Managing Expectations as the IFMO Project Moves Forward

The final installment in the Indigenous Fire Marshal (IFMO) project community engagement blog series highlights the discussions that took place surrounding managing expectations. Throughout the months of October and November 2019, the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) held community engagement sessions across the country. Representatives from Indigenous communities came together to discuss the development of the IFMO. Overall impressions from the sessions are summarized in the first blog in this series, the outcomes of the discussions on the appropriate governance model are highlighted in the second blog in this series, and participants’ thoughts on proposed programs and services are outlined in the third blog in this series.

With a project of this scope and magnitude, it is important to hear the perspectives of those who will be impacted, answer questions, and address their concerns. To achieve this, the engagement sessions included discussions aimed at managing expectations.

We presented a brief illustration of the major steps, various interest groups and stakeholders, and the timeline for developing all aspects of the IFMO project.

We gave participants a tour of the IFMO Website to show them where to find updates and postings for employment and contract opportunities. We also highlighted the work that we have undertaken to build the relationship with the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure (AFN CCoHI), which included presenting to the committee at the AFN AGA and inviting the AFN CCoHI to sit on the IFMO National Advisory Committee.

What did participants have to say?

Some participants were surprised at the speed of progress with the IFMO project, while others felt that the work was going too slowly. However, participants were in agreement that it is important to not rush and make mistakes, that a sustainable organization requires careful planning.

Communication was a theme in many different discussions throughout the engagement sessions. Participants reiterated the importance of continued communication — on the Website, on social media, and in newsletters.  The suggestion was also made that information on the project activities and progress could be made to communities either at a conference or as community events.

While the role of AFAC in communication was highlighted, participants also recognized their role in sharing their knowledge with the IFMO project and in increasing awareness among their network contacts about the project.

Another consistent theme was the importance of regional representation and that the IFMO project should respect treaties.

Participants also felt that the IFMO should have a broader mandate to support communities in all-disaster preparedness and response. Several discussions on the overlap between structural and wildfire, and broader emergency management took place.

What’s next for the IFMO project?

AFAC is moving the IFMO project to the next phase with project activities in the following areas:

  • Community Fire Safety Assessment: Evaluations of full community fire safety related resources and risks with the goal of developing a baseline in every community.
  • Database Creation: Development of a tool that will capture fire incident data from Indigenous communities.
  • Education: Reach school children, Elders, and women’s groups specifically to address the fire safety needs of the most vulnerable populations.
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