Leading Edge May 2017: British Columbia Playbook receives support

The challenge of implementing change
April 19, 2017
Written by
My February column described the new Playbook standard and its application to both service-level determination and corresponding training-level application for an individual authority having jurisdiction.
It has been more than 30 months since the Playbook was introduced and almost a year since the required implementation date for each community. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, but the process has not been without its challenges.

The fire service holds onto tradition very strongly, sometimes resisting necessary change. We have experienced some resistance to the Playbook; some chiefs and departments have objected to the Playbook generally, or have disputed or ignored some of its components. Other departments simply refuse to make the transition, which will come at their own peril should an incident occur. Combined with the new requirement for local government oversight and decision-making, the implementation of the new standard has definitely been challenging. However, most jurisdictions have embraced the Playbook.

One of the biggest challenges has been ensuring that everyone understands what the document really entails, along with its implications and requirements. The groups involved with the development of the Playbook and its implementation – the Office of the Fire Commissioner, the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C. and the B.C. Training Officers Association – often receive questions from departments asking for local interpretations of the material, and what it means for their communities’ specific concerns. We have stressed that the Playbook is a generic, province-wide standard; it will be applied slightly differently from community to community depending on circumstance, but those situations are up to the local jurisdiction to identify and resolve. These concerns often arise when the Playbook is not read carefully.  

An extensive set of training aids has been created in support of the Playbook standard. Lesson plans, competency job-performance requirements, training-record templates, and written and practical evaluation tools are available free to departments on the Office of the Fire Commissioner website. A cadre of instructors is delivering the team-leader program provincially under a grant from the Office of the Fire Commissioner. Everything a department needs to make the transition to the new standard is available easily and free of cost. Departments can deliver the chosen standard level internally or utilize a third party if they desire.

Support for the Playbook from the vast majority of fire-service personnel has exceeded our expectations. We have seen interest in the Playbook from almost every province in Canada, numerous states, the NFPA, ProBoard, and training academies. Even large career departments are recognizing the opportunities the Playbook presents. The Playbook has even caused some British Columbia departments to move away from the NFPA 1001 certification and instead focus on the 1001 competencies that are directly applicable to their duties. The Playbook and its supporting materials have provided many jurisdictions with much-needed focus and an attainable standard.

British Columbia Fire Commissioner Gord Anderson and Chief Dean Colthorp, former president of the B.C. Fire Training Officers Association, have been real champions of the program since its inception. The training officers association, under new president Capt. Dan Golob, provide leadership and remain a go-to organization for training materials and advice. Numerous members of the fire chiefs association and training officers association assist in delivery of Playbook-related training around the province. Training institutions have updated and modified their programs to recognize the Playbook standard and facilitate compliance among students.

As the Playbook becomes the new benchmark for British Columbia’s fire service, we are beginning to look forward. Discussions are underway to consider future standards for incident command, apparatus driver/operators, vehicle rescue, rapid-intervention teams and safety officers. Once again, we will look toward generating new standards that are applicable to the realities of the job, and are affordable, available and attainable to all fire services, rather than simply adopting another third-party reference.

The Playbook has been an outstanding success and promises to improve firefighter safety and community fire service delivery. However, this process is not complete. We hope it is only the beginning, and that British Columbia’s fire service will continue to lead the way nationally.


Don Jolley is the fire chief for the City of Pitt Meadows, and the first vice-president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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