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February 13, 2014
By Jay Shaw

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Feb. 13, 2014, Winnipeg - As athletes from around the world compete and are judged in their individual and team sports, I thought it would be prudent to reflect on how our jobs are judged and recognize the fact that we, too, are also always competing. Stay safe and enjoy the Olympic events. But remember, in our jobs the gold medals go to the ones who go home safe.

Feb. 13, 2014, Winnipeg – As athletes from around the world compete and
are judged in their individual and team sports, I thought it would be
prudent to reflect on how our jobs are judged and recognize the fact
that we, too, are also always competing. Stay safe and enjoy the Olympic
events. But remember, in our jobs the gold medals go to the ones who go
home safe.

Welcome firefighters, friends and family to the 2014 Winter Firefighter Games.

I’m Jay Shaw reporting live for Fire Fighting in Canada. Today on the docket we have our gold-medal event in which Canadian firefighters will compete against each other for the coveted gold-medal prize of job security, safety, and public opinion. Of course, our judges – as usual – will be a special, four-person panel including Joe Taxpayer, an elected member of council, 72-year-old Betty Johnston from Apple Hill retirement home, and, of course, John Smith, a member of the public whose two-storey, wood-frame, balloon-construction house is currently on fire.

The final event is called Alarm Response. BANG . . . the alarm sounds in our fire stations and we see Station A immediately running to the computer to see which truck has the call. Oh . . . Station B is currently on the road returning from a call; that crew will certainly have an advantage as its members are geared up and ready to roll. Station A receives the alarm and crew members are suiting up, making sure to don all their PPE before entering the apparatus, and wow . . . look at the use of the seatbelts by Station A . . . that is impressive. Let’s go to the judges for a comment!

Judge Betty Johnston wants to know if the firemen are single, and if they can put her garbage out after they put her back in bed the next time she calls 911. And Joe Taxpayer does not look happy, as he refuses to pull over to the right and stop for the fire engine . . . Station B is loosing ground. “That’s not right,” says Joe. “Why wont they just go around me? I can’t move over two lanes in rush hour traffic!”

Our elected official is very happy to see Station A safely leave the hall but seems perturbed that the crew turned the siren on right outside the nursing home across from the station. The politician is definitely taking marks away as the phone calls will fill his voice mail inbox before he gets to the office in the morning. Wait wait, Judge John Smith is evacuating his house, no no . . . He’s going back in folks. This is not good. He has re-entered his burning home as Station B turns the corner onto the street and puts in the working fire to dispatch as black billowing smoke is seen coming out of the eves and the basement windows. Station A will be second-in machine and will have to really work hard to win over the judges at the call.

Judge Joe Taxpayer, what are your thoughts as these firefighter athletes start to work?

“Well, I’m wondering why that guy is going back in his burning house. Is he stupid? Did he not get any of the fire-prevention pamphlets in October?”

WOW . . . We’re going to have to give both teams a few extra bonus points for having to work under extreme conditions. The house is just rolling now and the Station A officer has made this fire an offensive attack. Firefighters from both stations are really working hard. The elected official judge is fielding phone calls from the Apple Hill retirement home. “Yes, Miss Gunther I know they drove by with their sirens on. No, uh no, they have to be able to let people know they are coming. Uh huh, yes, uh huh.”

Judge Betty, what do you like so far about the initial incident action plan?

“Well we certainly have a bunch of handsome firemen running and prancing around, don’t we Jay?”

Judge Betty, you mean firefighters right? We have three females on this department; the term we use now is firefighter.

“Well you can call them whatever you want but the firefighters are not too smart, they are spraying all that water on the wrong house, I mean that’s not going to do anything; I am for sure taking points away for that.”

Folks, we’re hearing air horns and sirens now as the fire conditions have changed. The fire is now exploding out of the roof and windows and there are firefighters still inside. Joe Taxpayer, what are you seeing now? How close is this race going to be? Well they have obviously lost this house. What is this? Oh my! We have firefighters exiting the front door with Judge John Smith. Folks they got him out, he’s alive! Stand back everyone – the roof looks like it is about to collapse.

Joe Taxpayer is silent, in disbelief of what he has witnessed.

“I have no words,” he says. “I can’t judge these men and women as I would never be able to do what I just saw.”

Choking back tears, he fights to finish his thoughts as he walks over to the other judges. The judges huddle and determine the winner.

The winner is . . . it’s a tie, it’s a tie the judges announce!

Neither of the teams hears the announcement as both crews are still battling to prevent other houses from burning. I guess they will miss the medal ceremony and have to take comfort in knowing they are all safe and can go home to there families. What an event folks, we have seen a great one!


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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