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Jennifer Grigg   

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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 and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen

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