His­toric bri­gade mov­ing into the fu­ture

Har­bour Grace fire­fight­ers bol­stered by new truck; re­sponse sys­tem

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

The fire bri­gade in Har­bour Grace may be con­sid­ered one of the old­est in the prov­ince, but it doesn’t take a back seat to any when it comes to train­ing, equip­ment and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances.

The lat­est ev­i­dence of this was un­veiled dur­ing the bri­gade’s an­nual fire­fight­ers’ ball on Nov. 10.

Dur­ing his re­port, Chief Ray Verge an­nounced the bri­gade is in­vest­ing in a new sys­tem called I Am Re­spond­ing, a Web-based pro­gram that, among other things, gives an up-to-the-sec­ond ac­count of who is re­spond­ing to an emer­gency call , whether th ey are re­spond­ing to the fire hall or di­rectly to the emer­gency scene, and when they will be re­spond­ing.

The sys­tem is de­signed to re­duce re­sponse times.

Verge and other mem­bers of the depart­ment were in­tro­duced to the tech­nol­ogy dur­ing a con­fer­ence in Nova Sco­tia this past sum­mer, and were im­me­di­ately sold

ABOUT THE HAR­BOUR GRACE VOL­UN­TEER FIRE

BRI­GADE:

• Ex­ec­u­tive — Chief Ray Verge, As­sis­tant Chief Dave Earle, Sec­re­tary Doug Tay­lor, Trea­surer Robert Tet­ford Jr., and crew chiefs Brian Dwyer, Paul Snow, Lee Rogers, Jim Barnes, Shawn Baker and Stephen Sul­li­van; • Fire­fight­ers — Dave Reg­u­lar, An­drew Archibald, Bill Ryan, Der­rick Dove, Alf Dove, Paul Ash, Philiip Ped­dle, Shawn Dob­bin, John Shee­han, Paul Sul­li­van, Dave Squires, Pat Hearn, Craig Wil­liams, David Green, Mark Snow, Charles Archibald, Ja­son McCarthy, Stephen Tay­lor, Adam Shep­pard, Chris Nose­wor­thy, Wayne Smith, Stephen Verge, Wade Luff­man, Rick Davis, Pat Haire, So­nia Wil­liams and Peter Butt; • Aux­il­iary ex­ec­u­tive — pres­i­dent Maureen Maher, vice-pres­i­dent Natalie Verge, sec­re­tary Dawn Butt, and trea­surer Jackie Luff­man; • Board of di­rec­tors — Chief Ray Verge, club man­ager Maureen Maher, Phil Tay­lor, Jackie Luff­man, Edgar Snow, Wayne Smith, Lloyd Pike, Ja­son McCarthy, Bill Kennedy and Heather McCarthy. • Emer­gency num­ber — 596-5151 • Train­ing — Tues­day evenings • Es­tab­lished — 182 years ago • On the web — http://www.hgvfb.com/ on its ben­e­fits.

“A lot of times we’re here at the hall and we don’t know if we have other mem­bers com­ing. We have no real ac­count­abil­ity. A lot of times we leave the fire hall with empty seats and we have guys just tak­ing the cor­ner here on Ban­ner­man Street,” said Verge.

“Now, we can see that we have 20 guys re­spond­ing to the fire hall. So if crew chief Paul Snow is the of­fi­cer-in-charge and we leave right away with the first six guys, he can be sure we have an­other seven or eight guys com­ing.”

Here’s how it works. When an emer­gency call is re­ceived, the dis- patcher sends out a de­tailed page to fire­fight­ers, along with a text to their per­sonal mo­bile telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices. Fire­fight­ers can advi se of t h eir in­ten­tions by re­spond­ing with a pre-de­ter­mined mes­sage on their de­vices. This mes­sage is then dis­played on a mon­i­tor at the fire hall, giv­ing the of­fice-in­charge a real- time view of the re­sponse ef­fort.

The sys­tem will also track each mem­bers’ train­ing time and course com­ple­tions, at­ten­dance, and al­low for full in­ci­dent re­port­ing and much more.

Verge de­scribed I Am Re­spond­ing as an “awe­some” pro­gram, and said Har­bour Grace is likely the first bri­gade in the prov­ince to use it.

New multi-role pumper

Its in­tro­duc­tion comes on the heels of the ar­rival of the bri­gade’s new cus­tom multi- role res­cue pumper, which has been in ser­vice since this sum­mer and has al­ready proved its worth on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, most re­cently dur­ing a vi­o­lent head- on col­li­sion on Vet­er­ans Memo­rial High­way that re­sulted in the death of one male driver and se­ri­ous in­juries to a sec­ond.

Some fire­fight­ers on the SCBA team are also wear­ing new car­bon­fi­bre air cylin­ders that are sub­stan­tially lighter than the steel tanks, Verge ex­plained.

And the cold-wa­ter res­cue team, un­der the guid­ance of team leader Bill Ryan, has ben­e­fit­ted from an in­vest­ment of some $ 25,000 in re­cent years. The team in­cludes 10 res­cue tech­ni­cians and 24 mem­bers trained to an “aware­ness and op­er­a­tional” level, said Verge.

The bri­gade also has a highly trained ex­tri­ca­tion team, which Verge said did a “fab­u­lous job” at the Nov. 5 high­way tragedy.

As­sis­tant Chief Dave Earle, who was MC for the ball , said the bri­gade as come a long way from the days of “long black coats, plas­tic hel­mets and orange gloves” that were bet­ter known as “fire balls.”

These ad­vances are sym­bolic of a bri­gade that takes great pride in its ser­vice to the town and the re­gion, Mayor Don Coombs stated in his ad­dress to those gath­ered at the Hy­drant Club.

Coombs said the bri­gade has the en­dur­ing re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the town coun­cil, and praised the mem­bers for an­other tremen­dous year.

“We re­spect you and the many sac­ri­fices you make for your town and the sur­round­ing re­gion,” he said.

Coombs de­scribed the vol­un­teer ef­forts of the bri­gade as “price­less” and “ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

Busy year

Verge gave a de­tailed ac­count of the bri­gade’s in­volve­ment in the community over the past year, rang­ing from the Christ­mas parade and the Sum­mer Games to the Har­bour Grace Re­gatta and fundrais­ing ef­forts for the lo­cal health foun­da­tion. He said the de­mand for in­spec­tions also spiked this year.

His mes­sage was es­pe­cially earnest when the topic turned to at­ten­dance and com­mit­ment. He said the is­sue has been the sub­ject of dis­cus­sion and re­cent ex­ec­u­tive meet­ings, and he pleaded with mem­bers to hon­our their com­mit­ment to the bri­gade.

“You vol­un­teer to fill out the ap­pli­ca­tion” to join the bri­gade, said Verge. “Ev­ery­thing af­ter that is manda­tory. This is not like any other group in your community.”

Verge of­fered spe­cial praise to Maureen Maher, who is pres­i­dent of the Aux­il­iary and man­ager of the Hy­drant Club. Maher is af­fec­tion­ately known as “Mother Ship” around the Hy­drant Club.

“She’s al­ways been solid for the bri­gade,” said Verge. “I’m not sure what we would do with his build­ing if we didn’t have her.”

Verge also thanked the en­tire aux­il­iary, those who serve as dis­patch­ers, mem­bers of the Top of the Lad­der Club (re­tirees), and staff and coun­cil mem­bers with the Town of Har­bour Grace. He said they pro­vide a “great ser­vice” to the bri­gade.

Verge also came in for plenty of praise, with fire­fighter Bill Ryan not­ing, “We’re proud of how far Ray has come.”

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Dave R e g u l a r (right) was hon­oured for his 35 years of ded­i­cated ser­vice to the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade, while Stephen Verge re­ceived a 20-year ex­em­plary ser­vice award from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

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