1. What are the legislative response for SES in relation to Animals

One of the functions of the SES is ‘to carry out, by accredited SES units, rescue operations allocated by the State Rescue Board’ (State Emergency Service Act 1989 (NSW) s 8(1)(e)).

According to the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW) s 3, rescue means (emphasis added): ‘the safe removal of persons or domestic animals from actual or threatened danger of physical harm’.    According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) s 4, a domestic animal is ‘an animal which is tame or which has been, or is being, sufficiently tamed to serve some purpose for the use of human beings, or which, although it neither has been nor is being nor is intended to be so tamed, is or has become in fact wholly or partly tame’.

It follows that an SES unit that is an accredited rescue unit is required to respond to rescue ‘domestic animals’ which would include traditional pets (cats, dogs etc) but also farm animals and the like.

  1. Can SES Bronze Licence (or any other licence), drive an operational vehicle (rental unequipped) with an Amber Flashing Light?

Putting aside the issue of SES licence, I’ll rephrase that question as ‘Can the SES put a amber flashing light on a rented vehicle that is being used as part of the operational response to an emergency?’  The answer is not what one might think.  The Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 (NSW), Schedule 2 – Vehicle Standards cl 124 says that a State Emergency Service vehicle may be equipped with blue or red flashing light (and I note that everyone interprets ‘or’ to mean ‘and’; cl 124(2)(p) and 124(7)(a)).  But what is an SES vehicle?  That’s not defined.  Does it mean a vehicle owned by the SES or operated by the SES?  I would suggest it has to mean the later as an agency like the SES may enter into all sorts of arrangements to access vehicles including leasing them or, in the past, using vehicles provided by local councils. The SES aren’t going to put roof bars and radiator lights on a car they’ve borrowed for the day but they may well do so on vehicles that are being supplied as some sort of vehicle leasing/fleet arrangements.  The issue isn’t really who ‘owns it’ but who is operating it.  If that’s the case, why not a rental vehicle too?

That of course doesn’t answer the question. The list of vehicles that can have flashing warning lights goes from (a) to (q).  The colour for police, ambulance, fire, SES and some other vehicles are set out in cl 124(7).  If the type of vehicles is not listed then s 124(7)(e) applies and it says ‘in the case of any other vehicle-a yellow light unless otherwise approved by the Authority’.

If I’m right and a hired vehicle can be an SES vehicle if it’s being used by the SES for operational reasons, then it has to be fitted with a red or blue light (cl 124(7)(a)) not a yellow light.  (Let me add I don’t think any vehicle driven by a member of the SES becomes ‘an SES vehicle’ so I’m not suggesting people can put flashing lights on their own cars.  But if a vehicle is hired by the SES then it could be an SES vehicle).   So the answer is ‘no, they can’t have a yellow or amber light, but they could have a red or blue one’.   Of course whether the SES wants to put a red or blue light on an otherwise unmarked car, and whether that’s a good idea, are different questions.   John Killeen, author of Ambulance Visibility Blog may have some thoughts on those questions?


After posting my answers, above, my correspondent got back to me and said:

In rephrasing my question about the amber light you assumed it was for an emergency response, & it wasn’t.  The discussion in our unit tonight was around storm teams (Bronze licence holders not authorised to use red/blue) utilising an amber light in adverse weather to make the environment safer for an unmarked rental vehicle delivering sandbags or performing storm repairs. Not life threatening situations.

That doesn’t change the answer because it doesn’t change the wording of r 124.  That rule says ‘unless subclause (3) or (4) applies, a vehicle must not display or be fitted with: (a) a light that flashes or rotates …’  So we look to subclauses 3 and 4 to see who can have a flashing light.

Clause 3 says ‘ … an emergency vehicle or police vehicle may be fitted with any light or reflector’ but remember an emergency vehicle is a vehicle driven by an emergency worker in the course of an emergency, and we’re told that’s not the case.  In any event that definition is contextual, that is a vehicle is an emergency vehicle when being driven in the course of a response to an emergency, but not when it’s not be used in that way.  So police, ambulance, fire brigade vehicles etc are sometimes emergency vehicles, and sometimes they’re not.  So clause 3 doesn’t really help – one could argue that if the vehicle was being used by an SES member to provide transport in the course of responding to an emergency then, at that point it is an emergency vehicle, in which case a yellow light could be displayed.  That has to be read however in context with cl 4 which gives specific authority to have flashing lights and the rule of interpretation is that a general clause (like cl 3) must ‘give way’ to a specific clause such as cl 4.

The clause of real significance is cl 4 because that identifies the vehicle not by it’s current use (ie not by reference to the question – ‘is this vehicle being used in response to an emergency?’) but by who operates it.  If it’s a fire brigade vehicle it can have red or (and) blue lights fitted, even if they are not being used.  So cl 4 (and cl 7) sets out who can have a flashing light and the relevant colour:

  1. A police vehicle, an ambulance, a fire fighting vehicle, a vehicle used by a Traffic Commander or Traffic Emergency Patroller (appointed or employed by the Authority), a State Emergency Service vehicle or a vehicle used by an accredited rescue unit (within the meaning of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989) can have a blue or [and] red light;
  2. A Red Cross vehicle, a mines rescue or other rescue vehicle or an emergency vehicle within the meaning of the Road Rules 2014 (other than a vehicle referred to in paragraph (a))-a red light;
  3. A vehicle used by the Roads and Maritime Authority or a vehicle used by a council of a local government area for the purposes of enforcing excess weight limits legislation-a crimson light; or
  4. A fire brigade emergency site command vehicle-a green light, and
  5. In the case of any other vehicle, that is public utility service vehicles, tow-trucks, motor breakdown service vehicles, vehicles used for the delivery of milk that are required to stop at frequent intervals, buses used solely or principally for the conveyance of children to or from school, vehicles exceeding length, width and height limits, vehicles frequently used to transport loads that exceed maximum length, width and height limits, vehicles used to escort long, wide or high loads, vehicles used by the Roads and Maritime Authority for purposes other than enforcing excess weight limits legislation, and such other vehicles as are approved by the Authority, can have a yellow light or a light of any other colour approved by Roads and Maritime Services.

A vehicle being used by the SES to deliver sandbags or perform storm repairs does not fit any of the definitions in paragraph (5) above, so it can’t be fitted with a flashing yellow light.  It is (on my argument) an SES vehicle so it could have a blue or [and] red light.