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Editor’s blog from the CAFC – day 3

Sept. 28, 2011, Calgary – This morning’s unplugged session at the CAFC’s Fire-Rescue 2011 with Calgary Fire Chief Bruce Burrell, Fire Engineering editor Bobby Halton and Brant, Ont., Fire Chief Paul Boissoneault was frank and entertaining and covered everything from texting in the fire hall (talk, don’t text) and budgets (expect cuts) to the 24-hour shift (it’s evolving), fees for service (a red-tape nightmare) and fire-based EMS (it's cost effective and it’s coming your way).

September 28, 2011
By Laura King


Topics

Sept. 28, 2011, Calgary – This morning’s unplugged session at the CAFC’s Fire-Rescue 2011 with Calgary Fire Chief Bruce Burrell, Fire Engineering editor Bobby Halton and Brant, Ont., Fire Chief Paul Boissoneault was frank and entertaining and covered everything from texting in the fire hall (talk, don’t text) and budgets (expect cuts) to the 24-hour shift (it’s evolving), fees for service (a red-tape nightmare) and fire-based EMS (it's cost effective and it’s coming your way).

Interestingly there was considerable discussion early on in the session about communication and how to get younger firefighters to talk among themselves or with other staff, instead of texting each other across the room.

Despite perceptions by some of a fire service stuck in neutral, the hour-long discussion included the need to build fire halls with dedicated spaces for prayer for Muslim firefighters, making accommodations for all cultures, and embracing regionalization.

Yesterday’s motivational session with Mike Pinball Clemons caused lots of chatter – indeed fire chiefs were still talking about it at last evening’s networking session with vendors/manufacturers. You might think that Clemons’ high-energy style and simple messages about doing good deeds wouldn’t have an impact on fire chiefs who’ve been doing good things in their communities for eons. Clearly a different perspective from a non fire-service type resonates well. Olympic gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan speaks later today.

That 100-years-of-tradition-unimpeded-by-progress phrase that is often attached to the fire service is taking a beating this week.

For years the Canadian fire service has struggled to create a fire-prevention message that works, primarily, I think, because fire chiefs and firefighters are not public relations experts.

Now, with input from experts in communication and PR types, the CAFC and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Public Safety Council are getting aggressive and rolling out a series of hard-hitting public service announcements (videos, TV commercials) similar to those used by organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving that will send shivers up the spines of viewers. With budgets either stagnating or shrinking, fire-prevention is the saviour.

Speaking of marketing, as Chief Burrell so succinctly put it this morning, if you walked into a hardware store and found that 70 per cent of the store was full of clothing, you’d say the store was misleading customers in its ad campaigns – so goes the fire service; it’s time to fix that.

Follow Laura's CAFC experience on Facebook and Twitter!

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Sept. 27, 2011, Calgary – Well, the folks in St. John’s have a tough act to follow in 2012 with last night’s appearance by country superstar Paul Brandt at the CAFC’s Fire-Rescue 2011 fun night.

Brandt made a cameo appearance in Calgary’s promo video shown at last year’s conference in Saint John, N.B., so there was considerable speculation that he would perform last night at the Girletz Ranch Rodeo on the outskirts of Calgary (actually, it’s so far outside of Calgary that the Edmonton skyline loomed in the distance – boy it’s flat out here!).

Brandt did one number, then patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures with chiefs, their spouses, magazine editors and the like!

Congrats to the CAFC’s host committee for raising the bar and to Calgary Chief Bruce Burrell for having great connections!

The CAFC’s opening business session yesterday was positive and purposeful.

President Rob Simonds noted the CAFC’s successes of the last year, including the volunteer firefighter tax credit and the association’s status as a trusted advisor to the Conservative government.

Pinball Clemens brings his motivational presentation to the chiefs this morning, after which Denis Pilon of the Swift Current Fire Department talks about residential sprinklers – an issue that the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and others have taken on. We’ll keep you posted.

Meantime, if you haven’t seen our photo gallery with highlights from yesterday’s sessions and last night’s entertainment, click here.

Follow Laura's CAFC experience on Facebook and Twitter!

* * *

Sept. 26, 2011, Calgary – There is a palpable optimism in the air here
in Cowtown where the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference hits
full stride today.

Having Julian Fantino, the associate minister of defence, here for last
evening’s opening ceremonies to talk about Ottawa’s role in moving
forward the broadband spectrum issue – and promising to work with
first-responder groups – was important and lent a fair bit of clout and
credibility to the work the CAFC has done with government over the last
couple of years. (There’s an update on the interoperability issue this
afternoon.)

A video-taped message from Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have been
light on content – Harper mentioned the firefighter tax credit and
wished conference delegates well – but it was symbolic of the CAFC’s
efforts to learn how to advocate for its causes, to work with other
agencies and to listen to others.

Today’s session opens with a 90-minute CAFC business meeting – more on that this afternoon.

Meantime, delegates here from coast to coast to coast are keen to get on
with the business of addressing fire-service issues from better
communication with municipal councils to how to get communities to buy
into the notion of residential sprinklers.

Oh, and there’s some less serious stuff too. Those who custom ordered
their Calgary-made cowboy hats wore them proudly last evening; more are
expected to do so at tonight’s truly Calgarian fun night at a
rodeo/ranch – should be both interesting and entertaining.

And, as was widely posted on Twitter and Facebook last night, the poor
saps from Calgary Fire who responded to the alarm at the conference host
hotel, the Westin, took a ribbing worthy of a rookie hazing. As CAFC
administrator (read chief cook and bottle washer!) Vicky Roper noted on
Facebook: Irony – when the hospitality suit band’s “smoker” sets off the
alarms at a fire chief’s conference! Needless to say, the chiefs
immediately heeded the evacuation order and vacated the building, then
started timing the response . . .

More later.

Follow Laura's CAFC experience on Facebook and Twitter!


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