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Has the Clare Firefighters Association in Nova Scotia found a solution to recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters? They very well may have

Posted on 18th Jan 2020

I had the privilege of training with members of the Clare Firefighters Association in Nova Scotiain April. The attendees to the conference came from many departments in the region, sometraveled more than three hours to get to Clare. The weekend of training focused on firefightingtechniques, leadership development and firefighter safety. The number of attendees was nearly300.

Members of the planning committee for the training conferenceintroduced me to a training system they developed called theClare Firefighters Association Training Passport. The committee,developed the idea of a training passport after a number ofincidents were identified that could have been run moresmoothly. Modeled in appearance after a traditional travelpassport the training committee was guided by the National FireProtection Association’s (NFPA) training standards.

The members of the committee worked for several hours and hundreds of emails between eachother to pull together a program of training to meet the needs of their region. They identifiedthree levels of training that they felt would aid small volunteer departments like themselvesattract and retain members by allowing motivated individuals to participate in fire groundactivities based upon training they wanted to receive. With the safety and welfare of eachindividual volunteer at the forefront of their development process, three levels of training wereestablished.

The Red Level training focused on skills that would allow an individual to join the fire departmentand participate in activities outside the hot zone of a fire, such as first aid, equipment stock piling, rehab sector activities, and clean-up after a fire. The Red Level significantly restricts amember’s exposure to the dangers of structural firefighting while permitting them to be verysupportive to interior crews.

The Yellow Level training concentrates on more warmzone level activities, where members are allowed to assistwith exterior ventilation, establishing water supplies,scene lighting, forcible entry, and exterior fire fighting.Those individuals that were interested in firefighting wouldbe educated and trained on more than seventeen topicareas, all according to NFPA guidelines. This expands theeffective fire fighting force by including people who wantto become a part of their local fire departments but maynot wish to actively participate in interior fire suppressionactivities.

The highest level, Green Level training includes all of the elements of both red and yellow leveltraining but builds on those foundations by including a number of complex training componentssuch as interior fire attack, breathing apparatus, search and rescue, hazmat and WMDmitigation skills. As a member’s training level expands, color designation tags on their helmetseasily identifies them to the incident commander on the scene, which can assist the IC inassigning appropriate fire ground tasks.

The passport training committee went so far as to develop and include officer training into theirprogram. Included in the officer training in addition to leadership is basic cause and origindetermination, fire protection systems, public education and ICS-200 level. No one can argueagainst officer training, since a highly skilled officer is better able to resolve fire groundproblems.

I was struck by the desire of the committee to develop a training program that would attractindividuals to join their departments and provide to them a level of training commensurate withthe desires of the new member, based upon how extensively they wanted to participate.Volunteer departments across North America are struggling to recruit and maintain volunteers.

Training programs are often lacking and provide little excitement or incentive to remain amember of their community’s fire department. I strongly believe the Clare FirefightersAssociation has developed a solution to that problem.

What is most impressive about the work of the Clare Firefighters Association is their lazar focuson safety and training and their work to include as many people as possible. There areindividuals who do not wish to spend many hours training to be an interior firefighter but wouldjump at the opportunity to participate on the fire ground in water shuttle set-up, conductingrehab operations or assisting with the advancement of hose line for the interior suppressioncrews. This training passport program may well just be the ticket to increase memberships.

Please don’t think that the Clare Association has or is willing to cut corners, and turn a blind eyeto training and allow a lesser trained firefighter to do things for which they have not receiveddocumented training. Training records are maintained by the association and stamps arerecorded within each members individual passports. Training records can be cross checked toensure a member actually has received training as is proficient in an area and has been signedoff on by the instructor.

The true commitment to safety for the firefighter and their families is also very evident in thispassport program. Any injury to a firefighter has wide ranging effects. Families can suffer fromthe injury to their loved one, communities lose a responder and employers lose a skilled worker.The use of this passport training program allows fire department members to actively anticipatein a meaningful and supportive way on the fire ground. Officers can easily identify memberstraining level by the color designation on their helmets and assign them tasks in keeping withtheir skills. Not every member can be on the nozzle engaged in direct battle with the dragoninside a structure fire. Firefighting is a team activity, always has been. This new training systemand program of inclusion very well may be a real step forward in addressing the recruitment andretention of skilled volunteer firefighters in your community and across Canada.

I encourage all of you that may be interested in learning what this Passport Training program isand how to implement it in your department to contact Daniel Gaudt of the Clare FirefightersAssociation at danielwg@eastlink.ca The Clare Firefighters Association Training Passport

Committee is made up of the following:

Committee Chair Daniel Gaudet Fire Chief Saint-Bernard Fire Dept.

Claude Gaudet Captain Saint-Bernard Fire Dept.
Yvon Thibodeau Deputy Chief/Training Officer Little Brook Fire Dept.
Doug Cromwell Fire Chief Southville and Area Fire Dept.
Ephraim Mullen Fire Fighter Southville and Area Fire Dept.
Daniel Kyle Training Officer Salmon River Fire Dept.
Daniel Melanson Fire Fighter Salmon River Fire Dept.
Andrew Weaver Fire Fighter Havelock and Area Fire Dept