Training

This is article number four. In past articles, I looked at lessons learned from some tragic circumstances that resulted in an inquest, gave you food for thought on best practice documents and the professionalism of emergency communications, and in September the focus was on avoiding liability. So, where do you go now?
As we begin a new year in the Fire Fighting in Canada series, I want to examine a few key items or areas that are important for us to consider when it comes to firefighters becoming complacent.
As a brand new chief officer thrust into the role by, in my view, an outmoded right of passage that many of us know as annual elections, I was, to say the least, more than a little bewildered.
At our Dec. 5 practice, I referred to the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire in 1999 that claimed the lives of six career firefighters. After some background, we looked specifically at the first of the 13 recommendations laid out in the Firefighter Fatality Investigation Report F99-47 CDC/NIOSH. This Trainer’s Corner will follow that pattern.
Jan. 18, 2019 - WorkSafeBC and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) are hosting a full-day symposium addressing the risks of silo fires.Focusing on both prevention and response to silo fires, the event is geared for anyone in an industry using silos, bins, bunkers, or other bulk storage vessels. It will also be highly relevant to first responders who may respond to silo fires.Why should you attend?Silo fire prevention and suppression requires a unique approach. Risks include combustible dusts, structural collapse, and smoulders that can result in explosions.WorkSafeBC and WPAC have secured international expert Henry Persson, author of the seminal Silo Fires – Fire extinguishing and preventive and preparatory measures, to present for the first half of the day. The afternoon will feature local experts from industry and prevention agencies.Topics include:· Causes of silo fires and explosions· Silo firefighting techniques and procedures· Use of nitrogen and foam injection (including retrofitting silos with nitrogen injection)· Personal safety· Fire prevention methods· First responder training· Case studies· Risk assessment and managementChoose from these two full-day sessions:Richmond Silo Fires Session – REGISTERTuesday, February 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Richmond Westin Wall Centre – 3099 Corvette Way, Richmond, B.C.This session offers a broad industry focus for anyone using silos and related structures, or responding to fires in these structures. This includes all first responders as well as the agriculture and agri-food sectors (dairy, grain, ranching, etc.), food and beverage production industries, and warehousing (operators at ports and terminals). Afternoon speakers include first responders and WorkSafeBC field specialists providing practical insights on identifying your hazards and implementing controls to reduce your risk.Prince George Silo Fires Session – REGISTERThursday, February 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Prince George Civic Centre – 808 Canada Games Way, Prince George, B.C.This session includes overall silo fire information and practicalities with focused examples from the wood pellet and other forestry related industries. Afternoon speakers include silo operators, first responders, and WorkSafeBC.Registration is $25 +GST and includes a hot breakfast and lunch.Questions about these sessions?Contact Lisa Ross, 
I first wrote about the issue of rapid intervention team, or RIT, 10 years ago in an issue of Canadian Firefighter magazine. But, it’s an important subject that’s worth revisiting.
Registration is now open for the 2018 Firefighter Training Day being held Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at the GTAA Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) at 2025 Courtneypark Drive East in Toronto. The day-long program gives volunteer, part-time and full-time firefighters the opportunity to expand their training and enhance their skills. Active members of volunteer/career fire departments are welcome to participate (with their chief’s approval). Training is free. The event is sponsored by FESTI, Fort Garry Fire Trucks, FLIR, Canadian Firefighter and Fire Fighting in Canada. Click here for the website.Click here for the registration page.
Have you thought about live fire training in your department? Today’s fires occur with less frequency, but when they occur the fires are far more dangerous than they were 20 years ago.
Winter can be fun: sliding, skiing, skating, hockey, or just going for a walk in the crisp fresh snow are all great cold weather activities that can put a smile on our faces. These are the happy thoughts of winter most of us would like to envision.
Continuing our look back over the last 10 years of Back to Basics in Fire Fighting in Canada, I’d like to highlight this article, which focuses on the backup person position on the handline. This position used to be simply ignored outside of basic training. Instructors like Aaron Fields, Dave McGrail and many others from across America started to bring the focus back to this important role.
Of all the articles I have written, the one on Call Signs for Life I wrote five years ago continues to garner a lot of inquiries. Dozens of departments have switched to this simple system and most have said that changing their radio call signs has been one of the best decisions they have made.
I have been focusing a lot on fire ground operations lately after witnessing many firefighters completing tasks in a manner that is inconsistent with their training over the last few months. One area where I have noticed inconsistencies is the use of ground ladders. This area is neglected greatly in the fire service because we often consider ground ladders to be bulky, heavy and awkward to handle.
On March 12 and 13, firefighters from 10 Fraser Valley departments in British Columbia took part in an exercise that will shape the standard by which first responders deal with Class 3 flammable liquids delivered by rail in Canada.
March 2016 - Say the words Lac-Megantic and a flood of images, feelings and thoughts come quickly to mind. The July 2013 train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Que., was a watershed event in Canada, particularly as it relates to the transportation of flammable liquids and the regulations, policies and actions that producers, shippers and consignors must now consider.
As I was doing the final preparations for my course at FDIC Atlantic in June, I realized there was some important information that I had not addressed in my column on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in February, in particular, the incident that occurred on Oct. 2, 1997
For almost two decades, the tragic story of four volunteer firefighters has haunted me. This column is in memory of René Desharnais, Martin Desrochers, Raynald Dion and Raymond Michaud.
If your department deals with hazardous material, a copy of the Emergency Response Guidebook, or ERG, is an invaluable resource.
The growing meth epidemic in Canada’s cities is usually the territory of police, health and social service agencies. In Surrey, B.C., however, members of the fire service have thrown their support – and dollars – into the fight against this scourge in their community.
Firefighters can now easily get specialized training to maximize their firefighting skills in buildings equipped with sprinkler systems through a self-paced online training program from FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial and industrial property insurers.  Available at no cost to firefighters, the interactive Fighting Fire in Sprinklered Buildings program trains participants how to create pre-incident plans with owners of sprinklered buildings.  In the program, firefighters learn about the design, function and limits of sprinkler systems, why  sprinklered buildings burn and how to combat fires most effectively with sprinklers in operation. “In some situations, firefighters can unintentionally make a fire worse at the scene by closing sprinkler valves and turning off electrical power prematurely,” said Michael Spaziani, assistant vice president, senior staff engineering specialist, at FM Global. “Even the most experienced firefighter can benefit from this specialized training.” Firefighters receive a certificate upon completing the program and passing a skills assessment. The training can be accessed at www.fmglobalfireserviceresources.com. FM Global is a U.S.-based mutual insurance company whose capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management and the resilience of its client-owners.  For more information, visit FM Global.
Acting Capt. Amanda Smyth sits in the front passenger seat, listening to the dispatcher confirm an alarm activation. Quickly and authoritatively, Smyth responds, ticking off boxes in her head.
If a large incident happened in your response area, would you and your officers know what to do? Train on incident management systems and discuss the recommendations from the Elliot Lake mall collapse with Brad Bigrigg, Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs program manager – absolutely free! Obtain your IMS-100 certification through this four-hour program with a qualified instructor, plus spend an extra two hours on lessons learned from Elliot Lake. IMS 100 – Introduction to Incident Management Systems, is one of two courses still open for registration at our annual Firefighter Training Day at Toronto’s Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute – FESTI – on Sept. 26. Spots are also running out for our second open course – patient packaging and triage – so don’t wait to register! It’s free training, no strings attached!REGISTER NOW
When tens of thousands of country-music fans descend on Cavendish, P.E.I., every summer, the risk of potential disaster increases – crowds, weather, traffic and over-indulgence can all turn bad quickly.
Firefighters will often part company at the end of a shift by saying, “See you at the big one.” One of the oddities of our subculture is that such a phrase usually is received with a smile. Even as 9-11 begins to fade from our immediate consciousnesses we are willing, and even eager, to face that one career-defining incident that would bring out all hands.
The adage that two heads are better than one has been expanded on at Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear generating station.
In Western Canada, the collaboration among industry stakeholders, first responders and government agencies during last summer’s wildfire season was remarkable. Information and resource sharing, situation updates, timely and effective communication, and a lot of plain old hard work provided the necessary tools to get us through a crazy summer. During that time, there were record-sized fires in British Columbia’s Tumbler Ridge and Moberly Lake to Mt. McAllister, and the entire community of Hudson’s Hope, B.C., was evacuated. However, there were also some valuable lessons learned about the hazards first responders typically encounter when responding to emergencies near industrial activities.Pipeline crossings, specifically in rural areas, are one of the most important topics to address for emergency response personnel. Under federal and/or provincial regulations, oil and gas companies that own and operate pipelines are required to monitor, and in many cases prevent, heavy equipment from crossing pipeline right of ways. There are many reasons for this. First, the depth of pipelines varies due to factors including farm activities stripping away layers of soil, hot ground/surface fires, flooding and erosion. And secondly, companies spend a lot of time and resources identifying and mapping pipeline crossings. Nothing is more frustrating to the owner/operator of a high-volume pipeline than seeing that heavy equipment impacted a section of pipe – especially when a designated crossing was close by. Always check with the pipeline company prior to mobilizing heavy equipment.Knowing what the pipelines contain is also critical. Information about the specific products will help determine safe distances for setting up temporary camps, staging areas and incident-command posts. Always verify with the pipeline company what distance should be maintained from the hazard area, which is generally referred to as the emergency planning zone (EPZ). The radius of an EPZ depends on the product being transported, the operating pressure and the liquid/gas volume. Pipeline companies will gladly share product information and emergency protocols with emergency-response personnel. Understanding this information ensures everyone is aware of the potential hazards as well as the do’s and don’ts.The oil and gas industry has numerous sites at which large volumes of hydrocarbons are stored in tank farms. And even though industry works hard to reduce the storage of flammable materials during the fire season, the potential fire/explosive hazard is always present. Tank sizes vary, but it is important that fire departments confirm with the local company the contents of the tanks and the volumes. This information is usually found in the wildfire-mitigation plan for the area.Having up-to-date emergency contact information for industry stakeholders in a given operating area is vital. Company personnel change frequently, which presents communication challenges for everyone. Creating a real-time and accurate list for single points of contact within organizations avoids unnecessary time delays in pushing the critical information to those who need it most. Industry stakeholders also need updated contact information for local emergency services, response agencies and government authorities. A great information-sharing mechanism was created and co-ordinated by Emergency Management BC in Prince George last summer. Interagency and industry conference calls were set up to provide wildfire-situation updates, weather forecasts, fire impacts and much more. Participants were able to get fast, accurate information. By opening up the phone lines, industry stakeholders could then use the most current information to prepare for wildfire threats.Mapping proved to be another challenge with respect to the wildfires. However, industry has many geographic-information-system (GIS) resources available to ensure pipelines, roads, bridges, water sources, work camp locations and other important landmarks are clearly identified on the maps used by response personnel. In fact, most emergency-response plans have updated maps. The maps help responders quickly prioritize their actions and tasks; for example, the structural protection of a large work camp would likely take priority over a pipeline. On the other hand, protecting a bridge may take precedent, depending on the access and egress.Any time we can learn lessons from our past experiences demonstrates a willingness to continually improve response systems, processes, methods and tools.Mike Burzek is the senior HSE co-ordinator for Progress Energy Canada Ltd. He has 26 years of experience in emergency response and public safety. He lives in Fort St. John, B.C., and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
In general terms, pipelines are (mostly) underground conduits used for transporting materials including water, waste products, oil and gas.
In the wake of some very serious industrial accidents around the world, many countries recognized the need for hazard-specific emergency preparedness and response.
Although tactical operations get most of the attention during emergencies, anyone who has been on the front line of emergency response appreciates the ones responsible for the less glamorous task of planning.
The concept of unified command within an incident-management system is often misunderstood during major emergencies or disasters
It is not often that emergency personnel are called to rural farm settings, nor do first responders have the necessary knowledge of agricultural operations
At 9 p.m. on Nov. 20, the tones went off for a tank truck fire in our district. In Slave Lake District, 50 super B oil tankers haul oil products through the region daily.
Not too many departments get the chance to work with air ambulance very often, so when they do it is often a new thing for them. This article was written right after an incident occurred which required air ambulance to attend.
In our look back at the last 10 years, there has been a lot of attention devoted to moving the handline. There has been a paradigm shift in the fire service due to firefighters like Aaron Fields, Andy Fredericks, Dave McGrail and others. This article was written back in 2008 when the paradigm started to take flight.
We are continuing with a look back over the last 10 years with articles that have been a highlight based on the topic or feedback. This article was published in August 2009 and was a highlight because of the topic: not much is discussed about overhaul.  
This year, Back to Basics has reached a milestone. We are entering our 10th year of publication. When I look back on the past 10 years, I am amazed at how much we have covered. I must admit that I never thought this column would last five years, let alone 10. For our 10-year anniversary, I am going to recap some of my favourite articles from over the years that garnered attention within the Canadian fire service.
I recently conducted a structural burn session class for a local fire department, where members had access to a school building for live-fire training. The training day allowed firefighters to refine their skills under realistic conditions.
The BC Wildfire Service uses a ranking scale from one to six to quickly describe fire behaviour based on a set of visual indicators.
Wildland urban interface fires can be one of the most dangerous calls we go on, but perhaps not for the reasons you may suspect.   
The use of sprinklers for structural protection from wildfires was heavily employed in British Columbia during the summer of 2017. Crews from Lac La Biche County in northern Alberta spent six weeks there doing structural protection, which involved largely setting up sprinklers.
Increasingly, municipal firefighters are being called to fight wildland fires and fires in the wildland urban interface. Departments should cultivate a good understanding of wildland fire behaviour, suppression techniques, and above all, safety. One less familiar tactic municipal firefighters sometimes face is the use of bulldozers (dozers) in fireline construction. This article will provide an overview of why and how dozers are used to control wildfires.
As I’m writing this column, the news reported that three more deaths have been confirmed in the wildfires burning in northern California’s wine country, which were already the deadliest series of such fires in state history. The death toll had reached 42 by the afternoon of Oct. 20. An estimated 8,400 homes and businesses were destroyed. The photos of the fires, which caused more than US $1 billion in damages, are mind numbing.
The summer’s wildfire season in British Columbia’s Southern Interior was unprecedented: multiple fires started in our drought-ravaged area and kept us busy well into September.
Maybe having more than 800 kilometres of shoreline had something to do with Prince Edward County council’s decision to expand its fire department into ice-water rescue. Until February, the Prince Edward County Fire Department was limited to shore-based rescue, which is not uncommon in rural Ontario today.
Water/ice rescue tips for starting up a program for your coverage area

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