Hot Topics

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.
Most firefighters, officers, or chief officers strive for perfection on the job. Every run that I am on, in whatever role I find myself, I try to perform to the best of my abilities and rely on my training and lessons learned from past experiences. Some of those experiences are mistakes I’ve made. We all slip up now and then, whether we choose to admit it or not. I believe a good leader admits those mistakes, learns from them and moves on.In my first year as an acting captain I made a few funny blunders that prove I’m human. None of those mistakes caused any harm to my crew or myself and really only bruised my new red-helmet ego. When I took the front seat I was aware of my new responsibilities and I knew the time would come when I would serve as an incident commander (IC). The opportunity arrived when my crew was called to a single car motor-vehicle collision with air-bag deployment. I took the IC role and climbed in the first-responding truck with a crew of three. Upon arrival I announced our situation to dispatch and jumped off the truck onto the highway. My second-due apparatus blocked off the north-bound lanes and I called for the same on the south-bound lanes. My crew performed patient care and I obtained information from bystanders. I kept fidgeting with my traffic vest, which read INCIDENT COMMAND on the back in big letters on a reflective background. I couldn’t get the vest to stay latched in the front (I was thinking it was time for a diet plan). One of my firefighters came up and offered to help. Without making too much of a scene he gave me the heads up that my vest was on upside down. We all get a chuckle out of small, funny mistakes that happen during calls. My chiefs said something like: “If that is the worst thing that happened on the scene, we’ll take it.” It takes time to adjust to the role of captain and to feel comfortable riding up front on the first truck. During my first response as IC, the biggest challenge was being hands off. I wanted to grab a hose or the extrication tools and get involved with the tactical operations. Becoming a captain doesn’t mean my hands-on days are over, but it does mean I will sometimes take on the command role. An IC needs to be available to the crews on scene, dispatchers and incoming trucks in order to manage the scene and keep everyone safe. It’s tough to stay separated from the tasks that need to be done, which depend on the type of incident and number of staff. A captain needs to trust his or her crews and to supervise them in a non-micromanaging fashion. You’ve trained alongside your crew members and you know their abilities. Your job is to keep your firefighters safe, to save saveable lives and to stabilize the incident. Sometimes you need to take a couple of deep, calming breaths to keep yourself in the right mind frame to accomplish your priorities. I’m proud to work with the members on my department. I know that even though I am still learning how to lead a scene or supervise at the task level, those members will help me with what needs to be done. If I’m backing up one of my other crew members or chief officers at a scene, I’ll do the same for them. Egos and personalities are set aside during these operations as we all focus on the common goal of resolving the scene.New captains in fire services, don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Acknowledgment allows you to learn from that mistake and become a better leader. Your crews should respect your humility and you will, hopefully, not make the same mistake twice. As firefighters, we train as best as we can to make our emergency responses perfect, but we all know the real world throws us curves. We may not obtain perfection on all our calls, but if we aim to be perfect, we should at least come very close and be more than satisfied with our crews’ performance as well as our own.Jason Clark has been a volunteer firefighter in southwestern Ontario since 2007. Having recently made the transition to captain from firefighter, Jason has had a new perspective on roles in the fire service and riding in the front seat.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it    @jacejclark
Life is all about making decisions and as I write this column, I find myself in between the last big decision I made, and the one I’m about to make. I decided in March to leave my full-time job in the planning department with the municipality for which I am a volunteer firefighter. I knew unequivocally at that point that it was time for me to go. My heart wasn’t in it and my spirit had dwindled.Some in my inner circle (OK, my mother) expressed surprise and dismay at me walking away from a secure job with good benefits. No surprise really – I’m 44 and she’s 82 and she still mothers me, but that’s what mothers do, and I’m OK with that. I’m thankful that she’s still here to do it. I knew leaving my job was the right move for me, but what we know in our hearts to be true is sometimes called into question by those we love.Other people assumed that my husband and I were well enough off that I didn’t have to work. After hearing that comment for the second or third time, I matter-of-factly pointed out that we weren’t any better off than anyone else, that this was something I had prepared for financially, and that I would be getting another job at some point. One co-worker in particular gave me all of the support and encouragement she could muster, in spite of losing one of her closest work buddies.So what does my last career decision have to do with fire fighting? I believe that we are all put here for a reason, and that reason is unique for each of us. We all have gifts buried deep within, and it’s our mission to unveil these gifts and offer them to the world. For many of you, the gift that you share found its wings through the serving of others in the role of firefighter, fire-prevention officer, public-information officer, public-education officer, inspector, lieutenant, captain, chief, dispatcher, or any other fire-service role conceivable. You love what you do. You find your work inspiring, motivating and rewarding. You feel it in your soul that it’s what you are called to do, especially when you’ve come to the aid of someone in their time of need, and witnessed the positive effect you’ve had on the lives of – in most cases – strangers.It’s an honour and a privilege to serve in such a way, and it’s an integral part of restoring our faith in humanity. When there is tragedy, we’re told to look for the helpers. As I write this, the wildfire in Fort McMurray is devastating the lives of Albertans – but we bear witness to acts of courage, bravery, love, determination and humanity. On the very worst days of peoples’ lives, they received the very best that people have to offer of themselves – their gifts. Whether it’s a bottle of water, a kind word, or a hug, people gave humanity back to humanity. Tragedies are just that, tragic, but they also provide us with opportunities to bare our souls to others in their times of need. I’ve often struggled with the notion that so many people live their lives in shrouds, behind facades. Why are we so afraid to drop the bravado and just be who we really, truly are? We are vulnerable, honest, caring, compassionate, loving human beings. At our core, we all want the same things: to be loved, acknowledged and accepted for who we are. I believe that we in the fire service do just that when we’re called upon to help others. When firefighters are putting out flames, we are working together as a team with a common goal of stopping the loss. We come together, whether it’s multiple stations, departments, provinces, or entire countries. When we’re performing a rescue, we’re present in the moment, focused on the task at hand; we’re genuine in the words we use with patients and the actions we take to get them to safety. That is what I’m on a mission to do and that’s why I left my job at the township. I am on a mission to live a more authentic, honest, heartfelt life of service. No, I’m not joining a convent, I am simply following my heart and doing the best I can with what I’ve been given – to help humanity in whatever way I’m called to do.I will always be in the fire service, because the love runs far too deeply for me to ever not be, and because I’ve always found a fulfilling connection to the act of helping others. Where life takes me next is anyone’s guess, but as long as I’m using my life as a vehicle for positive intention and sharing my gifts with others for the greater good, I’m OK not knowing.Update: It turns out that my leap of faith led me to a new way of sharing my passion for the fire service – as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College. I’m blessed to be working with a fantastic team of dedicated individuals and grateful to be in a position through which I’m fortunate to meet so many members from throughout the fire service. Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  @georgianbayjen
The phone rings in your fire chief’s office with news that  one of the department’s members has passed away suddenly; it is a line of duty death (LODD). With a sinking heart and eyes full of tears, the chief mourns the loss of one of his firefighters. After getting a grip on emotions, the chief’s mind races frantically over the details that will have to be organized over the next 48 hours.The chief needs to inform the department, contact the family, the funeral home and fire-department chaplain (if the department has one) and make various other arrangements. Depending on the circumstances, the media might also have to be informed. Visitation, funeral and reception details need to be sorted. City police might be enlisted to assist with road closures. Arrangements will have to be made with local hotels to accommodate firefighters from other departments who may want to pay their respects. The overwhelming number of details for which the department is responsible causes the chief to realize how truly unprepared everyone is to effectively handle this situation. Was there a way to reduce this stress and anxiety ahead of time? Can departments be better prepared for such a daunting task? Absolutely. The addition of an honour-guard division to a department puts into place the tools to assist members, and to support each other and the grieving family. The creed of the honour guard is to honour the fallen, remember the traditions and support the families of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their communities. An honour guard provides stability and guidance, and maintains meaningful practices in the fire service.Components of an honour-guard divisionIn order for an honour-guard division to run smoothly, the following team positions should be in place:A co-ordinator, who is responsible for overseeing all facets of the division and provides guidance and direction to the participating members. The co-ordinator also maintains all communication with the fire chief and relevant parties. This person should be proficient in all elements of communication, including social media.An assistant co-ordinator, who supports the co-ordinator in all duties and responsibilities and acts as acting co-ordinator in the co-ordinator’s absence.A drill commander, who leads marching drills with a powerful voice and has knowledge of marching commands. The Canadian Forces Drill Manual outlines movements that can be altered to suit individual situations.) Pipes and drums; any members with these musical skills can play for your department or join in with other departments at appropriate opportunities.The colour party generally consists of flags, but axes, pike poles and other firefighting tools can also be used if available.The marching unit comprises members who will march in parades or other special events; it is generally made up of two or more members. All these components come together to create a formal and complete honour-guard division, however, not all of these components are necessary to begin building your team. With just the class-A dress uniform, some strong leadership and commitment, any department can start an honour-guard unit. The Brampton Fire & Emergency Services honour guard began in 1974, wearing simple shirts and ties; don’t be intimidated – you have to start somewhere.Choosing membersThe type of person who will best represent what the honour-guard division is all about is one who carries himself or herself respectfully and demonstrates an appreciation for appearance, etiquette, values and professionalism. These members should go through a probationary period to make sure that they are worthy of the honour of being part of the honour guard. Members of the honour guard should be cognizant of the fact that they represent not only their departments, but also their chiefs, their cities and their country while on duty in their uniforms. These recommendations are guidelines drawn from personal experience; in the end, whether a member becomes part of the honour guard is at the discretion of the co-ordinator.Drills and equipmentDrills, or marching practices, are necessary to maintain precision, unison and cohesiveness in the marching unit. Once a location has been finalized, drills should occur a minimum of once a month. The co-ordinator may determine that more practices are prudent, especially during the building phases of a department’s honour guard. It should be noted that even veteran honour-guard teams meet once a month to maintain their skills. While a gymnasium works perfectly as a practice venue, the apparatus floor can always be used as a parade square. While attendance at practices should not be mandatory, members should be encouraged to attend to achieve consistency and so everyone is well prepared if called to duty. Dividing drills into workshops works well when teaching isolated skills such as  funeral details, visitation and casket details, carrying flags, carrying axes and pike poles,  marching rhythms, patterns and commands, and details pertaining to other special events.It’s important to have certain props on hand so that the honour guard is ready when called upon; these include flags, flag stands, flag holsters, axes, pike poles, white gloves, pipes and drums, and, hopefully, at some point, a special honour-guard uniform separate from the fire-department uniform. The honour-guard co-ordinator should establish a routine for maintenance and safe and accessible storage of these items. There are numerous Canadian websites that sell honour-guard equipment.Events and financesAn established and active honour guard will attend events other than funerals, such as:  City parades Retirement parties Firefighter last-day-at-work march-out Weddings Recruit graduations Local sporting events Mayoral inaugurations Award banquets Charity events Fire-station openings Canada Day celebrations Participating in community events will epitomize your department as an active, contributing and relevant part of your municipality. An honour guard can also participate in funerals outside its own city, province and country. Protocols for attendance at such events need to be established  upon development of an honour-guard team in order to be prepared when a situation arises. These protocols should be created by the co-ordinator and the fire chief.The co-ordinator and the fire chief should also discuss financial support for the honour-guard division and determine the level of funding available from the department. There are, of course, other funding options, including the firefighters association and the municipality. Monies can be used to purchase and maintain equipment, for travel and accommodation at events, and to buy uniforms. However, it should be noted that members might have to pay for room and board when attending events out of town. While this is not ideal, this might be the norm at the building stages of your honour-guard unit.An honour guard can be started without financial support from outside units, simply by wearing a dress uniform and making a commitment to attend local events and firefighter funerals; doing so will promote that idea that the honour guard is an active division in the fire department and within the community, and this visibility may lead to future financial support.In addition to the honour-guard co-ordinators, it is a good idea to have a responsible and trustworthy member act as treasurer.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleria507e536756 Uniforms and rulesA standard class-A tunic provided to firefighters at graduation can be worn as an honour-guard uniform. The addition of white gloves, a rope lanyard placed on the left shoulder, and perhaps a polished boot or tuxedo shoe will enhance the look and distinguish honour-guard members from other firefighters. Purchasing a custom uniform comes with time and money. Rules, while in uniform, are different then when not in uniform. Once the uniform is on, members should not chew gum or monitor cell phone use; hat protocols should be practiced (indoors and outdoors). In addition, members should maintain a clean, tidy appearance, and carry themselves professionally as representatives of their professions, cities and departments.For more information and direction about establishing an honour-guard division, look to a neighbouring department that has an active honour guard. There is also an opportunity to gather information at the third annual Canadian honour-guard convention in Niagara Falls this spring (http://www.hgconvention.com).The traditions of the fire service are maintained through an honour guard. The Latin phrase Semper paratus means always ready. The responsibility of an honour guard to its department is to continue to practise and maintain fire-service traditions and to represent the department with honour, integrity, pride and professionalism at all events and opportunities.  Being ready when duty calls, and being able to adapt quickly, are key characteristics of a polished honour guard. When you have an active and present honour guard, all who come in contact with its members will appreciate the dignified and professional presence.Charlie Martin, who founded Brampton’s honour guard, said, “Never let our honour guard die.” I am doing my best to fulfill his request and inspire others to do the same.Components   of an honour-guard division Co-ordinator – overseees all facets of the divison; provides guidance and direction to members . Assistant co-ordinator – supports the co-ordinator in all duties and responsibiities; becomes acting co-ordinator when necessary. Pipes and drums – any member with these musical skills can play for your department Colour party – consists of flags, axes, pike pokes and other fire fighting tools Marching unit – all interested department members can participate through this unit Jordan Paris has been a full-time firefighter for 18 years a proud member of the Brampton Fire & Emergency Services ceremonial honour guard for 12 years, serving the last two as co-ordinator and commander. He can be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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.
All the negative stories regarding fire departments providing first and co-response EMS services have led me to wonder who is being served by not playing nicely in the sandbox. Certainly these us-versus-them situations fail to put the customer. or patient, first. Members of the High Level Fire Department (HLFD) are part of the patient-care process, even when EMS is on scene first. Our system is based on a patient-first philosophy and it works; perhaps other regions can learn from us.High Level, located in northwest Alberta, is a community of just under 4,000 people. With an initial response area including a 40-kilometre  radius of the town as well as highway response 200 kilometres to the north, 100  kilometres to the south, 40  kilometres east and 70 kilometres to the west, the HLFD has a large responsibility. One of those services is medical co-response.The HLFD is part of the Alberta Medical First Response Program, which was developed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) when it took over responsibility for EMS in 2009.  The program has grown and the HLFD is growing along with it. The EMS service in High Level is provided by a contracted service to AHS.  The company, Aeromedical Emergency Services, has a longstanding, great working relationship with the HLFD. The HLFD is a volunteer service with three staff (two full-time equivalents) providing administrative direction and command capability to the more than 35 volunteers. The HLFD has always provided assistance to EMS at a first-response level, but since the development of the Medical First Response (MFR) Program, the working relationship has grown with the service level. Approximately half of the HLFD staff have medical training above first aid; this includes four staff trained as emergency response technicians (EMTs) who are primary-care paramedics, and eight emergency medical responders (EMRs), all of whom are registered with the Alberta College of Paramedics. Another six staff members are trained as first medical responders (FMR), which is similar to an EMR, with 80-hours of classroom training. The majority of the volunteers all have standard first-aid with additional training on spinal immobilization, stretcher operation and oxygen administration, as well the ability to operate the department’s monitors/defibrillators (LP12s). Firefighters have medical training built into weekly training nights, and dedicated medical training nights are scheduled every six weeks for currency training. The HLFD also uses an online learning-management system for additional training. Staff from Aeromedical regularly attend training nights. All new Aeromedical staff meet senior HLFD staff and tour HLFD facilities.The HLFD provides up to basic life support care to first-response calls and carries advanced airways, as well as epinephrine for allergic reactions, ASA for heart attacks, instant glucose, D50W and Glucagon for diabetic emergencies, and Atrovent and Ventolin for respiratory distress. Some medications are approved for use by FMR/EMR staff and the rest are reserved for use by EMT staff.  The department is adding Narcan – an opiate antidote – once training is complete.The HLFD responds to all Delta- and Echo-level calls (potentially life threatening) as well as any call with an ambulance delay of 15 minutes or more. In 2015, EMS calls comprised about 56 per cent of the HLFD call volume (178 calls). This percentage is not uncommon in Alberta, where the majority of MFR programs utilize similar parameters; the difference lies in the proud and seamless working relationship between the two agencies.  When HLFD staff arrive, usually with a crew of between four and six personnel, some firefighters are assigned to assist with patient care with the paramedics, and some ready the stretcher or start preparing whatever device is  required for patient transport. Once on-scene treatment is complete, HLFD members assist with the patient in the ambulance. This may involve starting IVs, taking vitals, assisting with patient airway or anything else that is within the scope of training. HLFD members attend in the back of the ambulance on approximately 75 per cent of co-response calls; this improves patient care and helps firefighters stay current on skills. Once at the hospital, firefighters assist with patient transfer and, when requested, even assist nursing staff. If firefighters are not required to assist at the hospital, the fire crew that follows the ambulance to the hospital will help to ready the ambulance for the next call by preparing the stretcher, cleaning the ambulance interior or assisting where needed to ensure that the EMS crew can have a quick turnaround.  When not training or responding, both services attend social events together and co-operate on joint public presentations. It is this type of community effort and co-operation that shows what can be accomplished when services set aside differences and do what is best for the community.Rodney Schmidt is the fire chief and director of protective services for the Town of High Level, responsible for fire protection in an area spanning more than 37,000 square kilometers in Alberta’s northwest.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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.  
I remember, from when I was young, the deafening sound of the fire-station siren piercing the quiet town’s ambiance. You couldn’t mistake this siren for a train; you knew the firefighters were responding to an emergency. I would watch the green lights from the vehicles from across the creek that ran behind our house; it was so quiet I could hear the car doors slam as one by one the responders would show up to the station and get on the trucks. A few moments later the diesel engines rumbled out to the ramp and I could see the flashing red lights of the trucks making their way onto the street. While watching the convoy of fire trucks I remember saying to myself as a 10-year-old boy, “I’m going to do that.”So the ball was set in motion from a young age. Fresh from college and pretty much thinking I had the world by the tail, the department was recruiting so I thought I would throw in my application and give back a few years of community service. It was February 2007 when I started as a probationary firefighter at my hometown volunteer station. If you told me as a rookie that I was to be promoted to acting captain and then captain in seven years, I would have laughed and said “I’m not going near the front hot seat.”My station has 25 personnel assigned to it; I think most of us seem to forget that we were all the newest members of the department at one point or another. Even if you have academy training, or come from another department or station within the municipality, you still are tasked with learning names, truck numbers and where everything is.          I’m here to tell you when you promote up and take a new helmet colour, chances are you are the newest member again but in a whole different world. I promoted up after my wife constantly wanted to know when I was going to apply to become a captain. There were many excuses and many reasons (no good ones, just ask her!) and I talked myself out of the application process. I was comfortable riding in the back, facing backwards and being a worker bee. But deep down I was tempted to take a look at what the front seat had in store. It was 2014 when the chief notified me that I was officially taking over a vacant posting as an acting captain that I had applied for previously. Many different feelings came over me when I saw this. I knew I was ready for the position, but it felt like stepping into the batter’s box. I needed to put some numbers on the board, so to speak. I wondered how the other firefighters would react to me switching helmets, especially the ones who had more years on the fire department than I had on this Earth (literally).  I honestly can’t say that everyone was shaking my hand and helping me move my gear down to my new locker with the other officers, but I felt that I had earned the respect of most of the firefighters on my department and to this day I think that’s true. I know I can sit down and shoot the breeze with our oldest member and walk away with something from the conversation. The department you work for has a buffet of knowledge to offer from your various members; try to fill your plate with as much of that as you can. I have members on my department who have been fighting fires for more than 40 years and some for just a few months, but there is a valuable perspective that can be taken from each member.  To the newly promoted officers or even the ones who are thinking about the process of promoting in a volunteer department: your role in the fire service will change. You will probably be judged on your past experience, years of service or even age by your peers. Be prepared for more paperwork. Be prepared to read more and educate yourself on your own time. And if you get the nod to step up to a new, higher rank, tighten up your batter’s gloves, step in the box and get ready to swing away. That front officer’s seat looked like the next step to me from the back of the truck and it wasn’t going to fill itself.Jason Clark has been a volunteer firefighter in southwestern Ontario since 2007. Having recently made the transition to captain from firefighter, Jason has had a new perspective on roles in the fire service and riding in the front seat. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   or twitter@jacejclark
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.

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Latest Events

No events

Marketplace