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Congratulations to Fire Fighting In Canada on the launch of this new website!  When I started in the fire service 22 years ago I could not have imagined writing a blog. The firehall I worked in was still using carbon paper!

December 14, 2007
By Peter Sells

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Congratulations to Fire Fighting In Canada on the launch of this new website!  When I started in the fire service 22 years ago I could not have imagined writing a blog. The firehall I worked in was still using carbon paper!

My latest FlashPoint column has already generated some feedback. That is exactly what I set out to do when I agreed to start the column as a regular FFIC feature – get some conversations started on topics that I felt strongly about. The latest one is no different from those that have preceded it, except that I still have difficulty appreciating the root issues that have led to such polarization between stakeholders on the two-hatter issue. More about that in a minute; first, I’d like to clarify a few points I made in the column.

  • I made liberal use of the term volunteer. Of course, there are many terms and employment models in the Canadian fire service, such as part-time, paid-on-call, etc. In the context of the two-hatter issue, I intended the term volunteer to be inclusive of anything other than full-time career fire service employment. This was not an attempt on my part to deceive the reader or colour my opinions in any way, rather it is a reflection of the reality that my column has a finite word limit, and the use of a one-word term was efficient.∑ My use of the 24-hour shift as a comparison, and my use of the words ‘dismissed or minimized’ should not be interpreted as a criticism of that type of duty rotation. Quite the contrary. The point of comparison is that the proponents of the 24-hour shift were able to demonstrate, through logical and scientific methodology, that sleep deprivation would not be an issue if the shift were to be implemented. Thus, the effects of sleep deprivation were ‘minimized’ and it was subsequently ‘dismissed’ as an argument against the 24-hour shift.
  • Looking at the two-hatter issue as having three main stakeholders – namely, the full-time employer, the hometown employer and the individual firefighter – I see the relationship as win/win/win. The hometown gains the experience and technical expertise of a fully trained firefighter, which often translates into shared expertise across the roster. The firefighters gain a second source of income for their families (in many cases), a chance to give back to their communities and they often gain command and management experience many years before such opportunities are available with their full-time employer. The full-time employer gains a very motivated and enthusiastic firefighter, who, in many instances, has developed enhanced professional competencies in administration, command, planning and leadership – all at no cost.

Certainly there are concerns, such as compensation claims, where not everyone’s interests are aligned in the two-hatter relationship. These concerns need to be addressed through the engagement of all stakeholders, not through the erection of barriers. Overall, there are many more benefits than detriments to all parties, which is why I believe that conversations need to take place to enable rather than inhibit the two-hatter.

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