by Councillor Kristin Strackerjan
If you’ve moved to North Grenville recently, or even if you’ve lived here for a while, you may not know how your community is served by the Emergency & Protective Services (EPS) Department. These essential services help keep us safe on a daily basis, and the many women and men who serve with the Department are here to respond in case of emergency. There are three divisions in the EPS Department – Fire Protection Services, By-law Services, and Emergency Management. Let’s focus on the largest department, Fire Protection Services.
The NG Fire Service is locally-funded. Fire Services in Ontario are a municipal responsibility and are not funded by the Federal or Provincial governments.
All Fire Services, including any increases to the current level of service, are funded through Municipal taxes. An incredible amount of care and pride goes into looking after the personal protective equipment, as well as the many firefighting tools. A shiny truck is one that represents professionalism, and it is also part of the preventative and on-going maintenance programs. Nothing about fire protection is inexpensive, so the firefighting team keeps everything in the best shape possible.
The NG Fire Service is also volunteer-driven. There are three full-time staff: the Director of EPS/Fire Chief, the Deputy Chief, and one Fire Prevention Officer. Everyone else who shows up to serve an emergency, provide public education and outreach, or wear the uniform to local events, is a volunteer. Currently, we have approximately 40 call-out volunteer firefighters. This may seem like a lot of firefighters for our population, but there is no guarantee of an individual’s response to an emergency when paged. Many people in North Grenville work in Ottawa and the volunteers for our Fire Service are no exception.
Having 40 volunteer firefighters is a way to increase the likelihood of having enough first responders available to attend in a timely manner. The volunteer firefighters are trained to the same level as career firefighters for the services they provide, and the equipment and apparatus perform the same functions as a career fire service. They are well-prepared to respond when they are needed!
Have you seen a flashing green light on the dash of a vehicle? This is how Volunteer Fire Services indicate that they are responding to an emergency. The Highway Traffic Act permits volunteer firefighters to carry and use a flashing green light in their personal vehicle only when responding to an emergency. A first responder travelling in a personal vehicle is not considered an emergency vehicle and is NOT permitted to travel through a red traffic light or a stop sign. They must follow the same rules of the road as any other non-emergency vehicle. It is a courtesy for drivers to pull over and allow a first responder to travel to the emergency to provide assistance.
Calls to 911 are automatically directed to a Central Emergency Reporting Bureau, based on the caller’s geographic location. The trained 911 call taker identifies if the caller requires Police, Fire or Ambulance assistance, then forwards the call to the appropriate service. For the NG Fire Service, the phone call is transferred to the Brockville Fire Department, which, under contract, dispatches the NG Fire Service by sending an emergency notification, with the emergency location and description, to the North Grenville fire pagers. If a volunteer firefighter is available, they will respond with their personal vehicle to the fire station, assemble their gear, and respond to the emergency scene in a fire vehicle.
Please remember that 911 should only be used in an emergency. Our local Police Services Board has noted an increase in the number of calls to 911 for non-emergency events. These calls take up valuable time and are costly. All inquiries and non-emergency related questions should be directed to the local fire service administrative number (613-258-9596 ext 201) during regular business hours (Mon-Fri from 0830-1630). Please go to www.northgrenville.ca/live/municipal-services/emergency-services for more information.