Stopbad June 2017: Avoid bad calls with better training

Understanding risk versus reward
May 24, 2017
Written by Gord Schreiner
Since I began this column several years ago, I have received an incredible amount of positive feedback from hundreds of readers. I must say I am humbled and honoured.


I have had several readers ask me: “Why the name Stopbad?”

“Stopbad” was the nickname I gave to a scene management program I had been delivering around the country. During presentations I would often say that we must stop bad things from happening. From there, Stopbad was born.

Over my long career (42 years and counting), I have seen and read about countless bad things happening to firefighters. Some of these bad things have even injured or killed firefighters. While some might call these “close calls,” I often find they are simply bad calls made by fire ground supervisors or firefighters. Many times, the situation could have been managed in a safer and more effective way. Sometimes a bad situation is a result of a bad training, or even worse, a lack of training.

One example of a bad call is placing firefighters on a burning roof. Operating on a roof can be challenging for firefighters, even without a fire. Add a fire and, predictably, something will go wrong.; the risk-versus-reward equation does not make sense. Operating above a fire is simply very dangerous and disregards the value of safe and effective scene management.

Those who know me know that I love fire service training. I spend many of my weekends traveling around the country delivering a variety of training presentations. By request, I have added more programs under the Stopbad banner. Stopbad now includes: safe and effective scene management,training for life, firefighter rehab, firefighter cancers, call signs for life, training props, iPads in the fire service, practice drills, and response ready training for recruits and getting the most out of your practice time. On top of all that, I have a few more programs currently in the works.

These programs are centred around my passion for proper training, which can reduce firefighter injuries and deaths. Stopbad programs are also designed to motivate your team. They have been well received by hundreds of fire departments and thousands of firefighters.

Hundreds of departments across Canada have adopted the “call signs for life” system, including Powell River Fire Rescue, B.C., (about a two hour ferry ride from my Comox base, on Vancouver Island), and all of their regional fire department partners. Each firefighter in this region now has their own individual call sign that they will continue to use throughout their entire career.

We need to train as if lives depend on it, because they do. We need to constantly evolve as our work enviroment can change rapidly from moment to moment. We can’t continue to always do what has worked in the past. That’s not how our job works, so it shouldn’t be how we work either. If you don’t like training or change, you are in the wrong business.

The very popular call signs for life program demonstrates the effectiveness of using the same call sign at every incident and training session, regardless of the task or incident. A firefighter may even use the same call sign throughout his or her entire career. A few years ago, I wrote a column that explains how call signs can greatly improve fire ground communications and safety. Hundreds of fire departments are using this simple program with great results. Firefighters love it too, because it makes their jobs a whole lot easier.

The Stopbad programs are intended for all members of your department, from chief officers to recruits. The program works for career, paid on-call, volunteer and industrial firefighters. Having a simple program for everyone means we can all be on the same page when it comes to firefighter safety.

My intent is to get you thinking about risk versus reward at every incident. I want members of the fire service to think first and have the proper training to make choices to increase safety. With Stopbad, my goal is that all firefighters make it home from the fire ground.


Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire


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