www.firefightingincanada.com

Features Hot topics Opinion
From the Editor: July 2010

The cliché is that learning is a lifelong journey. In the fire service that’s particularly true – whether it’s a formal classroom program like the fire-chief-driven Beyond Helmets and Hoses, or a weeknight session at a small department in a rural community, where volunteers train in anonymity after work under a fading summer sun.

July 6, 2010
By Laura King


Topics

The cliché is that learning is a lifelong journey. In the fire service that’s particularly true – whether it’s a formal classroom program like the fire-chief-driven Beyond Helmets and Hoses, or a weeknight session at a small department in a rural community, where volunteers train in anonymity after work under a fading summer sun.

The biggest education challenge faced in the fire service, where almost everything seems underfunded and understaffed, is not educating each other, but educating the public.

Raising fire safety awareness is among the most time-consuming activities in any department. Sometimes, it’s proactive – like in Ottawa where firefighters go door to door when they can to inspect smoke detectors.

Sometimes education is capitalizing on an opportunity. Like when my elderly mother-in-law’s false alarm from a sensitive smoke detector resulted in a fire crew from the Lakeview/Fall River/Windsor Junction Fire Department in Nova Scotia standing on her veranda. Assured there was no fire, firefighters politely insisted on going in anyway “as long as we’re here”, whereupon they checked all the smoke detectors, made sure everyone was OK, and then, and only then, left.

In this issue, we feature a couple of stories that tackle the challenge of reaching young people and educating them about fire safety.

Near Renfrew, Ont., a high school teacher who is also the chief medical officer for the White Lake Volunteer Fire Department also capitalized on an opportunity. When Ontario added a course in emergency preparedness to the Grade 11 and 12 curriculum, Tony Ferguson convinced his school to offer it, and then got the Renfrew Fire Department to lend equipment to help educate the kids.

His excitement is palpable, as is Renfrew Chief Guy Longtin’s. Perhaps the students from that program will also benefit from an initiative aimed at high school and university students that takes form in the social-media friendly site, www.knowfire.ca.
Born out of off-campus housing fires at Brock University in 2008 and 2009, the site engages youth with videos and information intended to be shared via social media sites.

Some of the lessons are tough, but they are important and could save lives.

Working to hammer the message of safety in schools and on social media is innovative thinking.

And innovation is at the core of successful lifelong learning. We need to be engaged or we get bored.

Hats off to folks like Ferguson and Longtin for teaming up, and kudos to Donna Gill at St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services Department, Brock University, Niagara College and the dozen fire departments in the Niagara region for building knowfire.ca.

I’ve been fortunate to get to know people like Ken Sheridan, the public education officer for Norfolk County Fire and EMS in Simcoe, Ont., and Tom Kiurski, the training co-ordinator for Livonia Fire and Rescue in Michigan, whom I met at FDIC in Indianapolis (check out the Livonia website at www.ci.livonia.mi.us/tabid/563/Departments/Public%20Safety/Fire/FireServicesHome.aspx for some great public ed ideas or contact Tom at tkiurski@lfdmail.com).

Ken and Tom and people like them are doing the missionary work of fire education, spreading the word, generating enthusiasm, creating ideas and opportunities. Everyone wins.


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*