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From the Editor: Committee to lobby for government funds

from the editor

December 11, 2007
By Laura King


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Ask any fire chief about the biggest challenge facing the fire service and funding is sure to be among the answers. Volunteer retention, training, and communication with other first responders are all on the list of hurdles but money for training and equipment is a constant.

Because fire services are primarily funded by municipalities, fire chiefs are often on their own (with support from their departments and fellow officers) to work with the mayor and the city manager. While chiefs are often counselled at provincial association conferences on strategies for working with municipal officials, the onus is on chiefs to negotiate deals for their departments. That may be about to change – for the better.

At the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Toronto in May, the Canadian Governmental Affairs Committee was launched. It’s based on a wildly successful post-9/11 U.S. model that lobbied the federal government for funds. Since 2001, the U.S. federal government has granted about $3.4 billion for the purchase of training and loose equipment, fire apparatus and safety programs. Of the $3.4 billion, about $800 million has been approved and granted for the purchase of state-of-the-art apparatus.

The Canadian committee, while in its infancy, has set an impressive goal – to lobby Ottawa and the provinces and territories to allocate $100 million a year for fire departments. Under the committee’s proposal, the $100 million would be divided among training, the purchase of new protective gear and equipment and the purchase of NFPA compliant apparatus.

As with the U.S. committee, the Canadian version represents fire chiefs, firefighters’ associations, the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association, equipment suppliers and apparatus manufacturers.

Bruce Whitehouse, owner of specialty roll-up door manufacturer Amdor in Burlington, Ont., is a spokesperson for the committee. He says the fire service “needed one voice to actively lobby on its behalf” for better funding for up-to-date equipment for departments across Canada.

“Too big a portion of the active fire apparatus within our country is over 15 years old and does not have a lot of NFPA safety measures,” Whitehouse said in an interview. “That needs to be addressed. If we expect the fire service to be first responders we need to equip and train them to be first responders,”

The committee notes that the number of emergency calls has increased 40 per cent over the past decade; that the number of new apparatus entering the service per capita is declining; and that the number of new trucks put into service per 100,000 calls has declined by 30 per cent.

The committee has the support of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and will present at the CAFC’s Fire Rescue Canada show in Niagara Falls in September. The CAFC has, since 2002, lobbied for more funding under the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, which provides $5 million annually for emergency preparedness and critical infrastructure programs. The committee hopes to work with the CAFC and, Whitehouse says, use existing funding models such as the JEPP rather than starting from scratch.

We’ll keep you posted on the committee’s progress.

It’s clear from reading this issue of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly that training – and money to support it – is crucial to any fire service. This month, we introduce columnist Andrew Brassard from the Milton, Ont., Fire Department, who writes on forcible entry and will be a regular contributor. Also this month Carlin Riley from the Kitchener, Ont., Fire Department continues his series on structural collapse with a primer on trench rescue. And, we’re delighted to introduce Vern Elliott, of Strathcona County Emergency Services in Alberta, and his Between Alarms column, which will focus on what happens inside the departments.

We’d love to hear what you think about these columns, and our other features. E-mail us at lking@annexweb.com .


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