Dispatch issues plague Ontario Plunked on the kitchen counter, the Toronto Star headline on that first Saturday in June screamed “Fire teams lose crucial minutes”. I hadn’t yet ingested any caffeine and wasn’t sure I wanted to read the story for fear of the grief it would surely cause Toronto Fire Services. I was wrong. The story made TFS look good but the provincially run dispatch system through which its calls are processed didn’t fare as well. The story appeared about a month after the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs annual conference at which Burlington Chief Shayne Mintz outlined the OAFC’s extensive efforts to convince the province that changes to the dispatch system will save lives. Essentially, the chiefs argue, firefighters can get to calls faster than EMS and can start CPR on cardiac arrest patients before the crucial six-minute mark at which brain death occurs. Seems logical and Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci appears to be on side. Knowing the OAFC’s agenda, we planned our July edition of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly around the issue. Our cover story on page 8 looks at the OAFC’s progress and includes a sidebar about fire-based EMS in Lethbridge, where Chief Brian Cornforth and his crew of dual-trained paramedics-firefighters walked me through the fire-EMS system last summer following the Alberta chiefs conference. In an effort to be comprehensive in our coverage, freelance writer Carla Garrett, looks in depth at Ontario’s dispatch system, which will undergo changes starting in 2010, on page 20, and Vancouver-based Paul Dixon gives a coast-to-coast overview of fire-EMS dispatch relationships on page 18. We don’t often devote so much space in a single issue of our magazine to one topic but with changes to ambulance operations in Alberta and New Brunswick in the last year and the focus on the wise use of resources and best practices it seemed logical to do so. Firefighters often e-mail me asking how to become a writer for the magazine. We talk about ideas and deadlines and issues that are national in scope and I outline my expectations and the importance of knowing who our readers are and what they want. Peter Hunt contacted me more than a year ago and proposed a Fire IQ column to look at fire fighting-ese – the terms firefighters use on the job. He wanted to make sure the terms were being used and understood consistently across the country. Good idea. We’ve run Fire IQ in several issues now and athough it has been well received, Peter has more to say. He has strong opinions about fire-service issues and articulates them so well we thought it wise to offer him a soap box on which to do so. The column continues to be called Fire IQ but it has evolved into an opinion piece that we hope you enjoy. This month’s Fire IQ is on page 16.
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