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Comment: Conferences offer knowledge, both from educational seminars and in peer-to-peer networking

Conferences offer knowledge, both from educational seminars and in peer-to-peer networking.

December 10, 2007 
By James Haley

Professional development, meeting your peers, networking. The annual conference season upon us, where some of you get to attend several chief officer conferences, learning seminars and workshops, and others perhaps just their own local conference or meeting. How ever many you can afford to attend, in terms of time away from your department and job and what the budget allows, we suggest strongly you attend at least one, or send your deputy. You will not regret it.

For 51 weeks of the year, you may not have seen anyone but your mutual aid partners. Or perhaps none of your neighbouring departments is similar in size or risks such as your community. Rest assured, when you attend one of these conferences or workshops, there will be someone who will be in a department similar to yours – whether in size, risks or challenges – big and small, rural or urban, volunteer, composite or full-time. Conferences and seminars are an ideal time to meet and share information as to your particular challenges and to offer your input on concerns to gain a collective voice, whether it is to lobby for better training from the office of the fire marshal or commissioner, stronger legislation on occupational health and safety, residential sprinkers, self-extinguishing cigarettes or a resolution to the two-hatter issue, to name a few examples.

While we’re on the topic, one part of the fire service that is under-represented across the country, with the exception of Ontario, is apparatus mechanics. If our trucks don’t operate properly, we cannot perform our mission – to preserve and protect our community. A national apparatus maintenance technician’s organization would be a great asset to the Canadian fire service. Columnist Don Henry said this in a recent conversation and I agree it would have definite benefits, so I’m asking for comment and ideas from you on how to accomplish this.

The systemic problems of sexism in Richmond, B.C., which have been at the forefront of the national news in March and April, are having a strong adverse affect on the public’s perception of that department and will have a negative impact on other fire services across the country. There is no excuse for fire fighters harassing other fire fighters. We know the leadership of the Richmond fire service is strong and we expect its management will mitigate this problem for the future. But the damage is done. Let’s hope the department is able to get past this and its fire fighters realize that their “dinosaur” attitudes are not welcome. At all. If they don’t realize this then it is time for them to leave, rather than have the fire fighters, who want to do their job without prejudice, have to quit in disgust and fear.

Everyone’s a winner
We offer special congratulations to Firefighter Paul Dunnett of the Burk’s Falls & District (Ont.) Fire Department who earned a free trip to the FDIC Atlantic (Fire Department Information Conference) in Wolfville, N.S., which will be held in June. The prize, sponsored by Canadian Firefighter & EMS Quarterly and Fire Fighting In Canada, was earned by Dunnett being the top individual seller of the 2006 FireChix fund-raising calendar. Not only did his department earn $5 apiece for equipment from his and others’ expert selling of the calendars, but the remaining profits from the national organization will this year benefit the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Point Edward (Ont.) Fire Department was the top selling department, and they earn the grand prize – a thermal imaging camera – generously donated by the A.J. Stone Company.

With this edition, we bring you a new service, an added value. New to our website will be more photos and archival material relative to printed material here, through the links provided in various articles in this issue. Space is not such a restriction with the web and we are pleased to offer this new service to our readers, both from the printed page and over the worldwide web. Follow the links at the top left of our web page ( where the current issue’s cover image is shown for the “bonus” material.

Yours in fire service safety and education,
James Haley

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