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From the Floor


February 7, 2014
By Jay Shaw

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Feb. 7, 2014, Winnipeg – Well, what do you say when you’ve been gone for a while and you get to come back and start fresh? You say thank you! From the Floor was a great experience for me as it allowed me to grow as a writer, and, more importantly, as a firefighter. I’ve been a firefighter for 13 years, almost all with one department; and while From the Floor 2.0 will still come from a firefighter’s perspective, there will be some small changes.

Editor’s note: Winnipeg firefighter Jay Shaw’s From the Floor blog returns today after a hiatus, with a new focus on disaster management and preparedness.

Feb. 7, 2014, Winnipeg – Well, what do you say when you’ve been gone for a while and you get to come back and start fresh? You say thank you! From the Floor was a great experience for me as it allowed me to grow as a writer, and, more importantly, as a firefighter. I’ve been a firefighter for 13 years, almost all with one department; and while From the Floor 2.0 will still come from a firefighter’s perspective, there will be some small changes.

You will notice a shift in direction to cover more issues and the challenges that firefighters face during disasters. I think it is fair to say that Canadian firefighters have had a strong dose of natural disasters and emergencies of late. There is not one region of our country in which firefighters have not been front and centre lately when large-scale emergencies have stricken.

In my short career thus far, Canadian fire services have seen everything from mall collapses and horrendous loss-of-life fires to enormous wildland urban interface fires and storms that seem to be getting stronger, more frequent and more deadly. Have you paid more attention to what rail lines go through your neighborhood recently? I know I have been reading up on this Bakken crude oil, since so much of it comes from just south of Winnipeg in North Dakota.

I find it interesting that a brand new recruit in a Canadian fire department can start in his or her hometown volunteer or career department and get called out to a worst-ever scenario that would rattle a 30-year veteran. There has never been a time in our history in which so many events have asked so much of us, and we keep getting on the rig and answering the call.

I’d like From the Floor to offer up some humour, sincerity, and most of all, a few nuggets of truth, education, and training. A disaster is defined as any incident that overwhelms resources. So when my eight-year-old daughter is alone with our new puppy, loses containment, and the dog starts eating her very expensive American Girl doll, I guess that’s a disaster for her. In reality though, how we prepare for simple routine calls and emergencies needs to be constantly evaluated from a firefighter’s perspective both at home and while on shift, as the it-won’t-happen-here mentality is just not good enough.

I’d like to think that all firefighters are prepared at home for a disaster so we can do our jobs when the call comes in, but I know the sad reality is that some of you are not. So, while I go out this afternoon to look for a new smoke alarm for my upstairs hallway and some kind of gate to keep the puppy contained, I hope you will take a second to think about your preparedness and if you can do anything today to improve it.

Now, should an eight-year old be able to write up an incident action plan to prevent puppy attacks on American Girl dolls?

Prepare as if your life depends on it, because it does!

Jay Shaw is a firefighter and primary care paramedic with the City of Winnipeg. Along with multiple fire and emergency services courses and certificates, Jay holds a masters degree in disaster and emergency management from Royal Roads University and is an independent education and training consultant focusing on leadership, management, emergency preparedness and communication skills. Contact him at jayshaw@mts.net and follow him on twitter @disasterbucket


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