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Comment: Strengthening our community of communities


April 28, 2008
By Laura King


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Canada is a large, sparsely populated place where, for great chunks of the year, the climate forces us inside, restricts our travel and makes us wonder what our ancestors were thinking when they came here.

Canada is a large, sparsely populated place where, for great chunks of the year, the climate forces us inside, restricts our travel and makes us wonder what our ancestors were thinking when they came here.

But with spring in the air, like the legendary groundhog, firefighters and other first responders are poking their heads out and seeing . . . other firefighters.

It is the trade show season for our industry, a time to see and be seen, to work the network, to share experiences from the long winter and to recharge and inspire. These are not opportunities to take lightly.

Sure, the myriad trade shows and conferences are important venues for the commercial suppliers to the industry to show off the latest technology. But the shows/conferences are also a rare chance for firefighters – professional and volunteer alike – to engage in some intellectual cross pollination, discussing in practical terms in face-to-face conversations the lessons they have learned.

In any profession, meeting and networking is critical. In an industry with such unique demands and such commonness of purpose, information transfer – sharing the wealth of knowledge – is vital. It would be easy to think that the demands and challenges of the job in downtown Toronto are a world away from Fall River, N.S., or Kelowna, B.C., or Wainwright, Alta.

Every region has challenges that make the job different, but I’ll make the case that just the opposite is true. Big-city firefighters do the same jobs. They just do it in a big city. Extricating teenagers from a car wreck, promoting fire safety to a Grade 4 classroom or dealing with a residential kitchen fire are things that happen in every corner of Canada every day, like discovering a new technique in vehicle extrication or integrating new, cheaper communication technology that could benefit a remote volunteer fire service.

Those things are all just experiences. That is, until you tell someone about them. And then they are transformed from experience into shared knowledge. Someone else takes the idea home and tries it, and then it becomes applied knowledge.

Few industries regard themselves more passionately as a calling than the fire service. Part of that calling has to be to communicate, to share, to learn. Find out where your provincial or regional fire service trade show is this spring. Look at the agenda. Identify what you can get out of it. Take your golf clubs.

Canada, as the former prime minister Joe Clark once said, is a community of communities. And so it is with the fire service. Your strength is your shared passion for the cause. Your opportunity right now is to fuel that passion by sharing your knowledge.
Get out and support each other.

After more than 20 years and hundreds of stories and columns, Lorne Ulley has hung up his Innovative Ideas hat. Lorne’s column has been a staple of Fire Fighting in Canada for years and its often simple, but creative solutions to everyday challenges in the fire station have been shared and copied by departments across the country. Thanks, Lorne, for you your commitment to strengthening the fire service across Canada.

 


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