The Maritime Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA) held its 104th annual conference July 13 to 16 in Moncton, N.B. and it was deemed a success by organizers.
“It’s gone really well,” Tory Rushton, newly elected president of the association, said on the final day of the conference. “We have a great trade show here and we have great speakers here every year.”
Rushton, chief of the Oxford Fire Department in Nova Scotia, was elected as president of the association to succeed Charles Kavanaugh, retired chief of the Grand Falls Fire Department in N.B.
Rushton has been in the fire service for 20 years and has served as chief of the Oxford Fire Department in Nova Scotia for the last 12. Prior to that, he spent five years as deputy chief of the department.
The four-day conference was held at Hotel Casino New Brunswick.
About 160 delegates, many with their spouses, attended the event, up slightly from the previous year.
The event featured information sessions and a slate of keynote speakers who dealt with myriad subjects.
Outside, a number of manufacturers and suppliers set up more than a dozen fire trucks.
Robert Krause, director of Emergency Services Consultants in Toledo, Ohio, led a talk called Leadership in Dangerous Situations and spoke about why it’s important for commanders to remain calm and make sound decisions at fire scenes because firefighters will feed off leaders’ actions.
Dave Wiklanski, owner of Alpha Omega Training Solutions in New Jersey, led a session on active shooters, noting most have an agenda and the shootings are likely to happen at a school, church or mall. He said such incidents can occur anywhere, but shooters do leave clues they might kill people.
Tanya Bettridge, director of communications at the Ontario Fire & Life Safety Education, talked about social media and how tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used by fire departments to promote safety messages. She urged fire departments to get on the bandwagon and adopt digital tools.
“If you don’t have social media in your fire department, get it,” she said in remarks to an audience of 120 people at a session.
In today’s world, social media is one of the best ways for fire departments to draw attention to the safety cause, she said.
Bettridge, who is public educator/administrative assistant at Perth East and West Perth fire departments in Ontario, was a driving force behind a farm fire safety program at the departments. The program has since been adopted by fire departments and agencies across North America.
Bettridge said social media has become a must-have tool for fire departments that want to get the public thinking more seriously about safety.
“It is the most inexpensive public education tool that you can use,” she said, noting a post on social media can be shared instantaneously around the world.
Bettridge said fire departments shouldn’t ignore online resources because three quarters of Canadians use at least one type of social media and nine billion videos are watched around the world each day.
“That’s where your audience is,” she said.
A trade show at the event featured vendors from across Canada and the U.S. They had specialized products and equipment on display, along with exhibits of new processes and techniques for fighting fires.
Stephan Rytz, a firefighter and director of training at Scene Safety Company in Saint John, N.B. which specializes in high-risk rescue operations, was a vendor. While he leads a busy life doing two jobs, he’s passionate about health and safety and said he feels good at being able to help save lives.
Jean-Michel Boisvert, of Pierreville, Que., Canadian sales manager at CET Manufacturing which makes portable pumps, was also one of the vendors. He travels regularly across Canada and the U.S.
There was also business to take care of at the conference.
Meetings of the MFCA were held each morning. One item discussed was whether or not the association should open its doors to all firefighters. Presently, only those who have the word ‘chief’ in their title are allowed to be active or voting members of the MFCA. Fire marshals, deputy fire marshals and fire commissioners are also allowed to cast ballots. Firefighters can attend the event but aren’t allowed to join the MFCA or vote.
A resolution to allow all ranks of fire service in the Atlantic provinces to become full-fledged voting members of the association – and run for executive positions – was put forward as a resolution.
The idea behind it was to make the association more inclusive of all ranks of the fire service.
While there was no vehement opposition to the idea, in the end members decided it would be better to wait another year before making a final decision.
The executive will work on a bylaw over the next year and come up with one that will be presented to the conference in 2019.
MFCA president Rushton said the idea of the proposal is to provide future leaders of the fire service an opportunity to gain more leadership experience through lectures, training and networking.
“We’re trying to open the doors for them to come in to this association and sit on the executive and start to grow with the executive as they grow,” he said.
Such a move, he said, would allow basic firefighters, lieutenants and captains to get more involved in the MFCA.
Rushton said the proposal comes at an exciting time for the association and, as president, he hopes to rejuvenate the organization, define where it’s going and bring more members into the fold.
“I want to grow the membership and maintain the relationships that we have with the other organizations, each provincial association and also the Canadian Fire Chiefs Association.”