Emergency Services Director Evan Hale has had a busy month settling into his new position with the Municipality of Pictou County.
Hale’s position was created based on the recommendation from a recent fire study and will be working with the 18 fire departments in the MOPC to help the volunteer organizations run more efficiently.
He told Council Monday that he has already met with 13 of the 18 departments and has had some difficult but positive conversations. He has identified four areas that need immediate attention, and these include dispatching, training, accountability system and recruitment.
Hale said there are currently nine departments in rural Pictou County using Valley Communications in Kentville.
“One issue we had identified in fire study was dispatching. We had multiple providers for dispatching in our county and that was viewed as an area where improvement is needed. We were seeing a long period between stations being dispatched depending on where they were coming from and where the respective dispatching center was located.”
He said he is currently working with other departments to find ways to strengthen their signal strength in hopes that more will be encouraged to join Valley Communications in the future.
Regarding training, Hale said all the departments he spoke with agreed that there should be set training standards in our county, so he is working with chiefs to establish baseline training through accredited schools.
The accountability system that firefighters wear while on a scene is also an area that needs attention, he said. The accountability system is a tag system that firefighters wear so their movements and positions are tracked even when they can’t be seen.
“The problem we currently have in the county is that each station has some type of accountability system, but they are all separate from each department so that becomes an issue when dealing with mutual aid given the incident commander isn’t aware of the other departments’ accountability systems.”
He is working with local chiefs to create a two-tag system for all firefighters, green and red. Green means a firefighter is competent to fight fires, and red means they are not able, or unwilling to enter a fire but are able to perform tasks on the exterior of the structure. He has also had meetings with Michelin, and it has agreed to support this initiative and is supplying the coloured tags, as well as printing them for the county.
“This will greatly improve the safety of our firefighters and make our Incident commander’s job far easier.”
Lastly, he said recruitment is always an area of concern for all departments and he has posted information on the MOPC website and social media sites to promote recruitment as well as being available to answer questions about firefighting.
“We are designing a portion to our website, which will allow interested parties to see some FAQs, and other information regarding our municipal fire service. Within this webpage, there will be an option to “apply now”, this applicant will enter their contact information, as well as their address. This will be forwarded to me, where I can determine their closest fire station, and directly contact them with the department chief, or designate.”
Hale is also compiling recruitment videos where we will disperse them on social media and will also approach local theatres about playing them before the shows begin.
“I feel this will be a way to grab the attention of our younger demographic. I have reached out to our local departments in hopes they will aid in the recruitment of new firefighters.”