If you have been following us on Twitter and Facebook you would have noticed that we have been concentrating on numerous training evolutions this summer. This is because the firefighters from the PAFD are expected to be competent and confident in their duties and regular training is a must if we are to remain technically proficient.
Today’s fire service in more than the old adage, “put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” and in this column I want to identify several reasons why we have scheduled monthly training.
The Occupational Health & Safety Regulations, 1996 states that “all firefighters receive the training necessary to ensure that the firefighter is able to carry out safely any emergency operation that the firefighter will be expected to carry out.” Even though this legislation has existed since 1996, few people realize that we “must” abide by this legislation and ensure that the department has a training program in place.
The department has an annual training schedule so our firefighters are trained to the level of service that we are expected to deliver to our community. For the PAFD, this means we train to the levels identified in Bylaw 22, The Fire & Emergency Services bylaw.
A failure to train properly increases the risk of injury for the firefighter, which could result in a workman’s compensation claim and leave a platoon short staffed. In addition to the above, the Occupational Health & Safety Regulations identifies “special operations” as emergency incidents to which firefighters respond that require specific and advanced training and specialized tools and equipment, and includes water rescue, confined space entry, high-angle rescue and incidents involving hazardous materials.”
It is worth noting that due to the complexity of technical rescue situations, the legislation deemed it necessary to identify “special operations.”
There is little doubt that special operations pose significant risk for our staff and being a firefighter today is more complex than ever. Our training was analyzed in-depth in 2009 and in 2010 we implemented a five-year Strategic Plan for Technical Rescue Training (special operations) for the department.
The department is cognizant of the fact that “special operations” training must be an ongoing effort and because there is very little margin for error in these types of rescues, annual training is scheduled as part of our due diligence safeguard.
In 2008 we identified five core categories which include:
• Career Management: This is specifically for staff preparing for officer development and future promotions, collective agreement requirements and succession planning. Successful businesses recognize that developing staff is a great way to increase organization competence and create a solid pool for succession planning purposes. As the 2nd Vice President of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, I am exposed to trends and issues across Canada and career management is a key focus for fire chiefs across Canada. Succession planning and officer development is imperative for our staff and the future leaders of the department.
• Operations: This is falls within the “special operations” category set out by the OHS regulations and comprises the largest portion of our training budget.
• Prevention: The fire department has two Fire Inspectors that require ongoing investigation and inspection training. Investigating fires requires a special skill set to ensure that we are prepared for any litigation from the fire and to assist the Prince Albert Police Service in arson investigations. Our two Fire Inspectors did a great job this summer leading extensive vehicle fire investigation training for our staff. If you visit our Facebook page you will see some pictures of this training.
• Safety / Occupational Health & Safety (OHS): We implemented a comprehensive Safety Management Program in 2007 and revised it in 2012. I am proud of the team-based philosophy of our Occupational Health & Safety Committee and they are currently conducting a cost and life span analysis of our helmets, extrication gloves, fire fighting boots and wildland boots.
• CPR and First Responder continuing education: The training required to maintain skills in CPR and First Responder competencies.
Because of the high demand for technical rescue training it can be a challenge to confirm third party vendors. The department needs to book these third party vendors at least six to eight months in advance and in some cases a year in advance.
The demand for Fire Officer development is parallel to the technical rescue training. We are currently exploring a partnership with the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) for Fire Officer training and hopefully we will be able to finalize this partnership in the near future. By partnering with the JIBC the department will be able to minimize costs associated with our leadership and officer development programs.
Today’s fire service is a complex profession that requires constant training and monitoring of skills. Our training programs are monitored, analyzed and evaluated annually to make sure we are meeting the needs of the department and our legislated obligation. We train hard so we are prepared to meet your needs when you call us.
Until next time, keep safe.
Les Karpluk is the chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department