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November 20, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg


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Nov. 20, 2012, Waubaushene, Ont. – “Pump 3 on scene at 450 Park St. We have a two-storey single-family dwelling with smoke and flames visible from the roof. Page out Station 1 for additional manpower and apparatus, and have police, EMS and hydro respond. Firefighter 302 will be command, known as Park Steet command; command will be located at Pump 3.”

Nov. 20, 2012, Waubaushene, Ont. – “Pump 3 on scene at 450 Park St. We have a two-storey single-family dwelling with smoke and flames visible from the roof. Page out Station 1 for additional manpower and apparatus, and have police, EMS and hydro respond. Firefighter 302 will be command, known as Park Steet command; command will be located at Pump 3.”

This, or something similar, was heard numerous times over the first two days of the Intro to IMS course I attended on the weekend. The group was made up of a mixture of officers and firefighters, volunteer and full-timers, many with 10 to 15 years of service or more, and a couple with less than five years. Regardless of position or rank in their respective fire halls, all were on the same level in class.

Helmet colour aside, a lot of what was discussed in the course wasn’t necessarily new to any of us, but the concepts and tools that were provided, combined with previous learning and experience, evolved into a standard method for providing a clear and concise initial report.

I’ll admit, it may not have been über smooth when we started running through our initial reports for the first time, some of us may have missed a detail here or there (especially when the prompts were removed from the screen), but the more we did, the better we got. As one of our instructors noted, it really does get easier the more you practise it.

By the end of the second day, I found myself doing initial reports in my head as I passed different houses during the drive home. I was pretty proud of myself. It sure seemed to me like I was getting the hang of it. Granted, practising in the safety of my car or role playing in the classroom is not the same as pulling up on a real fire scene. Trying to sound calm on the radio while flames are shooting out of the building and your brain is struggling to remember the key elements of an initial report isn’t always easy, or smooth.

I’m sure everyone has a story about a fellow firefighter whose voice raised an octave or two when he arrived on the scene of a big call, or perhaps, the choice of terminology wasn’t exactly textbook.

Joking aside, relaying the right information at the right time plays a critical role in the overall outcome of an incident. The more we learn, the more we practise, the more we use what we’ve been taught, the safer we’ll all be.

Should I find myself in a situation in the future where I am the one giving the initial report, I’m confident that I’ll do a better job now having taken this course.

However, me being me, there’s always a chance that it might not go as smoothly as I’d like to think. . . .

Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire career with the Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department's fire prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at it. E-mail her at jhook0312@yahoo.ca and follow her on Twitter at @jenmabee.


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