Dispatches
Written by Jennifer Grigg
May 10, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - The devastating pictures and videos coming out of Fort McMurray, Alta., over the past week have struck a chord in everyone. Fire and its consumable nature is something that people don’t often think about until it hits close to home.

Many people enjoy the sights and sounds (and even the distinct smell) of sitting by a campfire, but even the most innocent campfire can become out of control and damage property and structures. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have campfires, but we should enjoy them responsibly, use well-maintained fire pits, and respect the power that fires yield. It’s great to roast marshmallows but we don’t want to be roasting our lawn, trees, or home.

Many homeowners use fire as a cost-effective and, for the most part, environmentally friendly way to clear brush, leaves and dead tree branches. Yet most of us have responded to a brush fire that was caused by an embarrassed homeowner who lost control of the blaze.

Don’t get me wrong, responding to, controlling and extinguishing fire is one of our many duties and the reason we’re here, but we still need to educate and encourage people to take the necessary precautions so that we don’t need to respond in the first place. The fire department is a reactive measure; educating people about fire safety in all forms is a proactive measure.

Those of us who join the fire department do so with different career paths and goals in mind, but we all joined for the same reason: to help our communities. If your fire department has a fire-prevention officer and/or a public-education officer, that’s fantastic, but educating the public is every firefighter’s job.

Whether you are on a call or filling up the trucks at the local gas station after the call, share fire-safety information with the public. Never miss out on an opportunity to raise awareness about the services we offer and the knowledge we can share with others. We have a ton of training in so many different aspects of fire suppression, prevention, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, and so on, so why wouldn’t we share what we know? Why would we wait to help others?

I haven’t heard how the fire in Fort McMurray was started, but clearly something got out of control – intentionally or accidently. More than 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes, their belongings and their lives behind, with no idea of what they’ll be returning to when it’s all over. To the firefighters continuing to battle the blaze, be safe, we’re praying for you.

As for all the other firefighters out there who are reading these words, educate, educate, educate! Share your passion with others. Your words could be the ones that keep someone safe.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
April 25, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I had the honour of presenting an overview of the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) program to the Muskoka Association of Fire Chiefs at their meeting in Bracebridge last week.

It was an honour for two reasons: the first is the topic of conversation – the R2MR program, which is near and dear to my heart. I am always happy to enlighten fire-service members on the fundamentals of the program and to help create interest and enthusiasm surrounding it, because I believe in it and its effectiveness so emphatically.

The second reason it was an honour is because I am always grateful to spend time with other firefighters and officers – I have great respect for this profession in all of its forms – especially those who have worked their way up to such a multi-faceted position as chief.

Those in the fire service who have moved into senior officer positions are generally those who have been in the service for many years, put forth consistent effort to pursue training, education and personal and professional growth, and bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to any conversation. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve done a lot, they know a lot, and there is a lot to learn from them.

As I listened to the chiefs discuss co-ordinating the R2MR training for the six fire departments in the District of Muskoka, I was struck by the collaborative effort and dedication to working cohesively to bring the training to all of their fire-service members.

Any new program or training has some implementation barriers, and it’s up to the leaders of the fire departments to be the agents of change. These leaders are clearly demonstrating their commitment to their firefighters, officers and departments as a whole, and to me, that’s what the fire service is all about.

Something I’ve always loved about the fire service is how fortunate we are to be able to meet and/or work with members of other fire departments by taking courses at the fire college and other approved training facilities. We have the opportunity to create networks across the province with other members, who often become lifelong friends and colleagues. It really is a brotherhood and it extends across borders too. We face the same issues, the same challenges and the same struggles.

I’m not sure if departments in the United States are implementing a version of the R2MR, but I hope they have some sort of mental-health awareness training program in place. We’ve all seen the staggering numbers of emergency services personnel taking their own lives.

Regardless of what fire department you’re on, what country you live in, and whether you’re male or female, if you’re in the fire service (and I’m assuming you are if you are reading this), you are part of the brotherhood and we need to take care of our own.

I hope that you too have leaders such as the ones I have in my area, and the ones whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the R2MR trainers program, but keep in mind, you don’t have to be an officer to be a leader.

As leadership author Robin Sharma says: “Lead without a title.”


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen

Written by Jennifer Grigg
April 7, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - Why challenge ourselves?

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting the new Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) training program, along with eight other R2MR-certified trainers, to attendees at the Northeastern Fire Education Conference in North Bay, Ont.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 30, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - When I left my full-time job in the municipal planning department three weeks ago, I had no idea where I would end up or what I would do with myself. There were definitely things I wanted to do, but how often do we think to ourselves, “If I had the time, I would do this, this and this,” and then never actually do it?

I’ve often daydreamed of travelling and having meaningful conversations with people who inspire me, and then writing a book about those experiences.

The time I have on my hands right now, I’ve realized, is the perfect time to fulfill that dream. In the past three weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time chatting with the acting principal of the Ontario Fire College, a fire protection specialist with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, a suppression captain with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, and a former co-worker who is a fire inspector with MFES (and you all know how I have a special place in my heart for Mississauga).

I am literally living my dream. Experiencing the knowledge, insight, humour, integrity, compassion and genuineness of the four people with whom I’ve had the honour of spending time is valuable beyond belief.

If someone told me a year ago, or even six months ago, that I would drive an hour, each way, to spend an hour speaking with the principal at the fire college – whom I’d never actually met before – I never would have believed it. I knew who she was (doesn’t everyone? She’s a powerhouse in the fire service) and we’d connected and chatted often through social media, but that was the extent of our interaction. The idea of calling her up (messaging her, actually – we introverts prefer email/text to phone calls) to ask if I could visit for a quick chat would have totally freaked me out in the past. My fear would have been too great for me to make that move, regardless of how much I wanted to.

Meeting the fire protection specialist for coffee and a chat two weeks ago was something else I would have been too shy to do in the past. I’d met him during a course I took last year, but did not get to know him well, and, for a shy introvert such as myself, the thought of a conversation with a near-stranger would have sent me back into my cocoon. Fortunately, shyness appears to be a non issue for me these days.

The suppression captain I spent time with this week has been a hero of mine since my Mississauga days, and yet, today was the first day that I actually really spoke with her. I remember meeting her briefly in the fire station when I was a very new fire inspector back in 2004. The moment my captain introduced her as a captain, it was as though the heavens parted and the sun shone down on her. Sounds totally cheesy, I know, but when you come face to face with the small, silent dream that you carry within, it’s a pretty powerful moment. Since I first fell in love with the fire service, I’ve dreamed of being a full-time firefighter one day. Life may have taken me in another direction, but this captain will always be an inspiration.

Which leads me to my friend, the Mississauga fire inspector. I worked for Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services 12 years ago, for a mere six months, and I have never been more impacted by a job in my life. The friends I made during those six months have remained cherished friends, which is rare for an introvert. I have a knack for falling out of touch with people, yet I’ve never hesitated to hop in my car and drive to Mississauga just to have coffee with the guys. It’s awesome and unbelievable to me how much that job and those six months changed me, and became a part of who I am. I’m always happy to have the opportunity to meet up with old colleagues, particularly this fire inspector, and catch up with life in the big city (me being the country bumpkin that I am.)

I instinctively know that there is great power in the right conversations, and the past few weeks have proved that to be absolutely true. I learned from the principal that I’m smarter than I give myself credit for; the fire protection advisor showed me that we all have similar stories and can use them to reach out to others; the suppression captain taught me to have the mindset: why not me?; and my very good friend the inspector reminded me – yet again – about the career that I could still have.

These are valuable life lessons to be sure, but the best part of these conversations was feeling fully alive, engaged and inspired, and knowing that in those moments, with those people, having those conversations, was exactly where I was meant to be.

Looking forward to wherever this crazy adventure of mine takes me.

#fd4life


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 21, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I recently embarked on the adventure of a lifetime by leaving my full-time job in the municipal planning department in order to follow my heart, and see where it takes me. It has been both a fantastic and frightening journey, but I’ve never felt more alive or engaged. In making the decision to start steering my life in a different direction rather than be dragged along behind it, I’ve discovered a profound sense of inner strength and self confidence (confidence being something with which I have always struggled).

The morning I sat down with my two bosses at work and told them I was leaving, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I knew in that moment that nothing they could say would change my mind, and no amount of talking could convince me stay. That in itself was such a powerful experience for me: having that kind of confidence in myself and my decision making was new to me. I loved it. Making that one decision – to stand up for myself and what I wanted for my life – became the catalyst for change.

I had given three weeks notice at work in an effort to help my employer with the transition, and found that my entire outlook had changed instantaneously. A co-worker had mentioned that it was obvious I was leaving because I seemed much happier. I laughed and said, “That makes it sound like I’ve been miserable to work with.” She assured me that that wasn’t the case, but I definitely seem more relaxed and at ease.

Some coworkers asked why I had given three weeks notice, since two is standard practice. I explained that I was leaving our employer on good terms and I honestly just wanted to help out my bosses. This decision to leave wasn’t against anyone or anything; it was a move strictly for me.

I’d had many conversations with the human-resources director, my managers, and even our CAO about my career aspirations over the past couple of years, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I’d made the decision to move on, and they wished me well in my endeavours. I had tried my best to adapt to the environment and position I was in, and gave it my all while I was there, but it simply wasn’t my passion.

I always had this gnawing feeling that no matter what I did at work, something was still missing. It turns out that I was missing: my personality, my passion, my natural talents and abilities, my creativity. I simply wasn’t suited to that position. We all have things to which we’re drawn and for which we have passion, based on our personalities, skill sets and interests.

Understanding and accepting this wasn’t a bad thing; in fact, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I could see the passion my coworkers and managers in my department all had for the work we did, which I didn’t share, so I always felt somewhat left out and detached.

I too have passion, but it’s for all things fire, not all things planning.

I connect with others through my love of the fire service. It’s where my heart, my passion, my inner self comes alive. I’m excited to see where this love takes me next.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 7, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - Yet again, I'm inspired by a course I'm taking to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard. 

Due to my (ahem) experience in the fire service and the courses I've already taken, I'm eligible for grandfathering under the transition to NFPA professional standards from the Ontario curriculum, and was offered a spot in the gap course for Fire Officer 1 on the weekend in Tay Township.

In the class of 29 – most are officers – I am one of only a couple of firefighters, the only female, and the only one with a spouse in the room as my husband falls under the grandfathering too. The group is a mix of seasoned veterans and new officers and I can't help but reflect on my years in the fire service and the quiet pride I feel for being fortunate enough to have this opportunity.

Our instructor, Gord Roesch, is a seasoned firefighter, former fire chief, and the driving force behind Southwest Fire Academy in Delhi, Ont. With a passion for the fire service and a dedication to facilitating positive change, one can't help but be inspired to raise the bar both personally and professionally.

The course, in Roesch's words, "isn't what you think it will be." Some may have anticipated an incident command/incident management/scenario-type officer course, but this was going to be far from it. Topics include NFPA standard familiarization, human-resources management through directing staff, coaching and leadership, interpersonal communications, budget request proposals, inspections and accident investigations and physical/mental health and fitness.

Although I didn't actually hear any groans from the class in response to the course outline, I'm sure there were a few in the room thinking it had the potential to be a very long weekend.

Fortunately, Roesch has a knack for making the course as engaging and applicable as a gap course can be that's based on such potentially dry material. With a healthy mix of group work and theory, we started off familiarizing ourselves with the professional qualifications contained in the NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer in order to understand the expectations of a fire officer, did some brainstorming, presented findings to the class, did a budgeting exercise for new equipment, role played using our interpersonal skills, and absorbed concepts surrounding generational learning, motivation and leadership styles and their application in the fire service.

The switch from the Ontario firefighter curriculum to NFPA has been confusing and a bit of a grey area for those of us "senior" firefighters and officers, so courses such as these are greatly appreciated in getting us up to speed. I write the exam for Fire Officer I this Saturday.

It's nice to know that "no one gets left behind" applies to training and certification too.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen



Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb. 22, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I was on Facebook one day in early December and came across a post for a one-day hockey camp in Calgary with none other than Canadian Olympic athlete Hayley Wickenheiser. "Wow!" I thought to myself, "Would that ever be cool for Sydney." (My almost-at-the-time 16-year-old daughter who also plays hockey.)

It was a fleeting thought and I kept on scrolling, but the seed had been planted.

After Christmas had come and gone, it was time to figure out what to get Syd for her birthday, which is four days after Christmas. My mind went back to the hockey camp . . . and then to the fact that we have family in Okotoks, Alta., just outside of Calgary . . . and then onto the idea that the four of us could make a mini vacay out of it.

It quickly became a done deal.

Fast forward to Friday, Feb. 12. We flew to Calgary around 11 a.m. After a bit of a search for Sydney's hockey stick, which had been separated from her hockey bag, we were on our way to the hotel. We'd booked a hotel close to the Canada Olympic Park and the Markin MacPhail Centre, the rink in which Hayley and her Canadian Women's Hockey League team, The Calgary Inferno, train and play, and where Sydney would go for the hockey camp.

After getting settled in our room, we headed to Okotoks to watch the Flames game with my four nephews and inhale some pizza and wings. We weren't exactly a lively bunch because 10 p.m. in Alberta is midnight in Ontario, and we'd been up since 5 a.m. But it always makes my heart smile to see my Albertan family members.

Saturday was another whirlwind – a day of shopping at the Chinook Centre in Calgary and then dinner and a movie with my nephews. (Deadpool is hilarious, by the way.) Sunday we toured Banff and the breathtaking mountains that speak to my heart just like the waters of Georgian Bay, and more shopping, of course. I do have two teenage daughters, after all.

Monday we were off to see Hayley and Sydney was stoked, but we weren't sure if family members would be permitted to hang out for the day too. My husband and younger daughter are both amateur photographers and were armed with cameras, but I wondered if they would be allowed to take pictures. Hayley is an Olympic athlete after all, the female version of Wayne Gretzky, in the mind of many. I've never met an Olympic athlete or professional hockey player before and didn't know what to expect.

We gathered in one of the meeting rooms that overlooked the rink in this amazing facility and waited for Hayley's arrival. As the rest of my family sat on a lower balcony to watch Hayley's Inferno teammates practise, I was on the upper level and heard whispers of "She's here!" I turned to my right to see if I could see her and there she was, standing right beside me.

"Hi, I'm Hayley." She said and shook my hand.

"Hi, I'm Jen. I'm Sydney's Mom." I was surprised by how down to earth she was.

"Oh my gosh, you came from Ontario. You didn't drive, did you?"

I laughed and told her that we'd flown in and were there for only a few days. We chatted about the plans for the day and what the girls might want to focus on while on the ice.

I caught Syd's attention, motioned for her to come over and introduced her to Hayley. They chatted for a few minutes and then things got underway.

Turned out that family was not only invited to stay for the day, we were also allowed on the bench when the girls were on the ice, were allowed to take as many pics as we wanted, and were offered to help ourselves to the amazing lunch that was prepared for the girls. We even got to see – and hold – Hayley's vast collection of medals, Olympic and otherwise.

Hayley's teammate, Brianne Jenner, and two of the backup goalies for the Inferno were on the ice helping out too. The girls were split up into two groups and were lucky enough to spend time with both Hayley and Brianne, learning tricks, techniques and new skills from these two amazing women.

The afternoon consisted of a presentation by Dr. Syl Corbett on nutrition (which in no way included Ice Caps, Sydney Mabee!), a tour of the Team Canada dressing room and the facilities, several draws throughout the day (Syd won an autographed pair of hockey gloves), and free passes to the Sports Hall of Fame. The girls were also all given an autographed Team Canada Wickenheiser 22 jersey and hockey stick, among other swag.

It was a once in a lifetime experience not only for my daughter, but for my family as well. I wondered if all Olympic athletes and professional athletes were as genuine and down to earth as Hayley.

What I know for sure is that although everyone is able to, not everyone will take the time to mentor young women (or young men). The first thing Hayley did during the camp was ask the girls what they wanted to learn, and what they wanted to get out of the day. Did they want to learn skills or did they want to play a game? The day was all about them, and she was happy to do whatever the participants wanted to do.

We need to cultivate more Hayley Wickenheisers in the fire service, similar to the women (and men) of the Fire Service Women of Ontario – and other associations that I know are out there. I encourage those who are passionate about what they do, and are happy to share with others the knowledge, skills and experience that helped them achieve their goals, to step up to the plate, or out onto the ice, as the case may be.

Use your passion to inspire, motivate and connect with the rookies, the less experienced firefighters, and even the senior firefighters who might just be looking for a mentor of their own. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb 4, 2016, Mississauga, Ont. - Day four of five at the Garry W. Morden Training Centre for the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) train-the-trainer course.

If I thought my brain was full by Tuesday, it's definitely jam packed now. There's not even room for air up there. On Wednesday, we continued to practise and get comfortable with delivering content in what are known as micro-teaches at different times throughout the day.

We also continued to review the content in the modules and were provided with background info and research on the material in order to deepen our understanding of the concepts and content. At the end of the day, we were assigned partners and our modules for the practical evaluation component on Friday.

This is where stuff got real. The goal now was to spend time getting intimate with our assigned modules in preparation for our evaluations. However, we were also continuing to work on familiarization with program content as a whole. Actually, familiarization isn't the right word. The importance of fully understanding and knowing the material we will be delivering was emphasized throughout.

Having sound knowledge of the material and the way it's presented and facilitated leads to credibility. Credibility leads to being open to new information and understanding. Understanding raises awareness. Awareness can save lives.

This is not a fluff course, nor is it another notch in the belt that is our resume. This is real. Very real. This program has the power to save lives, and everyone in the course realizes the impact it can have on the lives of emergency services personnel.

With each day, the knowledge, understanding and awareness permeates us and becomes a part of who we are. Our tolerance for counterproductive attitudes and behaviors surrounding mental-health issues decrease.

We've progressed from learning about it to living it.

Thursday we spent most of the day reviewing (again) the entire leadership package, which is the eight- hour course, and the primary package, which is the four-hour course. We reviewed, questioned, reiterated, verified and cemented the absorption of the material.

And then we wrote a test.

I couldn't help but think that the timing of the test may have been off because we were all experiencing full-brain syndrome from the fast-paced review of the two packages, and many of the participants commented on experiencing brain farts during the test.

It also became apparent that it was likely set up that way for a reason. As I mentioned before, the course has been in the works for a very long time. This version of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's program was adapted from the Department of National Defence and Calgary Police Service's Road to Mental Readiness programs. There is a ton of history, research, implementation and evaluation that has gone into this.

Every part of the program has been set up the way it has for a specific reason and I can tell you without a doubt that this is one of, if not the most, impactful courses I've ever taken.

I joked about the week being like a boot camp, and that having us write the test when we did was the equivalent of some of the Navy Seals training video clips we'd seen in the course. Just when you think you've got a handle on everything, the instructors throw something new at you.

That's how committed the instructors are are to ensuring that we're learning, absorbing, recalling and delivering the information correctly.

We're being trained be the catalyst for change by raising awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

And save lives.

A special shout out to our instructors, Valerie and Sergio; your dedication, professionalism, passion and sense of humour inspired us all. Thank you.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb. 3, 2016, Mississauga - Yesterday was Day 2 at Mississauga Fire's Garry W. Morden Centre for the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) train-the-trainer program, and after two full days of learning, my brain is full.

Program facilitators spent the first day and part of the second day teaching us about the curriculum, going through the entire program delivery, and providing many opportunities to put into practice the concepts and ideals that we were learning about, most of which was done through group work, but at the end of the day yesterday we started to work on actually delivering the program ourselves. We were each given a couple of slides from the presentation and instructed to deliver the content to our fellow group members.

To quote one of our instructors, "It was a little like driving a standard for the first time, wasn't it?" Everyone laughed. It was a completely accurate description – maybe not for everyone, but definitely for many of us. It did feel a little jerky, not that smooth, and uncomfortable. But that was the point. It wasn't meant to feel easy because at this point, it's all still very new to us. We're all working on wrapping our heads around what we're learning, as we would in any course, but we're also learning to be facilitators of the program, so we're learning two different aspects.

As one of the instructors said, "You have to be the student before you can be the teacher." So we began as students of the program, and then we transitioned into becoming facilitators of the program.

The curriculum development has been in the works for a very long time and the research behind it is extensive. The program is very structured, but not without some leniency, and it's very focused, but not without fun. It's also very powerful, both personally and professionally, for me.

As many of you know, I've had my own experiences with depression, anxiety and PTSD in the past, and that was a strong motivator for me being here this week. Over the past two days I've experienced many emotions and reactions to the discussions we've had in class, and it has served as both a reminder and a reason for why this is so important.

Just to clarify, it hasn't been overwhelming for me at all. In fact, quite the opposite: some of the discussions have helped me understand things that I've experienced in the past that perhaps weren't ever explained to me in that particular way. Having that understanding is such a valuable tool (if not a necessity) for supporting and helping others struggling with mental-health issues.

It's also shown me how far I've come from where I once was. I said a silent thank you to the good Lord for my courage and resilience (because make no mistake, it takes courage to face your demons), and solidified my determination to help bring awareness and efforts to ending the stigma surrounding mental-health issues.

At the beginning of the course, I was hesitant to say too much. As I explained to a classmate, "I'm afraid that if I say too much, they'll know right away that I have a history. They'll see right through me." I also admitted to realizing that I was judging myself, in that I was worried that my classmates would see me as weak, or soft, or even damaged goods, as I had often thought of myself as in the past.

The irony is that this is the exact talk that we're trying to prevent, in an effort to end the stigma. And here I was doing it to myself, right in the middle of course teaching us not to do that to others.

As the day winds down, in my retrospective, introverted way, I review the past two days and their impact on me. There's been a morning chuckle each day; Monday's was having Mississauga Chief Tim Beckett smile and come over to say hi and shake my hand: I thought he was smiling at someone behind me, because I was sure he wouldn't remember meeting me a couple of years before at the Ladders Up for the Foundation fundraiser. Silly introvert!)

Yesterday's funny was waking up to strange sounds coming from the neighbouring room in the hotel I'm in (we'll leave it at that), and then having the hairdryer short out and start spewing out smoke. I ran to the window and opened it up while trying to vent the room by waving around the heavy curtains. I was more concerned with tripping the fire alarm than I was with being seen half dressed. Good thing it was early in the morning because I don't think the patrons at Chuck E Cheese next door would have appreciated such a sight.

You really have to be able to laugh at yourself in times such as those because life can be hard enough on us, which why I'm so proud to be a part of this pilot course, a program which, as I said to editor Laura King, is going to change people's lives.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Jan. 5, 2016, Waubaushene, Ont. - I came across a post on Facebook recently about the acronym ;IGY6 on a page called Stop the 22 A DAY (which is dedicated to raising awareness about suicide from PTSD). The people who started the Facebook page were made aware of the acronym through a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association in Texas – it's a patch that many of them wear. However, many people are also having the acronym made into a tattoo, which is how it caught my eye.

The meaning behind ;IGY6, according to the Stop the 22 A DAY Facebook page, is this: "The semicolon is from the Project Semicolon. When an author writes a sentence and is at the point of ending it, but wants to continue, they can use a semicolon. It creates pause. Almost like a thought, a reconsideration of the cessation of a sentence, or in this case, your life."

IGY6 stands for I Got Your 6 (back). The colours also carry a meaning. Teal is for PTSD awareness, black is for the heavy hearts that many of us carry – those who suffer from PTSD and those who have lost loved ones to suicide because of PTSD. Red is a symbol of the blood that has been shed.

So when you combine it all, the acronym it is a way of saying that if you are thinking about taking your life, PAUSE, it is not time to end, I've got your back and will help you through it and stand by your side. If you ever see someone wearing ;IGY6 as a patch or tattoo, know that they will help you.

The tattoo is usually on the right arm so it is easily visible when shaking someone's hand, which will lead to a conversation and hopefully help for someone in need.

I had to ask my husband to explain the connection between the number 6 and the word back; he explained that it's a military thing related to the clock, as in when you're behind someone, you're positioned at his or her 6, or back.

Words cannot even describe the depth of what I felt when he explained this to me.

Not only am I very aware of what the semicolon means; having experienced PTSD, the impact of what IGY6 meant hit me like a ton of bricks.

I sat there speechless for a moment and my husband looked at me and said, "What's up?"

I explained to him that I was amazed by how something so simple could have so much meaning on so many levels. Sometimes it's hard to describe what the fire service means to firefighters and for me, this phrase said it all.

Even though we may not always see eye to eye with fellow firefighters, there is no doubt in my mind that each and every one of the guys and girls on my department would have my back if things went south on a call. And I would have theirs – 100 per cent.

We should have each other's backs all the time, but we are human after all, and we are all unique individuals with different perspectives and opinions, so sparks are bound to fly once in a while.

But when it comes down to it, whether it's a friend in a time of need or a firefighter in a time of chaos, ;IGY6. And I know that you've got mine.

Special shout out to my fellow firefighters on Georgian Bay Fire Department for having my 6 all these years.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Nov. 19, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - They say there is always something to be learned from every experience you have in life. At least, that's what I like to think.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Oct. 19, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - My life consists of work, family (two teenage daughters, one husband, two black labs, three guinea pigs and a rabbit), fire calls, fire training, writing (when I have time - which clearly there hasn't been much of this year) and of course, laundry and keeping up with the housework. And, at this particular moment, watching the Jays in game three of the ALCS.

It's a pretty busy life, but isn't everyone's?

These days it seems as though life just keeps going faster. We're so busy that we don't even stop long enough to ask ourselves if what we're doing is making us happy and fulfilling our fundamental needs; think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

But I'm on a mission to slow it down.

I was starting to feel like a hamster on a wheel in my role as the technical assistant in the building department and was ready for a change. I made an appointment with the director of human resources to discuss potential growth opportunities.

My options were limited, there were only two positions for which HR was recruiting: snow plough driver with the operations department (which I almost considered, since I have my DZ) or an eight-month contract position as acting deputy clerk.

As I mulled the options in my mind, I mumbled something about wishing I could just take a month off and work on my next book. To my utter surprise and delight, the director of HR said, "Actually, that is another option because it's in your collective agreement." I can take time off without pay or benefits, if approved by my two bosses (because I'm still considered to be working in both building and planning) and the CAO, and I would have to give a month's notice.

I left the HR director's office that day unsure which direction to take but feeling optimistic that I at least had options.

The seed had been planted.

When I mentioned my conversation with HR to my boss, he questioned my willingness to go a month without a paycheque. I tried to explain to him that the time off is worth more to me than the paycheque. I can do so much more with the time than I do with the money. I don't think he really got it, but I knew then that the idea was resonating with me on a very deep level.

It was one of those things that you just know is right for you, and you don't feel the need to explain it to anyone else.

I'm not sure what the ultimate catalyst was for me making the decision, but once I made the official request to go ahead with the leave, it was approved before I could second guess myself. The noticeable sense of relief I felt when hearing the news solidified my choice if there were any doubt. A little unconventional maybe, but the more I thought about it, the more sure I was that this was the right move for me.

So what will I do with my month off? My plan is to spend time connecting with people who inspire me in the fire service and learn about what inspires them. I've always been fascinated by what makes people tick, and I know from experience that the fire service draws a certain unique breed. Fodder for my next book and a great opportunity to connect with others who share the passion for the mysterious enigma that is the fire service.

Let me know if you want to chat!

GO JAYS!!


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
July 9, 2015, Gravenhurst, Ont. - Leave it to the fire college to bring out the blogger in me.

I’m currently taking the retrofit course at the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst. The course is part of the NFPA Fire Inspector Level 1 program, and I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge.

The last course I attended was on courtroom procedures in October; and it was more of a seminar because there were almost 70 in the class.

Taking one course a year doesn’t allow for continuous learning by any means. Another challenge is the fact that I don’t use the Ontario Fire Code every day, or any day for that matter, because I’m not a fire inspector.

It actually took me a day or two to get back into the swing of things and to know where to find stuff in the fire code. OK, that’s not entirely true; it took me until yesterday to feel as though I had a handle on things. I suppose the quiz we did yesterday afternoon will be the evidence of whether it actually came back to me or missed me altogether.

Last fall when I was here for the courtroom procedures course, I understood it to be the next logical step in achieving my NFPA Inspector Level 2 equivalency. It turns out that the course was part of Level 1, which is OK because I would have needed to take it sooner or later. The only reason I took courtroom procedures was because I’m one of the old timers that have been at this awhile and fell under the grandfathering option for the NFPA equivalency. (In 2014 Ontario transitioned to an education system based on NFPA standards from the previous Ontario Fire Services Standards.)

So why am I taking these courses if I’m not a fire inspector, you may ask? In addition to being a volunteer firefighter for almost 20 years, I was also a fire prevention officer in a past life on more than one occasion and I’ve always tried to keep a foot in the door. Even though I’m only able to take one course a year, I am still plugging away. I’m not sure if it’s persistence, determination or that I just don’t know when to give up (and maybe that’s a good thing).

For those of you that follow my blog and/or column in Canadian Firefighter magazine, you may remember me mentioning that I experience anxiety at certain times or in certain situations, such as being in a class with people I don’t know. Whether you call it shy, introverted or socially awkward, I feel like a turtle wanting to crawl back into its shell. The first couple of days of the retrofit course were no different.

Until Wednesday, that is.

Monday and Tuesday I had gone home to Port Severn (it’s only an hour-long drive) to get my husband’s help with some issues I was having with the fire code. I’m sure any one of the people in my class would have been more than happy to help me with any questions I had, but since I was being Tammy the Turtle, it would’ve meant me actually sticking my head out of my shell and talking to them.

My husband also has a way of explaining things in Jenny terms so that I understand.

People with anxiety often have trouble focusing and absorbing new information when they’re feeling anxious. The first couple days of the course were difficult for me. The most frustrating thing about all this is that I knew I used to be really good with the code when I was a fire prevention officer.

Much to my relief, by Wednesday I was feeling more like myself. I was reacquainted with the code and decided to stay at the college and go out with the gang for dinner and a water ski show at the local Boston Pizza.

That was the best decision I’ve made in a while. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. Our class is small – only 13 – and most of us were there for dinner. Once I relaxed and came out of my shell, I instantly wished I’d done it sooner. What a great group of people and there is no better way for people to connect than through laughter. And laugh we did, to the point where several of us had tears streaming down our faces, including one of the guys!

I’d just like to sincerely thank the class of retrofit 2015 for the laughter, the knowledge, the connection and the friendship.

You never know how you touch the lives of others.

Once again, a trip to the fire college has enlightened me personally and professionally.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 5, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - “Hi deputy; it’s nice to meet you. My name is Jen. I heard you mention two positions in prevention that your department is currently recruiting for . . .”

Voicing those words was not something that I would have necessarily done in the past, but I did it last weekend. I may not have been as super confident in my approach as I had envisioned prior to that moment (are we ever?), but the point is that I did it.

A fellow volunteer firefighter and I attended the 2015 Firefighter Career Expo in Vaughan, Ont., on Saturday. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew that it would be a good experience (any gathering of fire service members always is) and a great opportunity to make new connections.

The first speaker was Kory Pearn who provided us with an overview of the recruitment process from his own experience. Attendees also received a copy of his book, The Complete Guide to Becoming a Firefighter – a must read for anyone interested in a career in the fire service. Pearn talked about the importance of networking, which had clearly made an impression on me and was the catalyst for me to approach the deputy later that day.

Chelsey Reid from Emergency Services Academy in Alberta was up after Kory to share information on programs and courses, followed by Chris Bedwell from TESTREADYPRO, who offered valuable tips and resources about the test taking portion of the recruitment process.

Jason Loyd and Chris Framsted from Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) introduced the group to the Firefighter Academy virtual classroom and on-site programs for current and future firefighters.

After a short networking break, Richard Boyes, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, spoke to the future firefighters about the newly created Candidate Testing Service (CTS) offered by Ontario Fire Administration Inc. (OFAI) and their mission of establishing a standardized selection process for firefighters in Ontario.

After lunch, Deputy Chief Deryn Rizzi and Chief Training Officer Jim MacDonald of Vaughan Fire & Rescue Service, as well as two HR reps from the City of Vaughan, Gina Lijoi and Sandra McKenzie, took the stage to offer information and advice about recruitment trends in career departments.

Following that was a presentation by Tonya Rumas from Isagenix about food science and nutrition. Who knew that maintaining a healthy body is 75 per cent diet and 25 per cent fitness? I guess a lot of fitness buffs would know that, but I sure didn’t.

The final session of the day was my favourite and worth its weight in gold. Deputy Chief Deryn Rizzi and Toronto Deputy Chief Debbie Higgins from Fire Service Women of Ontario, along with Sandra McKenzie from human resources at the City of Vaughan, took part in mock interviews with volunteers from the audience. I cannot say enough about the value of that session. I’ve been through a suppression interview before and I worked with an interview coach to prepare myself – which was hugely beneficial – but I learned things in the mock interview session that I’d never heard before.

If you remember only one thing that you’ve read today, let it be this: the STAR acronym. When you’re asked a question that starts with “Tell me about a time when . . .” the criteria that the panel members are looking for are STAR – situation, task, action, and result. If you hit those benchmarks in your answer, you’ve given them what they’re looking for. Knowing about STAR ahead of time allows you to respond in the best way possible.

You may be up against 20 to 30 other candidates going through the interview process so you need to stand apart from the rest. You must demonstrate why you’re unique and what sets you apart from the competition. Prepare yourself, do your homework and check out the speakers and websites of the people and/or organizations I’ve mentioned above.

And if the opportunity presents itself to meet a higher ranking member of a department that you’re interested in, don’t be intimidated by the uniform. Be thankful that you’re in the right place at the right time and in the company of those that inspire you, and introduce yourself. You never know where it could lead.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb. 18, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - You never know what good can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. In fact, I would venture to say that staying in your comfort zone is, well, comfortable, but that’s really no way to live.

I recently spent a week in Vaughan, Ont., attending the building code course – Legal Process for Building Officials. It turned out that many of my classmates work in municipal building and planning departments (as do I), and the rest came from fire departments.

I had gone down to the city on the Sunday night because there was considerable snow in the forecast for the Monday morning. Once I had gotten settled in my hotel room, a minor case of the jitters crept in. This was my first time away from home and away from my husband and kids (aside from repeated trips to the fire college). Needless to say, the urge to be back home in my comfort zone was pretty compelling compared to the unknown of what to expect from the week ahead in my first building-code course.

The instructor was a chief building official from a nearby municipality and I had spoken with him prior to the course so I knew there would be some people from Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services in the class. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, let’s just say that I have a certain fondness for Mississauga. I was a fire inspector there once upon a time – albeit briefly – and even though the timing wasn’t in my favour for a career at that point, the stars were definitely shining on me while I was there.

I assumed the people from Mississauga were likely new inspectors I wouldn’t know, but I found it ironic nonetheless that they’d be in my class. It wouldn’t have surprised me as much if it was a course at the fire college, but I certainly hadn’t expected to know people in a building code course.

Our instructor was staying at the same hotel, so I caught a ride with him over to the Ontario Building Officials Association office where the course was being held on the first morning. I happened to be holding the door open for our instructor to carry in his materials and I glanced up to see a familiar face from Mississauga. It was one of the inspectors from the area with whom I had worked in when I was there, and I couldn’t believe my luck. I was already feeling better about the upcoming week.

I got settled at my assigned table and watched as the rest of the class filtered in. There were three more students from Mississauga with whom I had worked in the class, and a fourth whose name seemed vaguely familiar to me. He hadn’t arrived yet and I assumed he was a new, younger inspector I hadn’t met before. Lo and behold, when he introduced himself to me, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself – he was new alright, the new division chief of fire prevention.

Needless to say, the week turned out to be a very positive experience, both personally and professionally. I met several new acquaintances, but I also met a couple of new friends. Since we were all staying at the same hotel, we had the opportunity to socialize after class. These new friends helped me come out of my shell and have a few good laughs, likely without knowing how much it meant to me.

Networking and socializing are two of the great benefits of attending courses like that. Granted, you learn a lot in class, you strengthen your knowledge base and broaden your horizons, but you can also learn a lot after class.

Inside and outside of class, it’s the people you’re with who make it all worthwhile – talking with people and learning about what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, the funny stories they share and the life lessons they’ve learned.

Great memories with new buddies, dinner out with an amazing friend/editor, a tour of a nearby fire hall with a knowledgeable captain, a couple of harmless pranks and five straight days of building code. What more could a girl want?


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
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