These last two weeks I've furthered my education. I requested an hour with Chief Mount for a 101 overview that generated the point-form report below. It was shared with all the candidates, and so I, in turn, am sharing it with you.
On Sept. 26 at the Community Hall, I was speed dated by a tag team of volunteer firefighters led by Chaplin Gordon Kouwenberg. Their mission: To inform candidates about their efforts and to gauge our feelings on whether we believe they merit consideration for an approx. $7/hour honorarium. That stipend, relatively commonplace in BC volunteer fire departments, would help the perennial efforts to recruit/retain an effectively free labour pool that gives so much back to the community at the cost of sleep and quality time with their families.
I said 'yes, of course,' after quickly calculating that at 300 hours per year on average per volunteer, the payout would be about $2,100 a head. Multiply this by the Chief's desired maximum of 45 volunteers, and the total cost would be less than $100k per year (of which part-funding is available from the province). Whether my numbers are accurate or this strategy will work or not remains to be seen, but it's worth a try. (The department currently has an annual budget of $2 million for staffing, training and equipment costs.)
Finally, on a recent Friday, I sat with new DOS career firefighter @Ben Temple for an hour at the Stick In The Mud Coffee House ~ not far from the spot where I met with this year's BC Fire Training Officer of the Year Cam Norris-Jones during the 2014 campaign.
My takeaway from all this is that we're fortunate to be served by a set of first-rate, peer-reviewed and approved professionals and volunteers. They merit respect and the leeway to do the work for which they're trained with all due oversight from council but minus the enhanced degree of micro-management and second guessing they received from council's financial watchdogs in the spring.
Bonus from this intensive: I'm now well enough versed in local emergency services to at least partially keep up with Stick cohort Bob Hudson when he launches into the subject, as he is prone to do. 🤔
Okay, here's the run-down of the facts circulated by Corporate Officer Carolyn Mushata and compiled (I assume) by Chief Mount following our meeting ...
"The District received the following request for information from a candidate and is provided to all candidates for information:
· Volunteer recruitment process and status:
o Current Roster is at 41 including all paid staff, support members and suppression firefighters. Need to be between 50-55 members
o Volunteers have requested to look at a plan for true Paid On Call system to be phased in
· Staffing levels and 10 min response time challenges:
o Defined what the 10 min response time means and revisited the past presentation to Council. Explained the B.C. Building Code limited distance
o Explained how the 10 min response time does not work in the province with the Volunteer Composite Model due to mustering time and staffing requirements
o Explained the that Superior Tanker Shuttle Service Accreditation is an impact on water supply requirements and not related to a 10 min response time. Residents are being advised about this insurance dwelling protection grading savings by mail out. Many residents walk into the station asking for a letter of support now for their insurance renewals.
o The Office of The Fire Commissioners Playbook minimum standards and our Full Service Capabilities is a training standard that Sooke Fire has met the competencies for years in advance of this and this Provincial required standard; this standard is not associated to the B.C Building Code. 10 min response time requires a comprehensive long term staffing model. Training is not a barrier to this.
· Asset Management and Apparatus Replacement Plan – FCABC presentation
o The long term apparatus replacement plan has been inputted into the district asset management system
o The District is seen as leaders in the Province when it comes to this type of planning
o We were noted in the Province with a presentation request at the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C conference.
o Presentation was well received and the plan is under further review with Fire Under Writers Survey with a current grading rating evaluation
o Current Fleet is under some pressure as small utility vehicles are showing significant signs of unreliability and downtime
· Sooke Emergency Program and Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP) Planning growth
o The NEPP pods are showing interest and growth
o More Grant applications will be forthcoming that Council will be advised on and require support
o The Sooke Emergency Program has a small budget
o Acknowledging that this program needs more focus and staff support after our June 28th exercise. Report is attached to the ESS grant application for review.
o Future UBCM Grants of interest for the Sooke Emergency Program will be for Emergency Centre Operations and evacuation planning
· Emergency Operation Centre Improvements
o More training for staff support will be necessary in 2019
o Grant application will be focusing on the Information Technology Improvements
o Running the program on the side of the desk without full focus creates challenges
o District is moving in the proper direction to better serve Emergency Management, the grants will be very helpful
· Bylaw and weekend Bylaw Officer coverage status
o With a new Bylaw Officer providing service over the weekends and evenings is making a difference
o Receiving good feedback from residents regarding a new presence with Bylaw
· Motor Vehicle Incidents and the impacts on Sooke Road
o We have a steady stream of Motor Vehicle Incidents recently and reviewed the most recent week of back to back extrication being required
o Comments on feedback from other agencies with respect to the good team work and competencies of skills in auto extrication techniques
o Advised that the Fire Dept does not close roads and the most recent incident the Fire Dept provided extrication support and the extended delays were due to the scene being under the control of a traffic analyst and BC Hydro flaggers.
o Mutual Aid relationship is excellent. Discussed how Fire Dept managed 5 incidents at once with support:
· Otter Point MVI
· Dog Bite
· Landing Zone support
· Medical Call
· Smoke Chase
· We continue to invest in Critical Incident Stress Management and Health and Wellness for our membership
· Summarized that the Fire Department is in good shape morale wise and is in a better position administratively than it was a few years ago.
· Hosting the B.C Training Officers Association conference and having the Training Officer of the Year designation has been a good experience
· With respect to staffing and overtime this is still be address and the it will take some time to recover still and be reflected with time off. We are making progress on managing this better.
· Talked about the Volunteer support with the wildfire deployments with our reserve Engine and more revenue generation. Will continue to focus on Wildfire Training and the Structural Protection Programs. Advised that we do have a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and long term fuel mitigation strategies take some significant planning and potential long term maintenance requirements."