Canadian Firefighter Magazine

From planning to execution: Technical rescue training with Gunter Kramer

By Brittani Schroeder   

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Gunter Kramer. Submitted photo.

Recently, Canadian Firefighter sat down with Gunter Kramer, assistant chief of professional development and training at the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (DNVFRS), to discuss technical rescue training.

Keeping up to date on these skills is a top priority for the DNVFRS team. Because of the geographic topography, the department receives a high volume of technical rescue calls in its area. Each year, members receive nine weeks of specialized training so that they can respond to these calls confidently.

Q: What is your process for deciding which training initiatives DNVFRS will focus on each year?

Gunter Kramer (GK): Our technical rescue instructor group drives all our training. There are 15 people in that group, and they get together in March of every year to discuss what they’d like to go over this year and what they think is needed. It’s either driven by new technology or the call volume we received the year before, plus new emergencies that we may experience and deal with. They typically take two to three days as instructor development days and decide on a lesson plan.



GK: Since COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase of people in our parks, and we have a lot of canyons and mountain bike trails. If these people need help, it would rely on our technical rescue training. The younger generation tend not to obey signs, even though we have some pretty graphic signs in our district. For example, one says that 22 people have died in that particular spot. But people still climb over the fence; two hours later, their friends call us because they can’t get out. Now we must go down there and get him. So it’s really important that we train in these areas.



GK: We always try to do our technical rescue training in May and June, mostly because of the weather and the closely approaching tourist seasons. Because we didn’t have a large snow melt this year, the water levels are extremely low, so it’s been a bit of a challenge to find spots to train in. The training can’t be pushed back too far, though, because then the training intervenes with real calls for service. July and August are our busiest months for rescue calls, especially on the weekends.


Q: What has assisted your team the most throughout the training process?



GK: When we compare ourselves to other fire departments across North America, we are amongst those who have the highest tech rescue calls. We’ve even seen a higher volume than Boulder, Colorado. Because of how close we are to Metro Vancouver, we get so many tourists hiking, mountain biking, and just visiting for a period of time. It’s a very popular area.


Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?



GK: We are very lucky to work closely with other departments on financing and human resources, and with city councillors who support our training initiatives. They know that we have different needs than other municipalities.

Remember to listen to the people who deal with this regularly. Do what makes sense, and what makes sense is normally determined by multiple people, not just one. They work this way in other fields, too, so it should also make sense in the fire service. It’s multiplied here and a more obvious decision because we work in emergency situations. If something goes wrong in an office, it’s not a big deal. If we do something wrong in the fire service, we could be risking the safety of our residents. It’s a totally different ball game.

Editor’s note: Parts of this interview have been condensed and edited for clarity.

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