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Essex Fire & Rescue holds procedure presentation for councillors



by Adam Gault

A special council meeting was held on Monday afternoon, inside the large meeting room at the Essex Municipal Building, which featured a presentation from Essex Fire & Rescue that broke down the procedures regarding services and response protocol from the municipal fire service.

Essex Fire & Rescue Chief Rick Arnel and Deputy Fire Chief Rick Malott hosted the presentation, which outlined numerous regulations, ranging from functions of an Emergency Operations Centre, provincial legislation - such as the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, fire prevention and safety, and the skills required and challenges fire services face in the execution of their duties in the 21st century.

No longer reporting directly to the Town’s CAO, Essex Fire & Rescue now reports to the Director of Community Services after a change made in 2018.

The Province of Ontario’s Fire Protection and Prevention Act, which was enacted more than 20-years ago in 1997, states that the province is to support municipal fire services through communication and monitoring, but each respective municipality is responsible for funding their own services to the requirements and circumstances of their town.

Part of this mandate is achieved through the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM), which works to support a town’s fire services to deliver the most efficient and optimum fire protection for its community.

Several key measures play a large role in the OFMEM’s method in combating fire emergencies, and with that in mind, have developed a three-step approach in addressing those issues.

First, is public education and general fire prevention, stopping fires and emergencies before they can happen. Second, fire safety standards and enforcement, ensuring buildings are up to code and with working smoke alarms; and lastly is emergency response, and being dispatched to deal with a fire.

“The way we look at it today is, if we’re are doing an emergency response at a fire, we consider that a failure,” Arnel explained of the final measure of the OFMEM approach. “The fire services are changing their mentality and what they believe in, and that is now the new norm in the province. We’ve got to prevent the fires to save lives.”

Some of those prevention services Essex Fire & Rescue offers include a smoke alarm program, distribution of fire safety education material to residents, responding to fire safety complaints, requests to assist with code compliance, Vulnerable Occupancy compliance, basic fire incident evaluation, and Community Risk Assessment and Public Reporting.

Arnel also explained how some of today’s modern fires can prove to be more challenging than similar fires of 30 years ago.

Modern construction materials, such as composites and plastics, burn much quicker than more traditional materials that were found in buildings of the past. Along with an increase in more open concept buildings, some fires can fully engulf a structure before firefighters can even attend the scene.

“We’ve got low-density, high mass plastics, foam, we have all kinds of synthetics in our homes, and the fuel load is ever so increased,” Arnel said. “Working smoke alarms, I preach that all the time. That’s going to save your life.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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