The over 800 members of Local 18 are trained to a very high level of skill in a number of areas out side of what is commonly referred to as fire fighting duties. These services we provide the citizens of Vancouver include motor vehicle accident extrication, hazardous materials response, first responder medical assistance, fire boat operations, high angle and trench rescue. In addition we are trained in Wild Land firefighting operations protecting both Stanley Park and Spirit Park surrounding the Endowment Lands. Our members also staff the Arson Investigation division.
Outside of the protection of life and property our members also provide extensive education to the public through schools, community centers and service organizations. This includes both fire prevention and a very successful CPR program.
Our members responded to over 11,000 fire calls resulting in over 23 millions dollars in damage last year. This included residential, commercial and vehicle fires; bush and grass fires and various other fire types. Our members take pride maintaining a high standard of proficiency in such areas as incident command, “live fire” training, high rise fire fighting, Sky train response, driver training and wildland firefighting.
The training center situated near the city center provides our members the facility to refine their skills not only in basic fire fighting but technical rescue, HAZ MAT operations as well as maintaining the necessary technical knowledge of auto extrication. The training ground offers a number formal class rooms, a complete burn tower, and a number of training aides such as rail cars for HAZ MAT operations and crane tower for Tech Rescue operations.
Our members responded to over 20,000 Medical Emergency Service Alarms (MESA) in 2002. With twenty fire stations located through out the city of Vancouver we can respond to most incidents within four minutes. Our members are trained as First Responders, the first level of a layered pre-hospital care system designed in the best interests of patient care and outcome. As such we respond to medical incidents as set out in the Medical Protocol Dispatch System used by the ambulance service. We train in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) for certain types of cardiac incidents, and basic medical care.
We would like to receive higher levels of medical training and assist the public more often, but are prevented from doing so by Provincial regulations which limit such assistance to members of the ambulance service. British Columbia is the only province in Canada with this type of regulation. If you call 9-1-1 someone should arrive within four minutes. We can and will respond if we are called.
Located in Burrard Inlet and the Kitsilano basin we along with Burnaby, North Van and Port Moody form the consortium tasked with protecting the harbour and shores of Burrard inlet and the harbour of the city. These fireboats as used for waterfront and marine fire fighting.
These fast response boats replaced the fire boat that operated for so many years until it was dry docked in the mid eighties. It now serves the citizens of San Francisco, playing a major role in the ‘88 earthquake that hit the Bay area.
Like every major center along the West Coast, our city has thousands of hazardous materials shipments pass through streets every day. Our members responded to over 800 calls dealing with hazardous materials and the potential danger associated them. They are transported by truck, semi-trailer, tanker truck, train, ship and other modes of transport. Vancouver as well has a number of areas that are home to a huge industrial base, including businesses which deal with a wide variety of chemicals. The potential for an accident or spill is ever-present.
The City of Vancouver is protected by two dedicated HAZ MAT Teams. These teams are outfitted with the necessary equipment and knowledge to neutralize those situations that provide a threat to the health and safety of the environment as well as the public.
Hazardous Material response teams deal with incidents outside the realm of "normal" fire fighting using specialized tools and equipment. Situations they must deal with include, but are not limited to, spills or leaks of materials dangerous to personnel and/or the public due to their toxicity, instability, radioactivity and the like.
The more serious the situation, the more involved the set-up and decontamination procedures required. Sometimes, these firefighters are sometimes referred to as "glow worms" by department staff due to the potential risk of exposure to hazardous materials
In this day of advancing technology there are many threats that exist. In order to deal with these situations the Haz Mat teams spend many hours maintaining skills necessary to combat these threats. Unfortunately our teams are faced with the criminal element, dealing with the many drug labs that operate within the city limits and the ever increasing threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
In 1995 Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services were tasked with developing Vancouver's new Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team with members to be assembled from a cross section of staff from many City departments including the B.C. Ambulance service.
In the spring of 1995 a steering committee of City staff met to develop a plan to assemble the team. Interest in participating as a team member was requested and approximately 125 City employees (40 from Vancouver Fire/Rescue Services) submitted applications to join the team. Each person was required to complete a physical assessment and candidates who successfully completed this test had their names placed on an eligibility list to receive the initial phase of the required training. Five (5) members from each department represented on the team, except Fire who had ten (10), attended the first training sessions in October that were conducted at the Pierce County Urban Search & Rescue training site in Washington state.
The USAR team is a City of Vancouver team trained in building collapse and confined space rescue techniques. Team members are from a cross section of City departments including the British Columbia Ambulance Service. They utilize specialized equipment including Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs to find and extricate trapped victims. Team members train regularly to keep their skills in extrication and recovery techniques well honed.
The team is equipped to respond as a self-supporting team to a disaster, like an earthquake, which may occur anywhere in the world
If you are interested in learning more about Vancouver's Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) check out their web-site at www.can-tf1.org.
Over the past many years the skyline of Vancouver continues to change. With that change many new high rise buildings have sprung up not only in the downtown core but throughout the city. As a result of concerns dealing with the construction and the potential safety risks, our members now provide the necessary expertise to rescue those who work off of construction cranes, sides of high rise buildings, or may have entered a confined space such as sewers, barges, excavations sites or workers who have inadvertently become trapped.
Innovations by the automobile industry have resulted in increased safety for vehicle passengers, but in a serious motor vehicle accident they make our job more difficult and dangerous. The same reinforcing that protects the vehicle occupants impedes our efforts to treat and/or free them from the wreckage. Thus we must adapt to new methods of removing the vehicle from around the patient’, all the while being careful to avoid deploying the many airbags (which activate at 300 feet per second) and seatbelt tensioners (which have explosive charges in them).
We have many roles at an accident scene. These include, but are not limited to, protecting the scene and patients from other vehicle traffic, checking for hazards (electrical boxes/wires down; ruptured gasoline, propane or natural gas tanks; other fluids or hazardous materials spilled), preparing the pumps and fire hose lines in case of fire; stabilizing the vehicles involved and treating and/or extricating the patients.
Our public education members spend countless hours educating school children by way of our Safety House Program. This service is provided to every grade three student in the City of Vancouver. It is an interactive tool to teach the young children who in turn relay the information to their families the do's and don'ts of basic fire prevention.
Our members in the each Firehall provide the same education to pre-school, early elementary and community groups (scouts, girl guides). Of all the things we do, this is one which our members hold dear to their hearts - because educating children in fire safety and burn awareness may help prevent a lifetime of pain and scarring.
Education and awareness is also provided to the many citizens groups, community centers and businesses through out the City by way of classroom and seminar sessions.
Our program teaches life saving CPR + first-aid to over 3,000 people each year. We have courses from a 15 minute 'chest-compression CPR' skills seminar to professional firefighter first-aid (First-responder) courses. In partnership with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon and the Canadian Red Cross we are able to provide many different types of CPR + first-aid courses at all levels.
Some of our courses:
Save Somebody's Life - Simple skills to handle just about any emergency that you can learn in just over an hour. (This is our most popular course)
CPR Certification - Level A (for patients 8yrs and older) or level C (for patients of all ages). Comprehensive skills for medical emergencies including use of 'AED's, or Automatic External Defibrillators. Includes a short written test and all students receive a certificate.
CPR For Life - A 15 minute 'chest-compression CPR' seminar designed for presentation to large groups at meetings or seminars.
Occupational First-aid (OFA) Level I - Worksafe B.C. approved course for OFA Level I attendants. This course is 8 hours and all successful students receive a Worksafe B.C. certificate good for two years.
First-Responder Level 3 - Red Cross First-Responder is approved by the B.C. EMA licensing board for licensing in B.C. First-responder is the level of certification required by all firefighters in B.C.