Post Christmas reflections on the “Santa Run”

Does your Brigade participate in a “Santa Run”?

Did you know that the RFS published a “Santa Run Frequently Asked Questions” document (see below)?

Do you think that this type of RFS intervention is necessary?

How much consultation with volunteer firefighters was obtained before preparing this document?

Are the days of freshly made sandwiches, cakes and slices supplied by the locals numbered?

In this article we have a look at an RFS tradition (the Santa Run). The RFS is acting in a risk-averse manner but we are asking our readers to provide their thoughts via the comments section (below). Any sensible comments (for and against) will be published.

Our article begins will a look at a Santa Run activity that was reported by the Tweed Daily News in 2013.

RFS spreading Christmas cheer with Santa on fire (truck)

A Tweed Daily News report (last Christmas – 2013)

Fire Fighter Jim Thomas - the Tweed Daily News 2013
Fire Fighter Jim Thomas will be throwing lollies out to all the kids in the streets of Bilambil on Christmas eve – 2013.

Bilambil Rural Fire Service will spread Christmas cheer, with Santa Claus in tow.

Deputy Captain Matthew Bennett said the Brigade had escorted Santa around at Christmas for the last seven years (2013).

He said this year Santa would head out with the Brigade on a number of occasions to deliver goodies to children.

“The kids love it, they love seeing Santa on the fire truck,” he said.

Mr Bennett said the Santa run could also inspire more people to join the Rural Fire Service.

“We get a lot of adults ask about the brigade.”

He said the outing could double up as educational, as they carry fire safety information on the trucks.

Such visits clearly got people interested in the Rural Fire Service. His son Ian is a member of the Bilambil brigade.

Click HERE to read the original news media article on the Tweed Daily News web site.

Let’s have a look at the RFS document that helps to manage the risks associated with a Santa Run.

Click on the image to download the RFS document.

The RFS Santa Run Frequently Asked Questions

santa run

Annually many NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Brigades undertake a ‘Santa Run’ within their local community. To help ensure the health and safety of NSW RFS members and the community, the following frequently asked questions have been prepared.

What should occur prior to the commencement of a Santa Run?

  1. Brigades need to ensure that the Santa Run is approved by the District Manager as a “Bona Fide” RFS activity. Please follow your local SOP or procedure to obtain this approval.
  2. Prior to approval, the District Manager should ensure that a risk assessment is conducted to highlight any potential health and safety risks and required control measures. To assist the District Manager, Brigades should provide sufficient details of the proposed activity to be undertaken (including the vehicle(s) and route and any other pertinent information).
  3. The designated Brigade officer in charge (following approval by the District Manager) should ensure all RFS members are adequately briefed on the event and any approval conditions.

If a RFS member is injured whilst participating in a ‘Santa Run’ activity, will they be covered by workers compensation?

An injured RFS member can apply for workers compensation and the insurer will review liability of the claim in accordance with the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987.

All injuries must be notified and accompanied by a ‘NSW RFS Report of Workplace Injury or Illness Form’ to the relevant District Office as soon as possible and / or within 48 hours of the incident occurring.

If the injury results in hospital treatment or a member of the public is injured due to RFS activities, then the District Duty Officer must be notified immediately. The District Duty Officer is to inform the OCC as a Notifiable Incident.

Are RFS members allowed to be transported in the refuge bay area of the moving vehicle whilst undertaking a Santa Run?

No. RFS members do not have any exemptions under non emergency situations to travel in the refuge bay area of any moving RFS vehicle on a NSW public road or private premises. RFS members must follow the RFS Safe Driving Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at all times and obey all relevant state road rules and Road and Maritime Services (RMS) requirements. If the RFS vehicle is parked, then RFS members are able to stand within the refuge bay area.

Can non RFS members travel within the RFS vehicle?

Yes. Non-RFS passengers are permitted to travel in RFS vehicles in accordance with RFS Safe Driving Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Permission must be sought from the District Manager prior to the activity commencing. This would typically be contained within the original request to undertake the activity to the District Manager.

Do seatbelts need to be worn?

Yes. The RFS Safe Driving SOPs stipulate that seatbelts must be worn unless reversing the vehicle or if an individual is exempt from wearing a seatbelt under NSW Consolidated Regulations Road Rules 2014 – Reg. 267.

What vehicles can be used for a Santa Run?

Only RFS vehicles approved by the District Manager in the request to undertake the activity can be used. If the Brigade wishes to use a private vehicle, then approval must be sought from the District Manager. The private vehicle owner(s) will need to accept liability for any damages or injuries that may occur.

What if a Brigade wants to use alternative modes of transport whilst representing the RFS?

Any modes of transport being used by members representing the RFS must meet all RMS and state road rules requirements. RFS vehicles are not permitted to tow non-RFS trailers unless permission is sought from the District Manager.

Can RFS members walk along the road with the RFS vehicle on a Santa Run?

It is recommended that no RFS members accompany on the road any RFS vehicles due to the potential risk of injury. Members can accompany RFS vehicles on foot where a risk assessment deems it appropriate to walk along foot paths and other areas adjacent to the road in order to coordinate the attendance of the community to the vehicle.

What about if RFS members wish to hand out lollies or other food items to the community?

Only food items that are individually wrapped from the manufacturer and meet all Australia and New Zealand Food Standards can be provided (if required). Lollies purchased from a reputable retailer will typically meet these standards.

Remember to avoid ingredients that cause common allergic reactions such as: eggs, fish, milk, peanut, sesame, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheats. If the food items provide by the Brigade do contain these ingredients, then a warning needs to be communicated to the receiving individual.

Can a Brigade fundraise or gather donations whilst undertaking this activity?

Yes. Brigades can fundraise or gather donations in accordance with Service Standard 1.1.16 Fundraising Activities (Provision of Goods and Services).

Is a Certificate of Currency required for this activity?

From time to time, some activities will require a Certificate of Currency. Landowners and organisations may request proof that the RFS is covered for public liability. Requests are to be made in accordance with Service Standard 1.1.16 Fundraising Activities (Provision of Goods and Services).


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4 Replies to “Post Christmas reflections on the “Santa Run””

  1. Another reader sent in an email stating:
    What a joke…. Santa Runs have been going for over 70 years and not one kid that I know of has been injured by Santa throwing lollies to them.
    I reckon they are probably straight out of UNI with a pile of paperwork to say how smart they are but nothing to show that they have any common sense.
    They have probably never seen a Fire station or had anything to do with actual Firefighters who have been doing this for many years.
    The sad thing is that the country Brigades, which they have absolutely no knowledge of, have to have the city rules shoved down their throats too…
    and as a last thought…they have to come up with some crap every year to justify their way too fat pay packet.

  2. Get this! My local brigade had to fight to keep Santa on the truck. They were then told NOT to bag up lollies….they were to be in sealed packets! This year I asked Santa to pose for a photo and give me a couple of packets for my grandkids. He chucked them on the ground! I emailed the RFS and told the story…….Get this!……back came the email:” You’re not still tossing out bags of lollies are you?…..”See your district officer and you will need to do a ‘Dynamic Risk Assessment!’….TRUE…. but it gets worse!! …..”We prefer you to throw individually wrapped lollies on the ground away from the children and, make sure there is no peanut residue in them!!” Too many white shirts with not enough to do? Really!!

  3. How bad is it getting? I have been involved in the “volunteer bushfire brigade” for over 35 years. I have been “the driver” for the Jolly Red Man for 30 of those years.( And what an honour it is). Now, we are being told there are new rules and regulations we need to comply with.
    I actually thought that being a “volunteer” meant you were doing it off your own back, with no intervention from any other person/organisation etc? Except when you needed more gear, or more volunteer’s?
    How bad is it getting, I reckon soon we will need a FAQ to tell us how to pee while at a fire while the skycrane’s and VLAT’s fly overhead….
    Hope we all have a great year and it is seriously prosperous, Cheers, Greg.

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