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FFAO: Help the FFAO spread firefighter-safety message

I am the communication chair for the Fire Fighters' Association of Ontario (FFAO), focused on our organization's information exchange via our quarterly publication in Canadian Firefighter and through our new website, ffao.on.ca

I started in the fire service in 1983 when I joined the Flamborough Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter. By 1997 I was the deputy chief. When amalgamation transformed communities, I became an area commander for Hamilton Fire Department. For the last 12-plus years I have been fortunate to be the fire chief for Centre Wellington Fire & Rescue.

Somewhere along my way in the fire service I had forgotten my roots. I have been full time since 1990. I was an active member of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) for more than 15 years and also a part of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC). It was at meetings for these organizations that I heard the FFAO was still around and active. Despite being a life member, it had been years since I attended an FFAO convention or a general meeting.

In 2015 the FFAO approached me to sit as its representative on the Ontario fire-service advisory committee under section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. After some thought I felt I owed the fire service and the more than 20,000 volunteer firefighters in Ontario a debt for this career. The health and safety of firefighters has always been a primary concern of mine. However, a last-minute change meant I could not represent the FFAO on the committee.

I thought my good deed had come to an end before it started, but I was then asked to sit on the board of directors and assist the FFAO in creating a new media strategy.

Media relations is not only necessary for the fire service in public education and safety messaging, but also in terms of legal accountability, resource sharing and learning how to work with media partners.

When I thought about media for the FFAO, I wanted to ensure we had a strategy that made our members feel connected – to the executive, to our partners and to one another.

Well, here we are – a new publisher, new website, new Twitter feed, a Facebook page and a lot of new "friends."

Since my introduction to the board, I have spent countless hours attending meetings, have worked with the executive reaching out over the phone or via email, and working as part of a dynamic team. It struck me that these people are true volunteers. The FFAO has no big expense accounts; many of my fellow executive members have full-time jobs, as well as actively volunteering as firefighters in their own communities.

These people donate their time and a great deal of effort to make life better for firefighters who are active members of the FFAO. They represent firefighters on provincial committees, they work with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management on special projects, and they work on firefighter memorial services. They partner with OAFC, the CAFC, the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. If there is a group that is working for the betterment of firefighters, the FFAO is always willing to help however it can.

The FFAO has proud history that dates back to Aug. 29, 1899, when the inaugural meeting of The Volunteer Firemen's Association of Ontario was held in Toronto. This was the beginning of our association.

Changes came on Aug. 2, 1909, in Paris, Ont., when membership was made available to all volunteer, fully paid, partly paid, exempt and veteran firefighters. With an increased membership, we adopted the new name of The Firemen's Association of Ontario.

On July 23, 1910, Letters of Patent were granted to the association. The first constitution and bylaws were adopted at a meeting in Welland on Aug. 2,1910.

By 1963, to reflect the changes in the membership and the occupation itself, we adopted the name The Fire Fighters' Association of Ontario.

It's a new era in fire fighting; rules, laws, and safety standards have changed. Our organization has evolved but our mandate remains clear. The FFAO executive and its members have been, and will continue to actively participate on provincial committees dealing with equipment standards, occupational health and safety, firefighter training and legislation.

Please check out our website at www.ffao.on.ca. Follow us on Twitter @joinFFAO and help spread the word.

But above all, I ask you to consider becoming an active member of the FFAO. Have your voice heard. Share your knowledge and experience. In the fire service, we know the power of teamwork and dedication. Help us make the fire service better and safer for all involved, so everybody gets home safely.

Brad Patton
Director and communications chair