PHOTO CREDIT: BRUCE MACKAY/THE POST
The tragic fire at Loafers Lodge last Monday will result in various internal and external inquiries including police investigations, criminal charges, coronial inquiries and FENZ operational reviews and investigations. NZPFU members want to ensure that the loved ones of the deceased get the answers they need. It is important that the full picture is presented to the various inquiries, and that information is accurate and provided in context.
It is very important that NZPFU members understand that their involvement in any investigation or inquiry could result in their information and evidence being used in another inquiry or legal forum. For example, what is provided in a FENZ internal review might have relevance and be used as evidence in a criminal case or the coronial inquiry.
The NZPFU has organised legal advice for every member requested to be interviewed or to provide information by the police, the coroner, FENZ or anyone else. We have a legal team ready to assist with preparing your evidence that will assist any of the inquiries into the fire and the fatalities. We have done this with other incidents where there are multi-inquiries across a range of formal legal forums. This is a service provided by the NZPFU to its members without cost to the individual members.
This process ensures the relevant members can participate in the necessary inquiries which will eventually provide the answers for all those affected by this tragic fire.
We have already started to put together a list of members likely to be requested for information and interviews. These include SSOs and SOs, aerial operators, firefighters involved in the internal firefighting and rescues, communications centre dispatchers, fire investigators, anyone involved with evacuation plans and fire safety systems for that building, and USAR who responded post the fire. That is not an exhaustive list so please let us know if you have, are, or likely to be, asked to provide information.
1. DO NOT provide any information or attend any interview regardless who made the request without first notifying the NZPFU to get legal advice. That includes FENZ inquiries, police investigations and information for any coronial inquiry. If you already have provided information or have been interviewed please contact the NZPFU immediately and we will make sure you have the necessary support and advice.
2. The NZPFU has organised a legal team to provide advice and to prepare affidavit evidence for members. It is vital that advice is sought before providing any information.
- Contact NZPFU Industrial Officer Jonathan Ring firstname.lastname@example.org who is preparing the list of all those that need advice. He will liaise with the lawyers who will provide that advice and prepare the affidavits.
3. You will be advised to prepare an affidavit of your information and evidence so that it can be provided for any inquiry.
- Having a prepared affidavit ensures you get to provide all necessary information in context so it is understood by those that do not have an understanding of emergency response including training, qualifications, experience and relevant response SOPs including command and control.
- It also ensures your evidence is consistent and recorded close to the event for accuracy. Some inquiries can take years and it is difficult to accurately remember details or sequence of events.
- It also means you do not have to keep preparing information as it has been done once thoroughly.
4. In preparation of that affidavit please consider and collate the following:
- Recalling events may be traumatic. Please let us and the lawyer know if that is the case so that we can ensure that your mental health and needs are not unnecessarily compromised by the process. It may mean you first need to discuss the situation with a psychologist who can then advise the best way forward for you.
- Record your fire service employment history including roles, ranks, training and experience. Also include any additional information about your education, background and any awards.
- A timeline of your involvement with the fire. For firefighters the incident report can be useful to reference as will provide times and sequences of events. Jotting down the events as soon as you can is important.
- Only provide facts, not opinions or “what ifs” – this is a legal document that may be used in a range of legal forums so only include what was done and the basis it was done referencing training and SOPs etc.
We understand this fire has greatly affected many of our members. We hope that providing the above process you will be supported to provide the information the inquiries need so everyone affected, and in particular the loved ones of those that perished, can be provided with the answers they are seeking.