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September 3, 2013
By Jennifer Grigg


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Sept. 3, 2013, Port Severn, Ont. – Friday night of the last long weekend of summer. The perfect setting for a dinner with friends (fellow firefighters and spouses from my significant other’s other department) at a popular local waterfront restaurant.

Sept. 3, 2013, Port Severn, Ont. – Friday night of the last long weekend of summer. The perfect setting for a dinner with friends (fellow firefighters and spouses from my significant other’s other department) at a popular local waterfront restaurant.

We’re just about to order (and I’m excited because I’m starving) when a faint series of beeps emanates from somewhere and we all look around at each other.

As we reach for our pagers, the fella beside me looks at me and says, “It must be yours because it’s not ours.” I’m digging for my pager in my purse, while significant other – Earl – is also reaching for his.

It turns out to be a medical call out on an island in one of our other hall’s areas. (Our department’s coverage area includes about 1,100 marine-access only homes and cottages over about 650 square kilometres). But that station’s members are already out in their boat on another medical call.

Earl and I look at each other across the table. He raises an eyebrow. “Well?” he says. I let out a sigh and say, “Let’s go. Maybe there’ll be enough people respond and they won’t need us. Then we can come back.”

Just three of us responded to the hall initially. As I radioed our dispatch to man the hall, a fourth member showed up. We quickly hooked up the boat trailer, grabbed the necessary medical gear off of our other truck, and headed to the marina to launch the boat.

We double checked the address with our dispatch and quickly recognized that the location given was likely a campsite at one of the several campgrounds on the island, since it’s a national park, but we had no way of knowing which campground. As the captain tried to verify the caller’s location with dispatch, I scanned the map book for the location on the island and best route to take.

Our dispatch was only able to give us #4 and the island name, but continued to try to reach the caller to get more information.

Dispatch was eventually able to give us the name of the beach the
callers were at, and fortunately, we were able to find a bay by the same
name on the island in our map book. I also went on the website for our
dispatch on my iPhone while en route to the marina and checked the map
details, which confirmed that we were going to the right area. Thank
goodness for the technology we now have available to us.

By the time we got to the marina, we had determined the quickest way to get to the island and the patient. We had a firefighter waiting in his driveway as we passed so he followed us to the marina, and we had another respond a second truck shortly thereafter.

I was quite impressed by how quickly and efficiently we pulled everything together, determined where we were headed, launched the boat, loaded the boat, got out to the island, picked up the patient, and had her back to the marina and a waiting ambulance in a short amount of time. It was a very well-executed call.

And, for the record, I also recognize that our firefighters in Station #1 are routinely called out to medical calls on the islands and do a fantastic job, especially the pitch-black-middle-of-the-night calls.

However, these guys do have the luxury of knowing the islands and waterways like the backs of their hands, and having a boat already in the water.

Bottom line, we’re all on the same team, we all do a great job and we’re all here to help each other.

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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