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June 12, 2015
By Les Karpluk

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Blogger Les Karpluk with the CFFF's Doug Wylie and Comox Chief Gord Shreiner. Les Karpluk made the most of his visit to the Fire Chiefs Association of BC conference last week; he was the keynote speaker but learned as much or more from other presenters.

June 12, 2015, Penticton, B.C. - Another Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC conference is finished. I realize that Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King has been blogging about the conference; I want to provide a speaker’s view.

I enjoy walking the trade show and looking at the new tools and training aids. I also collect challenge coins, so when I have a chance to buy a new one or trade one of my coins, I jump at it. I purchased five Saskatchewan Fire Services CFFF Memorial 2015 challenge coins and brought them to give away or trade in Penticton. I walked around the trade-show floor wearing my Rider golf shirt and was able to trade a couple of my challenge coins. The fact that the Saskatchewan challenge coin has Rider Nation on one side made it very appealing to many people. I must make a mental note that when someone really, really likes the Rider coin, I don’t necessarily have to give it to him or her! Oh well, time to order some more because of the Rider fans in British Columbia.

The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Doug Wylie and Wayne Jasper are familiar faces on the trade-show floor. I want to put in a plug for the CFFF because it does great work. When I spoke with Doug and Wayne I could feel their passion for the fire service and the CFFF and its mission. The CFFF is one organization every fire department should support.

I have to thank the FCABC for giving me the honour and privilege of being the opening keynote speaker. I have to be honest: the pressure was on me because the opening keynote is a critical part of the conference. As a presenter, I really wanted to nail it and set a positive tone for the conference.

As usual (and a longstanding joke between Laura and me), I was up late making changes to my second presentation. The conference committee had me scheduled for three separate sessions, and at the end of the day it was great sitting on the hotel patio looking at Lake Okanagan and having a nice cold refreshment.

It’s a tough gig giving an opening keynote to more than 250 chief officers and I truly appreciate the many people who came up to during the conference and thanked me for what I said; it makes me want to do it more.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Cleveland Battalion Chief Sean DeCrane. Sean is the IAFF rep on the Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute advisory board and, honestly, I could sit and listen to him talk all day about using science to change the way fires are fought. The evening before, I was able to spend several hours with Sean and the conversation kept going in the direction of saving lives by using science.

Sean’s presentation was packed full of data and he highlighted the fact that research is showing how quickly engineered lumber fails under fire conditions, the impact of horizontal ventilation, firefighter safety and photovoltaic systems, basement fires, attic fires, and more.

While listening to Sean, I found myself reading between the lines and thinking how important this information is, and wishing that I had received more information in my career regarding fire behaviour. Sean nailed it when he made a point that the curriculum for fire behaviour for Firefighter I is just three hours, Firefighter II does not cover any fire behaviour and neither does Officer 1 and 2. Sean pointed out that fire behaviour comprises just one per cent of a firefighter’s required training. I think he made his point.

On Wednesday, I took in Richmond Hill Fire Chief Steve Kraft’s presentation on using technology as training aids. Chief Kraft identified how SimsUShare can be used to train firefighters for residential fires in conjunction with Windows Movie Maker (which you can download for free). Kraft used both programs to demonstrate to train firefighters at a very reasonable cost. He quickly put together a video to demonstrate how easy it is to use Movie Maker. Departments can use Movie Maker to create training videos and upload then to YouTube. The delegates liked what they saw.

Later in the morning I was able to sit in on Gordon Graham’s presentation about the Top 10 things that get firefighters into trouble. I’m not sure where to start on this because you have to see Gordon Graham in person to appreciate the knowledge this man has in his head about risk management. For 75 minutes we listened to examples about seatbelt use, pre-shift checklist for every apparatus, harassment, annual performance evaluations, integrity issues and more. All I can say is if you get a chance to listen to Gordon Graham speak, you better jump at it.

Chief Kraft also presented “Leading from the top,” and his focus was on the responsibility of chief officers. Steve and I were able to spend many hours talking about the fire service and one of his presentation quotes sticks out in my mind: “What you accept in your presence is your standard.” I think this is very fitting.

As usual, conference committee members went out of their way to ensure that all of the speakers were well taken care of; they truly understand the word hospitality.

My next stop was is a leadership seminar with Chief Darrell Blades of 100 Mile House. Darrell had the house packed and it was to be a great day. Another blog is in order!


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