It was an astute juror at the inquest into two firefighter training deaths who asked the most poignant question: “Do you think ice-water rescue training should be required?”
When I first started volunteering as a firefighter I remember hearing words such as “ten-oh-one,” “NFPA,” “IFSAC,” and “Pro Board” thrown around, but I had no idea what they meant or how they applied to me. As I spent more time in the fire service and progressed in my training, I slowly began to understand the jargon and which organizations do what, but it wasn’t until I got serious about obtaining my NFPA 1001 certification that I made a solid effort to figure out how all these organizations relate to each other. The details are very confusing and it took me a long time to unravel all the assorted connections.
Forty years ago, pre-hospital emergency medical care was barely a concept. Ambulances were operated by a patchwork of public health departments, fire departments, volunteer societies and private contractors – usually the local funeral home. The term ambulance was appropriate as the service provided was principally one of transporting patients to hospitals for medical attention.
Training officer Gary Mosburger’s job is to make sure everyone goes home, and that means keeping up with technology that can potentially save firefighter lives.
The following situation is probably familiar: it was a good structure fire; all of the teams performed as expected; few mistakes were made overall; a lot of property was saved; and, most importantly, nobody was hurt. Now, it’s time to clean up. Two firefighters are assigned to walk around and through the scene one last time to check for any equipment that might have been left behind.
Everyone loves shiny, new gadgets. But does the latest and (supposedly) greatest equipment make your firefighters better? There’s a difference between technology and innovation: technology enables innovation, and innovation can make a difference to your crews’ performance.Join Toronto Deputy Chief Darrell Reid and Scott Safety’s Brad Harvey as they dissect the fascinating world of fire-service innovation – from the Internet of things to sensors, signals and analytics – and look at advancements that can boost your team’s performance.The free webinar, hosted by editor Laura King, will be held Thursday, March 24, 2-3 p.m. EST.Busy that day? Sign up anyway – it's free! – and receive an archived link to the webinar to watch at your convenience. Darrell Reid began his emergency-services career in 1989, and joined the Strathcona County Emergency Services (SCES) as a firefighter paramedic in 1992. He was a member of the Executive of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2461 from 1997 until 2003, and served as president for three years. In 2004, Darrell was promoted to deputy chief of operations for SCES and in 2008 to 2013, served as fire chief. Darrell holds an MBA from the University of Alberta and a graduate certificate in emergency management from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was hired as a deputy Chief for Toronto Fire Services in 2013. Brad Harvey is a member of the business intelligence team for Scott Safety and is responsible for the Global Fire Services Strategy. Brad served as a firefighter/paramedic for nearly 16 years before transitioning to the private sector 10 years ago, where he has been very involved with the evaluation, development and introduction of various technology-related products. Brad also authored numerous articles, for a variety of publications, related to first responders and technology as well as a monthly Thermal Imaging column in Firehouse Magazine for six years.
When I set out to write Tim-Bits, I try to pick a topic that centres on modifications I’ve learned over my years of fire fighting that simplify an ordinary task. This column, however, is a bit of a stretch; I’m going to broach the topic of technical rescue.
I am an evangelist for technology in the fire service, but I also see the importance of keeping things simple and know that gadgets do not always improve efficiency on the job. While I still default to making my own notes and lists with pen and paper, there is a case to make for using tablets in the fire service.
Most firefighters in Canada and the United States agree that the numbers of big calls are dwindling, or are few and far between. While most departments are experiencing a slight increase in call volume, the number of significant fire calls is declining. The majority of firefighters are volunteer, or on-call, so there are even fewer chances they will respond to large fires.
Q At what point did you realize the magnitude of the incident and the potential for a media circus?
The superintendent of Toronto’s Badminton and Racquet Club met Capt. Steve Green in the driveway on Monday, Feb. 14. There was a small fire, the super said, on the second floor, that he had put out with an extinguisher. Nothing to worry about.
There is a fine line between being at the tipping point and going over. Firefighters in North Vancouver recently found themselves on the line. The first of many 911 calls came in shortly before 05:00 on Monday, July 18. The alarm had been activated at 357 East 2nd Street in the City of North Vancouver, with callers inside the building reporting a smell of smoke, while neighbours reported visible flames. First alarm assignment was City of North Vancouver Engine 9, Engine 10 and Ladder 10 from the City fire hall as well as District of North Vancouver Engine 6 (spare replacing Quint 2) from District Hall 2. The fire was visible against the pre-dawn sky to the City fire crews responding. Based on what could be seen and with dispatch advising reports of people trapped, Capt. Paul Granger on Engine 9 called for a second alarm while en route. The second alarm would bring District of North Vancouver Engine 1, Rescue 1, Engine 3 and Quint 5 along with West Vancouver Tower 1 (District Tower 1 out of service). Granger established command upon arrival. Built in 1971, 357 East 2nd Street is a wood-frame building with 29 suites on three floors; there are no sprinklers or standpipe, however the fire alarm was upgraded in 2014 and is monitored by a central station. While the building is three storeys at the front, the land drops away to the rear, where the building is five stories high. Lane access to the rear is from the east side only, extending to the parking lot entrance. The rest of the Charlie and Delta sides are city park, with mature trees growing close to the building. Access to the rear is made more challenging by the presence of hydro lines and transformers.City of North Van Chief Dan Pastilli and Assistant Chief Bob Poole were paged out with the initial dispatch as the on-call chief officers. Pastilli quickly realized from the radio traffic that this was the real deal. Granger had established command upon arrival and he remained as incident commander throughout, with Pastilli assisting him and Poole taking the Charlie side in the lane. The District of North Van Duty chief was the safety officer. RCMP officers on patrol had seen the flames and were working through the lower floors of the building, alerting residents and assisting with the evacuation. Third-floor residents were reporting by phone that they were trapped by heat and smoke. First-arriving firefighters laddered the upper balconies on the street side of the building to remove residents, while flames were pouring out of one suite at the rear of the third floor. Capt. Kit Little of District E6 and another firefighter attempted to reach residents at the rear of the third floor from an interior stairwell, but upon cracking open the door on the third floor, were driven back by extreme heat. Hydro wires precluded the use of an aerial. A 35-foot ground ladder barely reached the top-floor balcony where an 88-year old woman was trapped by flames. The first firefighter was unable to get high enough on the ladder to safely grab the woman. The six-foot, four-inch Little waved the firefighter down the ladder. Discarding his SCBA and helmet to minimize his weight and maximize his balance, Little still had to balance on the second rung from the top, as four Mounties on the ground steadied the ladder; he was able to stretch out enough to grab the woman and bring her out over the railing and then get down the ladder far enough to pass her off to firefighters on the balcony below. Not done, he went back up the ladder and scooped her little dog to safety. By this time, BC Hydro had arrived and de-energized the lines at the rear of the building. While the City’s Ladder 10 and West Van’s Tower 1 poured water down from the street side, in the rear District Engine 6 unleashed its deck gun in tandem with Quint 5’s 55-foot ladder pipe. In an interview later, Chief Pistilli described “a very labour-intensive fire” with manpower the key to fighting the fire. Pistilli credits Granger’s quick decision to call the second alarm with getting that manpower in play as soon as possible. The first alarm assignment with three engines and an aerial put 14 firefighters at the scene initially, with the second alarm of two engines, a quint and a rescue from the District along with West Van’s tower adding another 17 personnel on scene in short order. “Enough resources,” said Chief Pistilli, “to allow suppression and rescue operations at the same time.”While the building didn’t have sprinklers or standpipes it did have a firewall that cut the building in half, from east to west. The fire had started on the top floor in the rear on the east side. A two-and-a-half was run in the front door and two inch-and-a-halves were run off in a garden lay to support for interior operations. A team from the District was able to access the third floor from the west side through a fire door and gained a foothold; then it was a matter of doggedly tearing down ceilings. “It was knocked down in about two and a half hours,” said Pistilli, “and we were at a comfortable spot after about four hours.” Manpower was a consideration as the shift change approached. The decision was made to hold over the City night shift of 10 firefighters as the day shift arrived. With the District holding over some of its firefighters, more than 40 personnel were working on the site. Coverage for the City and District of North Vancouver was left to Engine 4 from the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver’s four engine companies. Nightshift firefighters were released starting from about 11:00. “It was their first night shift and we had to give them time to rest before coming back to work that night,” said Pistillli. The decision to hold over the night shift was based on the time; earlier in the shift, it would have required an overtime callback to build up the required personnel. There was one fatality in the fire. Later in the day, as firefighters were working through the suite in which the fire started, a badly burned body was discovered. Information provided to firefighters at the time of their arrival had been that the resident of the suite was out of town. Preliminary investigation suggests that the door to the fire suite may have been opened, accounting for the rapid buildup of smoke and heat through the east half of the third floor, which in turn forced residents to their balconies. Again, Chief Pistilli points out, there were a number of residents who heard the fire alarm, but chose to ignore it. Many who delayed had to be rescued. The firewall not only saved the building, but also saved lives. The upper floors of the Charlie and Delta sides of the west half of the building would have been beyond the reach of ground ladders, and rescuers would have been hindered by trees. The roof design worked in firefighters’ favour: the closed construction prevented the horizontal extension of fire.The fire could have been catastrophic, but several factors worked to prevent that: the firewall was critically important; the role of the RCMP officers in alerting and evacuating residents; the decision to quickly call a second alarm was enabled simultaneous suppression and rescue operations; the decision to hold over the night shift, building up resources and then being able to sustain a concentrated effort to track extensions and hot spots. It’s the little things that keep you from going over the edge.ResponseCity of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Engine 9 Engine 10 Ladder 10 Rescue 10 District of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Hall 1 – Engine 1, Tower 1 (out of service), Rescue 1 Hall 2 – Engine 6 (spare replacing Quint 2) Hall 3 – Engine 3 Hall 4 – Engine 4 Hall 5 – Quint 5 District of West Vancouver Fire Rescue Hall 1 – Engine 1, Tower 1, Rescue 1 Hall 2 – Quint 2 Hall 3 – Engine 3 Hall 4 – Engine 4 357 East 2nd Street – First Alarm City E9, E10, L10, District E6, City duty chief 2nd Alarm District E1, E3, Q5, R1 District duty chief, West Van T1 Firewatch City E11
January 2016 - We had just finished a two-week drought – zero calls for the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service in Alberta. It was Friday night, Nov. 15, and we were all talking about how people must have settled down and we were finally going to enjoy some quieter times. A couple of hours later, at around 6 p.m., we were paged to a confirmed fire at a single-family dwelling. Off we went, loaded up our initial attack truck with a few guys and blazed over, loaded up our ladder truck and tried to find a spot, and finally took the main fire truck and a few extras in a pickup.
A year ago, a resort and conference centre in Stanhope, P.E.I., burned to the ground. North Shore Fire Chief Bob Morrison described the scene, the challenges – including high winds – and the lessons learned to editor Laura King in an interview during the 2013 Maritime Fire Chiefs Association conference in Summerside last July.
On Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7:18 p.m., Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) was called out to a report of a house fire southwest of Bragg Creek, Alta., where June flooding had decimated a large portion of the hamlet.
There are many expectations of fire-service members when we answer a call, too many to count. It doesn’t matter if you are a full-timer, paid on-call, or a true volunteer, the expectations really don’t change. People expect you to know how to handle their emergencies, whatever the nature of the calls. People also expect you to handle calls in a timely, efficient manner, and to quickly stabilize the situation.
Recruiting firefighters is becoming more challenging. Incorporating a comprehensive onboarding program may help departments attract and retain solid members.
How many firefighters does it take to redesign your highrise and standpipe-equipped building-operations procedures? It’s a rhetorical question, based on that old lightbulb analogy, because every fire service does things a bit differently.
A large British Columbia fire department has experienced measurable operational and safety improvements after introducing pay incentives for its 396 unionized staff based on department-wide performance.
Editor’s note: Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly editor Laura King spoke with Scott Mark
The 24-hour shift. Just four words, but an issue that has created a firestorm in some of Canada’s largest fire departments, as firefighters look for better work-life balance and managers weigh operational realities and public safety.
As North American legislators make changes that require employers to prevent all kinds of workplace harassment – not just human rights violations – Canadian fire departments need to understand how the new laws affect them, their workers and their unions.
In January, the Kitchener Fire Department in Ontario adopted a 24-hour shift for its 188 full-time firefighters.
More and more, I hear stories about labour and management working together to achieve positive outcomes – programs such as the IAFF Wellness Fitness Initiative, for example – and buy-in from firefighters to help management and the corporation, reach benchmarks.
It’s a double play on words, to say that firefighter Gary Kendall and firefighting student Adam Brunt were in over their heads during swift-water rescue training in the St. Clair and Saugeen rivers in 2010 and 2015 respectively. But it’s the truth, though no fault of their own.
Remember when Toronto mayor Mel Lastman called in the army to shovel snow and the whole country guffawed?
Several years ago, I spent a day at Edmonton Fire Rescue, learning about fire-hall routines and responding to calls with the rescue and pumper crews. My blog from June 25, 2010, tells part of the story: “A call came in for the unglamorous task of unclogging a needle deposit box at a community centre – a task probably not unique to Edmonton Fire but not common to many Canadian departments . . . ”
Sometimes I feel as though I should have been a firefighter in the ’70s when firemen were firemen and we rode on the apparatus tailboards, our senior officers were one generation removed from the war, and folks appeared to be just a whole bunch tougher. These were the times when you were told to suck it up, quit your complaining, and “Take it like a man.” When veteran firefighters tell stories about what it was like to be on the job back then, I am so proud of our history and a little fearful for our future if we don’t start to understand just where we are going.
No one signs up to be a firefighter to do what crews in Vancouver’s downtown east side do every day: administer lifesaving anti-overdose drugs to opioid users – sometimes several times a day and sometimes to the same user twice in one shift.
One has only to consider pop culture to conclude that the thin line of appropriateness has changed significantly in the past 20 years – from movies such as Deadpool and The Hangover, to Cards Against Humanity, to the acceptable words allowed on mainstream television.A single episode of Game of Thrones raises (or lowers?) the benchmark of graphic violence on screen. Fifty Shades of Grey floated topics to the pop-culture surface that were previously considered downright deviant. It’s no wonder that the fire service struggles to balance its feet on that fine line between what grabs people’s attention and what puts them off. As we yearn to adopt the approach of corporations that have successfully lured audiences with racy, sexy, raunchy and borderline offensive campaigns, our mindful gaze also recognizes that the red tape of municipal professionalism demands a high level of G-rated, approved-for-all-audiences messaging. This precariously thin line is also the difference between messaging that is skipped over by the people we are trying to reach, and campaigns or promotions that prompt behaviour changes. In case you’re asking, “Why does it matter?” look no further than movements such as the ALS ice-bucket challenge or the recent Pokemon Go craze to see that when something is new and cool, it prompts people to act. In our case, we want to prompt mom or dad to insist on a home-escape plan, Sally to check her smoke alarm or Tom to replace his expired CO alarm. How does a fire department balance on that line? Good news: there are companies that do this with everything they produce; they create G-rated products that kids go crazy about, and cleverly insert just the right dash of adult-oriented content; they have names such as Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. You can sit with the whole family to watch Shrek, Finding Nemo and Toy Story; the kids will laugh at the characters’ antics, but the parents will catch the clever adult-humour insertions that have become a go-to ingredient for production companies. Toy Story is one of the most successful family movie franchises and is also brimming with parent-geared messaging. When Bo Peep says to Woody, “Whadda ya say I get someone else to watch the sheep tonight?” we all know what Bo Peep means. In the mutant-toys scene, when they come alive in front of toy-bully Sid, Woody turns his head 360 degrees, a comical tribute to the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Family movies today are packed with adult-oriented punchlines and references in disguise (in Despicable Me, under the sign identifying the Bank of Evil, it states “Formerly Lehman Brothers”). Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks realized a long time ago that while the target audience for their movies is primary-school-aged children, those audience members don’t go to theatres by themselves – they are always accompanied by parents or older siblings. Movie studios also realized during the VHS and DVD eras that if they had any hope of parents wanting to bring those movies into their homes, the parents must not mind watching. Lessons I have learned: Messaging approved for all audiences does not have to be boring, nor does it have to appeal only to toddlers Public-education programs and events need to offer something for everyone We can balance on the line by being creative and clever in our messaging Stale, generic messaging will not prompt anyone to act; we have to present stuff that is new and cool We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty of ways to piggyback on pop culture and still get the message across Applying the lessonsIt seems unattended cooking is still a big problem. Unfortunately, the generic “Watch what you heat” messaging doesn’t seem to capture people’s attention. So, using a little creativity-and-clever-humour disguise, maybe we can twist the message into something that elicits a response. Post a tweet featuring a photo of a romantic dinner for two, a second photo of a pot on a stove, and a third of a house on fire, accompanied by the message “There are great ways to heat up a romance. Unattended cooking isn’t one of them.” Chances are good that the message will be retweeted by people other than just fire-service colleagues. Post a similar message about flameless candles. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriaf287e15266 Pop culture offers so many funny examples of events gone wrong. For example, instead of issuing the same old water-your-Christmas-tree message, insert an image from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie and tease people about ensuring they have a Griswold-free holiday season (and add the watering tree tip afterward). Or say something about making sure cousin Eddie is the only unwanted guest this holiday season by ensuring you have working CO and smoke alarms. Humour is the quickest and most powerful way to engage an audience. Production companies such as Disney have proven that there are ways to produce a message approved for all audiences but that captures the attention of those who are responsible for taking action, such as buying a DVD or changing a smoke alarm battery. While fire services many never experience their own super-cool movements, there are plenty of opportunities to capitalize on fads and crazes and twist our messages into something new and cool.If only Nintendo had included “Carry Pikachu home and test your smoke alarms” in its Pokemon Go game.
October 2015 - You can see them coming. It’s almost comical that they think you won’t notice their evasive manoeuvres. There are the power-walkers who blow by your entire row, there are the if-I-don’t-make-eye-contact-I’m-safe folks, and then there are the ones who glance in your direction, their sensors picking up the safety aspect of your display and they high-tail it to the next area of booths. If my chief would let me, I’d post a sign that says, “We see you. We know you’re avoiding us on purpose.”
Three Breast Friends put one foot in front of the other and set off on an adventure they never expected.
How do we help every member of the fire service educate the public about fire safety?
Earlier this year, the National Geographic channel aired a six-part documentary, titled Inside Combat Rescue.
I have had the great privilege of being part of the fire service for two decades. Over the last 20 years I have grown, and cultured an understanding about people, service, leadership, management, medicine, and of course fire fighting. In this business it’s all about giving, and making the fire service better. In turn, the service provides you with rewards and life skills that are priceless.
For the past 20 years, I have been responding to tragic incidents and comforting those in need during their worst days. In April, my wife, Cathy, and I were literally in the eye of the storm. We were on vacation in Australia as Cyclone Debbie struck. As an emergency responder, this experience provided me with some amazing insight and confirmed some best practices that are integral to emergency management.
Every morning I get into my vehicle, turn the key and, due to years of engineering behind the internal combustion engine, my ride starts up and I’m on my way. I then drop in at the local coffee shop, where pleasant and observant staff start making my regular order before I reach for the change in my pocket. I never think about saying “Sue, the coffee process is running top-notch today.” Maybe I should.
It was probably five years into my firefighting days when I showed up to the station for a call and was one of the senior firefighters present: there were no red helmets and no whites to be found just yet, just a bunch of yellow-helmet firefighters looking to go on a call and get the job done. Someone had to ride up front with the driver. The hot seat, as it is so often referred to, was the last one to get filled. So I thought to myself, I can work a radio and I can read a map, so how hard can it be to run a truck? So I jumped in.
Leadership is about sharing knowledge and demonstrating a clear vision; it is also about inspiring others around you. Imagine starting each shift with a clear understanding of our purpose – our why. I want to share a simple idea that can bring you and your fire department to greatness.
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