You are here:

Minister Jane Garrett - Travel Report, USA, June-July 2015

Minister's name Minister Jane Garrett

Emergency Services

Consumer Affairs

Gaming and Liquor Regulation

Did the minister's spouse accompany the minister in an official capacity? No
Accompanying ministerial staff 1
Countries visited United States of America
Date of travel 26 June - 11 July 2015
Number of official travel days (include day of departure and day of return) 15 days
Funding source (list department/s or agency) Department of Justice and Regulation
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $25,793
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $13, 815
Other expenses (including surface travel and travel allowances) $2,124
Travel cost for minister and ministerial staff $41,732

Purpose of travel

The Minister for Emergency Services and Emergency Management Commissioner completed a 15 day USA study tour that investigated community resilience, emergency planning, emergency specialist response, emergency relief/recovery and support systems that enhance emergency decision making for emergency managers and the community.

On behalf of the Premier, the minister signed an historic agreement between the States of California and Victoria which promotes a collaborative approach to the sharing and development of joint initiatives to enhance emergency management in both California and Victoria.

In line with other portfolio responsibilities, the minister also met with Consumer Affairs staff in New York and on behalf of the Victorian Government, the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy.

Overview of meetings scheduled

Washington DC

Washington DC - Regional Office for Emergency Management

Department Homeland Security (DHS)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

IBM - emergency systems

New York City

New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM)

New York City Office of Mayor Recovery Unit

Fire Department New York (FDNY)

American Red Cross

Rockefeller Foundation - 100 Resilient Cities Program

IBM - big data program "Watson"

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - Region 2

New York Department of Consumer Affairs


California Office of Emergency services (Cal OES)

California State memorial park

San Francisco

San Francisco City and County Office of Emergency Management

San Francisco City – Chief Resilience Officer, Resilient Cities Program

San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD)

California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy







Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

California/Victoria agreement signing

The signing of an historic agreement between the States of California and Victoria promotes a collaborative approach to the sharing and development of joint initiatives to enhance emergency management in both California and Victoria. This agreement provides a critical opportunity to share, develop and implement initiatives designed from the knowledge and experience of two states that have some common challenges.  The risk and hazards that both California and Victoria face are similar including drought, bushfires, urbanisation, climate change, population change, community / volunteer capability and community expectations. All of these are significant in the changing environment and the opportunity to learn from each other is timely and critical to guide the next generational strategies and change program. Additionally, through extensive media coverage, the signing focussed the eyes of California and Australia on Victoria more broadly.  See media release

State Control Centre and next generation technology

Emergency Management Victoria is currently scoping a major project to establish the new Victorian State Control Centre in Melbourne. This new centre will replace the existing centre and, aligned to this investment, will be the commissioning of a new Emergency Management Common Operating Picture (EMCOP), a collaboration tool to improve decision making during emergencies.

The USA study tour provided an opportunity to learn from and experience different control centres in a number of jurisdictions and with multiple agencies including: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - NRCC in Washington, Washington’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) 24/7 Joint All Hazards Operations Centre that oversees all hazards operations, Fire Department New York (FDNY), and the San Francisco City Department of Emergency Management.

Coupled to the next generation State Control Centre is the need for a new emergency management decision making system. Victoria has been leading the development of a new, open source system since 2012 with significant American partnerships.  This approach is world leading and based on mature relationships with the USA Department of Homeland Security - Washington DC and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory – Boston in developing an open source system that supports decision making at the emergency level and for the community. Further details

This approach is underpinned by research, evidence and shared decision making that engages, empowers and provides timely, relevant and tailored information to incident managers and the community through public facing information systems that can be easily accessed and are simple to use.

The adoption of open source information technology standards for the development of operating decision-making systems for emergency management leaders and the community will revolutionise emergency management in Victoria. This approach has the potential for Melbourne to become a knowledge hub.

The technology industry has significant interests in this new approach as it changes the traditional role of IT vendors as big system providers to a new approach of becoming service providers. The technology industry in the USA recognised the need to partner with emergency management leaders to understand and develop solutions that will better service the need of emergency management and communities.

Emergency memorial

The establishment of a Victorian Emergency Memorial will be progressed in response to the closure of the CFA's training centre (Fiskville) where the CFA memorial wall of 'in line of duty deaths' has resided for some years.

The proposed memorial would celebrate the success of the first responder emergency workers that have a record of exceptional achievements and commitment. This memorial would also recognise the first responder 'in line of duty deaths'.

The USA study tour provided the opportunity to view and experience a number of memorials that provided background for the scoping and design opportunities required for a Victorian Emergency Memorial. The Victorian Emergency Memorial would include the first responders agencies including CFA, MFB, SES, Ambulance Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria.

California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (CFEE)

The State of California which has a population of 38 million is experiencing its fourth year of drought, supplying water is currently very challenging. Within 10 years, it is expected the number of people living in the state will rise to 50 million.

CFEE believes that Californians have not realised the extent of the problem and have not adopted water saving as a part of everyday life. It believes Victoria can assist in changing that perspective and is planning to send a delegation to Victoria in October 2015.

CFEE is keen to learn how Victoria manages its water supply and has brought about a shift in attitude and behaviour when it comes to conservation. Key interest was in public awareness campaigns which have made it socially unacceptable to water lawns, wash cars and hose down driveways.

Victoria’s advertising campaigns, specifically those which highlighted a personal limit of 150 litres of water a day, was something that the CFEE thought was a valuable idea.


Resilience is emerging as one of the principal drivers to underpin the next generational change in emergency management. Victoria has been a strategic leader in this space coupled with the Rockefeller Foundation's '100 Resilient Cities' program of which Melbourne is an integral part. New York offered the chance to speak to the 100 Resilient Cities Program and San Francisco the opportunity to discuss that city's approach with the San Francisco Chief Resilience Officer.

Melbourne and the metropolitan councils supported through the Rockefeller Foundation’s program, are leading other cities in the development of resilience across the globe. The emergency resilience approach is underpinned by the need to broaden the focus from emergencies alone to build emergency management principles into land use planning, building design, liveability, sustainability and a whole of community approach that will change the community capability and encourage the adoption of a 'shared responsibility' philosophy.

The Melbourne Resilient Cities Program involves 32 metropolitan municipalities led by Melbourne City Council and is a key program that will scope and design the future resilience approach. The Rockefeller Foundation has funded the Melbourne City Council program for two years as a start-up program that will ultimately transition projects to municipalities and Emergency Management Victoria to further develop and implement. These resilience initiatives are fundamental in establishing a new approach to emergency management.

Washington, New York and San Francisco also offered insight into campaigns and emergency information tools supporting the community resilience message including the FEMA sponsored Ready campaign, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, and New York Office of Emergency Management's Ready New York hub .

This was supported by discussion between Victoria and Airbnb around the Memorandum of Understanding in place to provide assistance in the relief and recovery space for community members displaced by natural disasters.

Emergency planning, response and recovery

The USA study tour emphasised the learning and themes Victoria has developed and considered (by leaders) are now being adopted by leaders of Emergency Management in both the East and West Coast of America.

The USA Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, California Office of Emergency Services, New York City Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross, and Rockefeller Foundation all acknowledged the Victorian approach, the success and the opportunity it has presented to drive a new approach that is community-centric and joined up to achieve common outcomes.

This fundamental change in the approach provided an opportunity to discuss the emergency planning challenges, including drought, bushfire, major urban emergencies (e.g.: high rise structure fires), complex Hazardous Material incidents, earthquake and the consequence management issues these major emergencies present.

Discussions extended to the need for an improved community connection program and a modernised relief and recovery system that focuses on human well-being, liveability and community sustainability.

Specifically, the agreement with the California Office of Emergency Services provides a strong opportunity for Victoria to learn from their earthquake and other emergency planning as does the relationships forged between the San Francisco Fire Department and San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

New York, which went through Superstorm Sandy, the most costly disaster in New York’s history, has much to share through the New York City Office of Emergency Management which has responsibility for coordinating the response to emergencies as well as the recovery. Forty-four people lost their lives during Superstorm Sandy and it caused US$20 billion in damage.

Emergency management - emerging issues

The USA study tour highlighted some new challenges that will require attention including cyber emergencies; enhanced medical response on fire trucks; the use of new technology and collaboration models to develop change programs for communities; and new specialist response capability including the use of drone, dewatering capabilities and marine capabilities.

Consumer affairs related issues

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has a strong emphasis on the licensing of businesses, and this includes licensing and regulation of approximately 80,000 businesses across 55 industries. Licence fees support the cost of enforcement in the specific industries. The fee schedule is based on a user-pays system where licence fees reflect the regulatory effort and nature of the business impact on the community. It’s regulatory response is based on community reporting of suspected infringements, desktop regulation and compliance inspections.

The compliance and enforcement approach supports responsive sanctioning using punishment constructively aimed at behaviour change, and then takes an escalating approach from warnings to prosecution or licence revocation as the most severe.

New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has a major role in the mediation of complaints between consumers and businesses. A 311 call centre hotline is often the first port of contact ahead of email.

Discussion with the department identified key areas where Victoria could benefit from New York’s experience. This includes:

Financial regulation

  • Predatory financing is a major problem that hits disadvantaged communities hard.
  • One tactic is the Post Card Con.
  • The post cards are distributed in low income areas offering home improvements where an unlicensed builder arranges finances at huge interest rates.
  • Those debts are often on-sold to collectors who vigorously chase the money creating enormous stress.
  • The prevention is that debt collectors must be licensed and they cannot collect illegal loans.
  • Licensed home improvement companies pay into a trust fund to assist with disputes.

Leasing/rental contracts

  • Another financial trap is people taking out 'rent to own' contracts for appliances and furniture.
  • But people may not understand that they may have signed a rental contract which ends up costing up to 2.5 times the original purchase price.
  • Often these contracts are enforced by third parties.


  • Payday loans are banned in New York City.
  • To help those who need it, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs runs 30 financial empowerment centres to help disadvantaged people with their budgeting and offering educational tools.


  • New York City Department of Consumer Affairs had wide powers to trace scams by being able to subpoena business/banks etc to trace who/what company takes out ads for shonky schemes or websites.
  • This means that people placing newspaper ads or internet bait can be identified and laws enforced.


  • Most internet scams are Federal Government matters.
  • There were large-scale car recalls last year amid concerns that faulty cars are being on-sold by second hand dealers, and also sometimes financed by shonky lenders.
  • Companies charging for job training when there are no jobs.
  • Identity theft is a large problem because many people don't have computer access/skills so much of their personal particulars exist only on paper.
  • NYC has a 'Shredfest' where bank statements/credit card receipts are shredded at various locations around town to assist in combating identity theft.

Zen Desk (San Francisco)

This San Francisco tech firm builds software programs that are being used by Consumer Affairs Victoria. Zen Desk also has a Melbourne office with more than 60 employees. Their key strength is building software to bring companies and their customers closer together.

Many global and local companies are Zen Desk clients.

Airbnb (San Francisco)

Melbourne is a major market for Airbnb. There are 6000+ homes shared across Melbourne. There is a network of 1500+ active hosts who are key drivers. 80 per cent of hosts rent out their primary residence.  Melbourne is now one of five cities in partnership with Airbnb. The meeting explored the use of their network in the event of disasters.

The issues of short stay and the 'party house' syndrome has emerged a unique feature of the shared economy. Airbnb sits between the extremes of no regulations associated with visiting a friends’ home and the heavily regulated commercial accommodation providers. The search is on for a workable new model of regulation which can apply to Airbnb. As it stands, the company does use an alert system for hosts when taking bookings which have the potential to become a problematic rental.

Next steps/follow up

Emergency Management Victoria, under the guidance of the Emergency Management Commissioner, will lead a works program based on the strategic themes contained in this report to maximise the opportunities and relationship that have been developed between the USA partners, Emergency Management Victoria and the Victorian Emergency Management sector.


Californian agreement

The next step to progress the agreement with the State of California will focus on the establishment of the governance arrangements driven by the Director CalOES and Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner with the development of a high level work plan including: drought initiatives and successful strategies deployed by Victoria during the 13 years of drought; emergency management planning framework - cyber, pandemic and heat; bushfire readiness response approach; and Victoria’s public facing Common Operating Picture approach.

State Control Centre and Next Generation technology

The EM-COP and State Control Centre projects are currently being scoped for implementation.

Emergency Memorial

The Victorian Emergency Memorial will be scoped and aligned to the CFA consultation process required as part of the closure of Fiskville, with specific regard to the Fiskville memorial.


Emergency Management Victoria will lead the emergency resilience approach and work with the emergency management sector to ensure this sets the strategic direction and aligns to other key programs to get a cross-pollinated approach across government, agencies, community and business partners.  This will be underpinned by the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Program.


A Memorandum of Understanding is currently in place between Victoria and Airbnb around providing emergency accommodation to displaced communities. There are further opportunities to develop this partnership to enhance resilience.

There is also a possibility to co-opt the Airbnb local networks as an alert system as hosts can warn travellers of unique dangers and protocols when faced with danger, or as a communications tool for tourists unfamiliar with an area.  This could cover not just fire dangers but information related to heat waves and heat health, local knowledge on waterways.

A further meeting has already been held with Airbnb in Melbourne to continue the conversation about these issues.

Emergency response, planning and capability

Emergency Management Victoria and the Emergency Management Commissioner will develop and foster relationships and strong partnerships on behalf of the Victorian sector with the San Francisco Fire Department, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management; the New York City Office of Emergency Management and American Red Cross to enable the sharing of information and planning tools, specifically around heat and earthquake planning readiness and response, urban fires, Community Emergency Teams; community information systems and the next generation Relief and Recovery approach.

California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy

An independent, not-for-profit organisation led by Dr Patrick Mason, President and CEO, CFEE working on the balance between environmental protection and economic development. The CFEE aims to balance the needs of a growing urban population with the pressures of agriculture aided by the latest science. Dr Mason will lead a delegation of approximately 35 business, unions and policy advocates on a trip to Victoria in late October to study how Victoria has managed the complex issues arising from drought management. Dr Mason expects 'shock and awe' from his planned trip. He expects Victoria can help with generational and cultural change within the California population which, despite being in the grip of a four year drought, does not fully register that this is a massive problem.

The delegation’s visit will target water saving technology. They will visit the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre in Brunswick to see what practical advice they can apply at home. They will also look at water recycling at Flemington racecourse and the MCG. A visit to see farming techniques at Shepparton is also on the agenda.

The delegation will be led by Mr John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources and Ms Felicia Marcus, Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board.

CFEE is looking to Victoria to provide leadership and knowledge in the area of water conservation. This allows us to exhibit world’s best practice in drought management as we work co-operatively to share information and technology.

Additionally, there are a range of Consumer Affairs outcomes flagged:

New York City Department of Consumer Affairs

NYC has a ‘Shredfest’ where bank statements/credit card receipts are shredded at various locations around town, called All secure/All safe, this is a free public service. As a direct result of meeting with New York City Department Of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Affairs Victoria trialled this program in Melbourne at Footscray and Dandenong on 23 August 2015.  Shredfest will travel to selected regional areas of Victoria in coming months

Zen Desk

A follow up meeting has since been held in Melbourne. Consumer Affairs Victoria is looking at further application of Zen Desk platforms.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.