May 5, 2015, Readwood Meadows, Alta. - I was looking back at the blogs I had written for Fire Fighting in Canada and realized there was a pattern forming. That pattern seems to be very long periods between blogs. And that is a problem. Not because I am under any type of contractual agreement or anything such thing, but because I enjoy writing. Writing and photography have always been my “good” stress.
I last wrote about the need for smoke alarms in homes and sprinklers in care facilities – how the proper use of both would save lives – on March 4. Stressing the need for sprinklers and smoke alarms is nothing new for any of us, and sadly it is something we seem to need to continually reinforce. When I wrote that blog, I would never have dreamed that our fire department, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES), would respond to a fatal house fire the next day.
A 17-year-old teen lost her life that day after becoming disoriented in the basement of a burning home. The call was a mutual aid request to RMES from a neighbouring department and by the time we had arrived, rescues had been made and the house was fully involved. Fire suppression efforts continued and we stood by until investigators were ready to have us begin the search for the girl. I was the operator of our tender and had a great crew with me during the call. It was our first fire fatality in the 23 years I have been a member of RMES and hopefully it will be our last. Smoke alarms save lives! We have to continue pressing that message or we will never have a chance of making that our last fatal fire.
There are many messages that we as firefighters need to continue delivering. Carbon-monoxide alarms are just as important as smoke alarms to have in your homes. At the beginning of April, within a two-day span, 12 people in Calgary were taken to hospital after CO incidents. Home sprinklers should remain on our radar because there is absolutely no doubt that they save lives and protect property.
But we need to deliver messages to our own and for our own as well. Whatever form or name worker’s compensation takes in your province, we need to continue educating ourselves about occupational cancers. But we also need to continue ensuring that fire departments and their members are doing everything they can to prevent those exposures. Wear your turnout gear properly. Wear your breathing apparatus. Decontaminate after exposures.
And then there are the “bad” stresses. We need to look out for one another and take care of our own mental health. We cannot stop talking about critical-incident stress. To end the stigma associated with mental-health problems we need to make talking about it the norm.
For me, writing and photography will increase so that “good” stress starts to take over. Hopefully that means you will be reading more of my ramblings as we go into summer.
Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
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