpful to stimulate jobs in this industry. But to really embrace the spirit of renewable energy, we need to set the price paid for electricity at a reasonable level. Power is sold at 21.2 cents kw/h retail not including GST. Any middle-men (service providers) should be buying power at a wholesale price and reselling it at a retail price, and that's all the margin that they're entitled to!

Victoria is so short of power that during hot, summer days, they turn off whole suburbs to save power in what they call 'load-shedding'. Victoria desperately needs the PV solar power infrastructure that ordinary Victorians are able to install. What is needed is a government with vision and the ethics to pay a reasonable amount for power, no matter who generates it. The service to property charge should be waived for those who put back into the grid. The alternative is that many thousands of people are going to disconnect from the grid. There is little incentive to provide power to the grid, especially as we have to pay a fee to connect to it.

It's up to service providers to attract me to generate power for them.

If Victoria is going to prosper into the future, then we will need more renewable energy. If the industry doesn't restructure in the way it does business, our main utility companies are going to be left with stranded assets. This will force a dramatic rise in the price of electricity for those who cannot get off the grid - in just a few short years.

It's a matter for government policy, so your MP should be your first port of call if, like me, you seek reform.

Coalition tensions simmer over unexpected 'no new national parks' policy

Coalition tensions simmer over unexpected 'no new national parks' policy

November 2, 2014

By Farrah Tomazin

Tensions are simmering in the Napthine government after Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh unexpectedly declared the Coalition would go to the election with a policy for no new national parks.

In a move that caught many of his colleagues by surprise, the Nationals deputy leader made the announcement at a recent forestry industry dinner, putting the government on a collision course with community groups, who had been assured a proposal for a new park in the state's north-east was being considered.

Environmentalists have been pushing for the creation of a proposed Great Forest National Park stretching between Kinglake, Baw Baw and Eildon in a bid to protect the Leadbeater's possum after the 2009 bushfires destroyed 45 per cent of its habitat.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh. Photo: Eddie Jim

The idea was being examined by a National Parks Advisory Council that reports to Environment Minister Ryan Smith. However, Mr Smith's office was not aware of Mr Walsh's announcement when contacted by The Sunday Age last week and had to take advice before confirming that, "as the Minister indicated, the Coalition has no plans to announce new national parks during the campaign".

It is understood that some Liberal MPs were privately sympathetic to the great forest park concept, and insiders have question why Mr Walsh appeared to be "freelancing" on environmental policy to appease the timber industry when the matter could prove highly contentious for the government.

With four weeks until the election, green groups are campaigning  in key seats over what they say is the  government's poor environmental performance.

Illustration: Matt Golding.
Illustration: Matt Golding.

Flyers were handed our in Mr Smith's Warrandyte electorate on Saturday branding him the "Minister for Extinction", while voters in the inner-city seat of Prahran, held by Liberal MP Clem Newton Brown, will soon get Wilderness Society leaflets asking them to save the Leadbeater's possum, Victoria's faunal emblem.

Sarah Rees, from the group My Environment, said she felt "angry, deceived and let down" by the government, while Victorian National Parks Association spokesman Nick Roberts said: "A four-year policy vacuum has seen a National Party hit list on Victoria's natural environment. Our forests, rivers and coasts deserve much better from Victoria's next government."

Mr Walsh defended the government's position, saying through spokeswoman Deborah Cole that the Coalition had done more to protect the Leadbeater's possum than Labor did in office, including investing $11 million to implement all 13 recommendations made by a possum advisory group.

Ms Cole said the announcement came during a question-and-answer session at a recent Victorian Association of Forest Industries dinner.

"Minister Walsh told the VAFI dinner that the Coalition would not be committing to new national parks that would result in the loss of timber resources," Ms Cole said.

"For 11 years Labor knew the Leadbeater's possum was endangered and they sat on their hands and did nothing."

The proposed Great Forest National Park would protect 355,000 hectares of forest, added to the existing 170,000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the central highlands.

Supporters admit its size would thwart native timber harvesting in the highlands, but argue more jobs could be created by encouraging nature-based tourism in the region. A Labor source said the ALP was formulating a policy on the issue.

Reprinted from The Sunday Age.

How the Victoria University report misled the public about Port of Hastings

How the Victoria University report misled the public about Port of Hastings

By Brad Lemon

There was a report released by Victoria University recently called 'Build it and they will come?'. The study was conducted under a predefined set of rules, which should have been a clue to everyone that it couldn't be taken seriously. I can only assume that the people who promoted the report as fact either didn't read it carefully, or were motivated to publish a rather sensational story to sell papers.

At the beginning of the report, the good people from Victoria University clearly tell the reader that the way the report was produced was by using the 'pre-mortem analysis' technique. "The pre-mortem technique involves imagining that the project has failed, and inventing a story to explain why..." !!

Here's a screen capture from the report:

Indeed, the authors "encourage your participation in the process".

In other words, they'd like you to help them imagine reasons why the Port of Hastings might fail, and develop scenarios to explain the imagined failure. And we do have vivid imaginations!

I don't think it's right that people use a report of this nature to mislead the public and cause panic that our roads will be congested and ships won't come. If you give the subject just a few minute's thought, the logistics of Melbourne's container traffic are simple and clear:
  • Containers (to carry goods) were invented just after World War 2. Somewhere had to be found to store the containers associated with the Port of Melbourne, and the then empty land to the west of Melbourne was chosen as the most convenient spot. Back then, there was little population in the southeast suburbs.
  • The majority of manufacturing is now done in the southeast suburbs of Melbourne in places like Dandenong. Some container traffic also heads to Gippsland.
  • The Port of Melbourne is being upgraded and will continue to receive and dispatch container traffic into the future to service the north and west of Melbourne.
  • The Port of Hastings will actually help remove congestion from Melbourne's roads, not add to it.
  • Victoria's two Stevedore companies have confirmed (by phone) that they would like to send the larger, more efficient container ships to Hastings now! I encourage you to make your own inquiries.
Long term planning:

The Port of Hastings was planned by Sir Henry Bolte's government in the 1960's. Studies were conducted in the 1970's to ascertain its suitability as a port, and the land was zoned 'Port Related Industry', and has been ever since. We are spoiled with a large area in Hastings which hasn't been overrun with residential buildings and has been reserved for the expansion of the port. The Port of Hastings has been studied and planned for a long time.

I believe this is a case of public opinion being deliberately manipulated by forces unknown. The Victoria University study should be taken at face value - that is: a fictitious story where we all try to imagine that the Port of Hastings has failed, and why that might be. The commentators who reported information contained in the imaginary scenarios appear to have deliberately misled the public, and I can't imagine why that might be. Politics?

Why I believe in the expansion of Port of Hastings

As an environmental activist, you'd think I'd be against the proposal to build a container port at Hastings, but I'm actually all for it. This is my future, and the future for our kids.

It can't be argued that Melbourne needs to build another port in order to stay competitive in a key part of the state's economy; goods trade. This trade drives tens of thousands of jobs, and keeps our economy alive. The basic problem is that Melbourne is a growing city (half a million in last two years), and our sheer population is a challenge. While it would be ideal to preserve every inch of our native environment, we have to make room for basic infrastructure. Sir Henry Bolte planned the Port of Hastings way back in the 1960's. The Ramsar wetland was extensively studied in the 1970's to assess its suitability to host a port. And studies have been ongoing.

We can put a container port at Hastings with very little environmental disturbance, compared with any plan to try to get the next generation of container ships through Port Phillip Heads. The wetland will tolerate the minimal movement of the sediment required to create the berthing areas and swing basin. Ships won't discharge ballast into Western Port Bay, and there will be no coal, bitumen or urea plants associated with the port.

The Port of Hastings expansion is very important to the prosperity of the Mornington Peninsula. Thousands of jobs will be created, in all areas of our local economy. Local business and even mum & dad companies will benefit. The shops that are now standing empty in Hastings will fill. Infrastructure like public transport and telecommunications will improve.

We can't escape the fact that we need a port to cope with Victoria's container goods. If we don't embrace the Port of Hastings, other communities will gladly take this opportunity to give their district a future.

We as a community must now take up the environmental challenge, and ensure that the port being built at Hastings meets the highest environmental standards, and protects the wildlife we adore.

No matter which party wins government, please ensure that Hastings is the site for our container port, as has been planned all along. The future of Victoria depends on it.

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