Leadership
Written by Gord Schreiner
Like many kids who grew up in Canada, hockey was a big part of my life (and still is). I started playing when I was five years old and played for almost 50 years. When I joined the fire service, I noticed similarities between a hockey team and a fire-service team, from pride to hard work, fun, and the desire to become a better team. Hockey night in Canada is part of our culture. In many mid-size to small towns, so is fire practice night.
Written by Jay Shaw
Are you tired of firefighter leadership discussions, blogs, social-media posts and conference sessions? Tired of being told you need to manage better, lead better, lead more and build your teams more effectively? How about all of those top-five lists? The seven best tactics?
Written by Matt Pegg
You know that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the sweaty palms and the voice in the back of your head asking you if you are sure that you know what you are doing?  The not-so-quiet desire to run away and head straight back to where you came from?  Me too. These are but a few of the symptoms that occur when we are outside our comfort zones.
Written by Bill Boyes
A year has passed since my last column and I want to discuss some interesting lessons learned as a senior officer. In January 2016, I was promoted to director of emergency services – fire chief – from deputy chief in Barrie, Ont.
Written by Lyle Quan
A topic that comes up quite a bit during the fire-officer courses I facilitate is the challenge of getting people to embrace programs that need to be implemented, therefore ensuring that the department meets the needs and expectations of the community.
Written by Len Garis and Larry Thomas
An emergency responder called in to assist at a major fire arrives to find a sea of dark shirts. Who is in charge? This scenario is a common occurrence across North America, where many fire and police chiefs have swapped their white shirts for dark blue or black.
Written by Matt Pegg
During my career in the fire service I have heard many hours of debate and discussion about what it takes to be prepared for promotion. In my inaugural column in November I discussed the fact that luck happens when relentless preparation meets opportunity. Now I will delve into the concept of preparation.
Written by Matt Pegg
I am thrilled to write for Fire Fighting in Canada. The aim of my column will be to share some of the more interesting questions that I have been asked by those working hard to advance their fire-services careers, along with my perspective on the issue.
Written by Dave Balding
Today’s fire departments face increasing expectations in terms of service delivery, fiscal constraint and improved training standards: the result is greater demands on our members. Firefighters, supervisors, administrators and entire departments have a limited capacity to continually give.
Written by Denis Pilon
Most of us who wear stripes understand that mentoring is a critical component in the development of firefighters and newly promoted officers.
Written by Dave Balding
As a chief officer, I expect my firefighters to maintain a level of fitness and competence to enable them to safely and effectively perform their duties. In return, I must keep myself fit in order to be at my best for the people I guide, inspire and serve. Are you a fit leader?
Written by Lyle Quan
During the interview process to find my replacement as fire chief for the City of Waterloo, Ont., I was struck by a comment made by one of the candidates. In response to a question about leading outside of the box, the candidate said, “Before you can think outside of the box, you need to know what’s inside of the box.”
Written by Lyle Quan
After retiring as fire chief for the City of Waterloo, Ont., I developed Fire Officer III and IV programs for the Ontario Fire College, and have the pleasure of teaching the programs at the college and to Lakeland Emergency Training Centre, in Vermilion, Alta. I am also finalizing plans to teach in Nova Scotia.
Written by Gord Schreiner
Look at any great and successful organization and you will find behind it a great team. The fire service has always been good at developing solid teams (brotherhood) but we shouldn’t take this for granted.
Written by Dave Balding
The demands on volunteer or paid-on-call firefighters just seem to keep ratcheting upwards. The results are better-trained, highly competent firefighters who are able to respond to myriad types of emergencies. If there is a downside to this change, it’s the increased demand on members’ time and the consequent effect on recruitment and retention.
Written by Bill Boyes
In my past few columns I have focused on career development and the importance of post-secondary education for aspiring and current senior officers.
Written by Doug Tennant
A leader knows that it’s the people – the firefighters in all branches of a department – who make a fire service creative, adaptable and responsive in saving lives, preventing injuries and reducing property damage. Three lines of defence – public education, prevention and emergency response – against the ravages of fire are the raison d’etre for any fire service.
Written by Bill Boyes
Defining the steps necessary to get a chief’s position is more of an art than an exact science and depends greatly on your background, fire-service tenure and ultimate career goals.
Written by Lyle Quan
While instructing a fire officer program at the Ontario Fire College, I noticed a shift occurring in the field of leadership.
Written by Doug Tennant
There is a struggle these days at the top level of fire-service management. The struggle is internal; chiefs must decide whether to concentrate on public safety or support the political/fiscal war on spending.

I hear rumblings that the cost of emergency services is increasing too fast. We need to cut costs; taxpayers can not afford to continue to pay high prices for fire protection.

I also hear the concerns from the public when a toddler dies in a house fire. Such was the case in January 2014 when a two-year-old died in a house fire in Langley, B.C., Shortly after a fire in May of 2015, Fire Chief Rick Ennis, chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition, asked on social media, “Why are we not giving the [recent] fire death of a two year old in a new home the attention it deserves?”

I personally and professionally know the pressures and stresses of addressing the affordability of establishing and maintaining a fire service. I also know the importance of public fire safety and the stress of dealing with a fire death – especially one that could have been prevented. Why is it then that we in the fire service toggle so easily between concerns about public safety and those about affordability? Why do we not give potentially preventable fire deaths and injuries the attention they deserve, yet quickly turn to fiscal concerns, attempting to cut costs by reducing services to the public that funds us in the first place to protect them? Why is there a leadership gap or disconnect between affordability and public safety? Are we fire-service/public-safety leaders or are we fire-service treasurers?

I’m all for keeping taxation as low as possible; however, I also believe that you get only what you pay for. I must temper that sentiment with the fact that my first priority as a fire-service leader is public safety. How can we give potentially preventable fire deaths the attention they deserve and attempt to cut costs? Can we bridge the gap?

Fire Chief Cynthia Ross Tustin of the Township of Essa Fire Department in suburban Ontario has the taken up the challenge on this issue. She is leading the charge on the installation of home fire sprinklers and is adamant that having more homes outfitted with sprinklers is the way forward. She is steadfast in stating that residential sprinklers would not only help prevent fire deaths and injuries, but would also reduce firefighter cancer rates and health risks to homeowners.

Saving lives, preventing injuries and lowering property loss through the installation of residential sprinklers may be the way to bridge the gap between enhancing public safety and reducing costs to municipalities. Just as a combination of education and legislation on the topics of seatbelts, smoking and drinking and driving has saved lives, the same could be true for home fire sprinklers.

We need to implement massive home-sprinkler campaigns, coupled with strong municipal/provincial legislation mandating the installation of sprinklers in newly constructed homes.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs also supports mandated sprinklers. According to the OAFC, 220 jurisdictions across North America already have requirements in place for residential sprinkler systems.

Firefighters, officers and especially chief officers need to tackle the concerns about affordability of fire services by emphasising public safety through the installation of home fire sprinklers. We can’t keep trying to cut costs by reducing service levels through successive budget cuts. We can’t keep going to the store with $10 expecting to buy $20 worth of groceries, and then expect to eat healthy.

Not only will home fire sprinklers save lives and prevent injuries to homeowners and firefighters, they will save money for home owners through lower insurance premiums when combined with public fire safety education and working smoke alarms. This will address affordability.

As fire service leaders we have a mandate to be the leaders on public fire and life safety all the while being mindful of fiscal concerns. We need to eliminate the leadership gap between affordability and public safety through a pan-Canadian home sprinkler campaign.

We need to get off our duffs, take encouragement from Chief Ross Tustin and be local champions in our communities on this issue. We need to foster stronger partnerships with our colleagues in the sprinkler, construction and insurance industries to save lives, prevent injuries, reduce property loss and be affordable at the same time. Just as most of us have embraced smart phones, eco/green technology in our fire trucks, and the use of tablets in our pumpers, it is time to install fire sprinklers in our homes; we can’t afford not to.

You lead as you are.


Doug Tennant is the fire chief in Deep River, Ont. Contact Doug at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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