Moving Forward: Programs and Services for the IFMO Project

Next up in the Indigenous Fire Marshal (IFMO) project community engagement blog series are the highlights from the session discussions on the planned programs and services. 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 and the outcomes of the discussions on the appropriate governance model are highlighted in the second blog in this series.

Planned activities for the IFMO Project can be organised into five areas:

  • National Database and Data Collection
  • Fire Prevention Programs and Service Delivery
  • Building Capacity and Training
  • Community Advocacy
  • Defining Codes and Standards

National Database and Data Collection

Gathering and analyzing data from fire incidents on reserves is a powerful opportunity to bridge the fire-safety gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The collection of such data helps guide the creation of fire prevention and public education programs to reduce loss of life and property. The database will be an important resource for communities to learn from the successes and challenges in other communities, as well as share their own experiences, in order to manage and deliver their fire services.

What did participants have to say?

Participants encouraged us to continue collaborating with regional technical organizations and Tribal Councils. They were in agreement that data collection would be of value and were able to visualize the concept. Participants questioned how the database would work in terms of who enters the data and how training would be provided.

Fire Prevention Programs and Service Delivery

Current trends in fire protection programs are sporadic; every region has a different model or delivery mechanism. The IFMO will work with communities to identify and meet their individual needs. We will develop national programs and services that support Indigenous communities. The IFMO is developing sustainable, culturally and linguistically appropriate programs that can be delivered to communities by communities.

What did participants have to say?

The underlying theme was that all programs and services must take into consideration the diversity of the communities that the IFMO will serve. Participants also called for support in meeting occupational health and safety obligations.  The suggestion was also made for mandatory fire safety education in schools with culturally appropriate materials. Participants also expressed the need for PTSD and critical incident stress managements (CISM) interventions, support, and training.

Building Capacity and Training

Increasing employment opportunities for Indigenous Peoples is a key component of success for the IFMO project. Skills development, retention, and recruitment initiatives are necessary. Our long-term goal is to build a fire training college and develop and deliver our own curriculum.

What did participants have to say?

The concept of a national training college to support capacity building and training was well received and there was discussion around the need for culturally appropriate certified training. Participants strongly believe in the power of communities helping each other and expressed a desire for more platforms and opportunities for networking, knowledge sharing, and mutual aid. Participants expressed a strong desire for the creation of local employment opportunities.

Community Advocacy

Advocacy and education related to fire funding might include educating Chief and Council to better understand fire service needs, providing specialist technical support and advice to Fire Chiefs, and supplying fire prevention materials to communities with no fire department. We will continue to engage with communities to identify areas of support that we can provide and to develop the appropriate resources to satisfy demand.

What did participants have to say?

Participants wanted timelines for action on community advocacy and were interested in education so they, and their local Fire Chiefs, can present strong proposals to Chief and Council and support them with funding requests. We also heard that participants want the IFMO to advocate for adequate funding for fire services.

Defining Codes and Standards

The diversity of communities’ needs and capacity make this complex program area a long-term activity. We will perform research and make recommendations for the most appropriate codes and standards. We will develop tools to assist jurisdictions in achieving compliance.

What did participants have to say?

The complexity of this activity was universally acknowledged, and participants were in agreement that Chief and Council buy-in is necessary for it to be effective. Participants also looked at the big picture of who should be responsible for compliance and enforcement and if there should be penalties for non-compliance.

All community engagement sessions saw very informative and productive discussions on the proposed programs and services for the IFMO project. The important perspectives and considerations brought forward by participants will be beneficial as we move the IFMO project forward in the next stages of development.

Stay tuned for the final blog in this series, an overview of the discussions we had on managing expectations in relation to the IFMO project.

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