January 2017 marked the start of the Ontario Government’s Fire Safety Technical Table Committee.
The inaugural meeting was held on January 31, 2017 with invitees that represent stakeholders from across the Ontario fire service. The impetus for the technical table was multi-faceted and was driven in part by including the legislative lobby for standards in the fire service by Ontario Professional Fire Fighter Association members and several lawsuits and coroner’s inquest findings. These suits and inquests specifically pointed to the lack of professional and other standards that were a liability for fire departments across the province.
Did you know that when you go for a haircut, your barber or hair stylist has to meet professional qualifications and the shop or salon needs to meet inspection standards? Your local fire department --fire fighters, inspectors, communicators, officers etc. –have no statutory professional qualifications to attain or maintain.
The technical table was initially greeted by the Honourable Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services where we were charged with making recommendations to the Ministry for possible legislative or regulatory changes. A plan was made to hold regular meetings to culminate in the fall of 2017. We have met as a committee monthly plus held several additional meetings of the ‘working group’ to delve into several specifics.
Professional qualifications for fire fighters, inspectors, communicators are important to promoting the professionalism of our members and recognizing at least the minimum qualifications required. As the committee has representation from the paid on-call/composite fire department community and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario we are faced with addressing challenges raised by those groups. It is the position of the OPFFA that if a department advertises that their fire services includes interior fire attack and rescue that they must have NFPA 1001/NFPA 1002 certified fire fighters to carry this out. We contend that without certified staff departments should not perform those operations until adequate certified personnel are present. Likewise, your OPFFA reps on the committee are pursuing a recommendation of professional qualifications for fire inspectors, fire communicators, training officers, and company officers. With all of this, we are recommending that municipalities be mandated to publicly state the level of service provided to the public and they support those levels with the human resources (trained and qualified FD staff) to do so.
Ontario lacks data required to perform evidence-based evaluations of service levels and outcomes in the province. We have had extensive discussions of data reporting and collection as it relates to response standards found in NFPA 1710 and NFPA 1720 and how this can integrate into the current OFM Standard Incident Reporting (SIR) requirements. We believe we will reach a recommendation on defining the call processing and response time requirements to create NFPA defined, consistent province wide definitions on reporting. Additionally, we would like to see operational benchmarks time-stamped for all fire department incidents, this item will not likely be attained in this round but be deferred to SIR review discussions which we will recommend be conducted.
Lastly, for this report, we are discussing the need for regular and quality Community Risk Assessments by municipalities. There is no current requirement for municipalities to conduct these if they choose not to; therefore it is difficult to match service to risk when the risks are unknown or unreported. Our goal is to recommend mandatory minimum requirements for Community Risk Assessments. These become the basis for establishing standards on inspection and education and on supporting those with adequate fire suppression resources in communities.
Our efforts to date in the Fire Safety Technical Table Committee is to make the move to set standards to educate and certify our members and all fire, province wide. We want sound data to enable evidenced based decision making on fire department matters and open communication by municipalities to their constituents of the service levels actually delivered.
We will continue to work in this regard and look forward to the final recommendations of the committee and regulatory changes that will arise from them.