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May 19, 2015, Prince Albert, Sask. - I had one day off between a recent trip to Vancouver Island and a weekend presentation to the members of the Redwood Meadows Emergency Services in Alberta, and was busy fine-tuning my PowerPoint when my dog jumped on my MacBook keyboard. I immediately wondered how she could do that and not break my keyboard…oops, I was wrong and picked up the broken key off the floor.

A little bit of panic set in because I don’t have a backup and even though one key was broken, along with its functionality, I could still use my laptop and give my presentation. The fire training kicked in and my job was to solve my problem and get a new keyboard or buy a new laptop. The cheaper option was, obviously, getting the keyboard fixed, but I could have used a new excuse to replace my two-year-old MacBook Pro. After making a phone call to an Apple store in Calgary I made arrangements to stop in while en route to Cochrane and get some opinions on my options.

I drove through Edmonton to get to Calgary and then off to Cochrane to my hotel lodgings. While driving through Edmonton I managed to get lost (even though I had my GPS) and this required a phone call to the boss (my wife) for guidance. Yeah, I could sense the surprise in my wife’s voice when I told her I was lost in Edmonton and the car was literally running on fumes. Thankfully, I was able to get fuel and then head to Calgary. While in Calgary looking for the Apple store, I got lost. Yup, again! I know, I know, I had my GPS on, but one wrong turn and I was lost. Another call to the boss to vent my frustration and then I decided to follow the directions on the GPS to get me to my destination. I swear it took me through the scenic route in Calgary, but at least I arrived at the Apple store.

While talking to two different reps at the Apple store, it became clear that my MacBook Pro is still very fast and has the maximum amount of RAM and there was no benefit to upgrading unless I had nothing better to do with my money. That was a good sign and even though I was looking for an excuse to get a new one, I followed some advice from my friend Rich Gasaway and used my intuition and decided to save my money.

I spent the next day with Redwood Meadows Chief Rob Evans and he took me through the service boundaries that fall within his department’s jurisdiction. Rob took me to several areas and described the impact from the 2013 flood. When Redwood Meadows got hit, I was following Rob on his Facebook while he was posting about the berm in Redwood Meadows. When I stood on the berm I could not comprehend how much water actually flowed past and came within inches of destroying the berm.

It’s not a secret that Rob is a great photographer and since I consider myself below the novice level, I got some good ideas and could hardly wait to order a few more toys (I mean pieces of equipment). Hey, after all I didn’t have to spend a ton of money on my laptop, so any excuse to spend money on camera equipment works for me.

I told Rob how I managed to get lost in Edmonton and Calgary and I asked him if the camera store I wanted to go to would be hard to find. The look on his face spoke loudly enough and then he said, “It is hard to find and you would probably get lost.” Thanks Rob for saving me some undue frustration and embarrassment.

Four departments were represented at the leadership seminar and several firefighters and chief officers drove hours to attend. It was a great day and it’s hard not to get energized from the passion of those who attended. In the last 10 days I have met with the leadership of more than a dozen volunteer fire departments and I am amazed at the services these departments provide to their communities. These volunteers work regular jobs and unselfishly serve so they can help keep their communities safe. I know the hours required to keep up on the practical skills, and I was even more impressed when many officers were talking about the courses they are taking from post-secondary institutions. Simply amazing, and all with the intent to become better officers. Wow!

What was really cool during my seminar was the fact that there were Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennial’s in the room. The open discussions we had were incredible and there is little doubt in my mind that the departments represented on Saturday understand the necessity of good leadership in the department.

Now that I am back home, all I have to do is update the GPS in my car and spend some time reading the user manual so I know how to save myself the embarrassment of getting lost and admitting it to my wife.

Luckily for me my return trip was uneventful and I even had a chance to stop in at IKEA and Costco and I didn’t get lost once.

Les Karpluk is the retired fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes

May 19, 2015 
By Les Karpluk

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