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Comment: The change we choose

It’s a common sentiment that people don’t like change. I once interviewed change expert Peter de Jager on this very thought and his views summarily expressed that people like the change they choose.

November 22, 2017  By Laura Aiken

Well, after 15 years as an editor covering everything from golf to ground water, pizza making and baking, I am definitely excited about the change I chose in taking the helm as editor of Fire Fighting in Canada and its sister publication Canadian Firefighter.

I might be on a learning curve that looks like climbing Everest from base camp, but I am certain the conditions will be far more welcoming in this new terrain. I am also certain I will never actually reach the top, because there never really is an end or peak to learning.

In this edition’s cover story, Fire Fighting in Canada brings you a new development in the fight against opioid deaths. The City of Surrey in British Columbia, under an initiative by Surrey Fire Services, partnered with a software developer to create a program that identifies aberrations in overdose patterns.In 2016, fire first responders started giving injections of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in Surrey and Vancouver. As the article’s authors point out, these are mitigation strategies and a root solution has yet to be found. The opioid crisis is truly that – a B.C. Coroners Service report found that from 2016-2017, fentanyl was guilty in 64.1 per cent of illegal drug overdose deaths.

The Government of Canada’s national report on apparent opioid related deaths in 2016 indicated that preliminary numbers showed 2458 deaths nationwide (excluding Quebec). The national average is estimated at 8.8 per 100,000, with Western Canada being hit the hardest at 10 per 100,000 in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta. The government noted several limitations with the data, including incomplete figures from Ontario and Newfoundland and Alberta’s data being only based on accidental overdose. In fact, the number of limitations and considerations noted (far more than listed here and most of which suggest underestimating), show how hard it is to grasp the full scope of this addictive beast.


Reiterating upon my opening theme – people like the change they choose. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to force addicts off their drug of choice. But we can choose how we respond to the social tragedy that it is, and in that, change our response if it’s not working. We can respond more creatively, as Surrey Fire Services did in using technology to help find bad batches of drugs and problem areas. The solution to the opioid crisis won’t come from any one place, but certainly in large part from the essential group that comprise mental health, medical, all emergency responders, social support services and government. The fire service has a role to play, and the Surrey department has exemplified it.

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