As we move into 2020 and take the steps to move the Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO) project on to the next steps of development, we can look back at what a busy and exciting year 2019 was for the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) and the IFMO project.
In July and August 2019, five technical engagement sessions were held to gather expertise from technical groups (i.e., firefighters, infrastructure managers, regional technical services groups) to build on the information gathered and to detail the programs and services that are needed.
Expert advice was shared on the following topics:
- Defining and achieving standards and codes
- National Database and data collection
- Building capacity and training
- Community advocacy
- Fire prevention program and service delivery
Throughout the fall, eight community engagement sessions, with a total of 288 participants, were held across the country and AFAC has released the Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO) Project Community Engagement Sessions Outcomes Report. These community sessions were an opportunity for community representatives to gather and share their voices to help bring about positive changes for Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast. The sessions examined three topic areas: Governance Models, Programs and Services, and Managing Expectations.
It came as no surprise that the consensus was that the current provision of fire services for Indigenous communities is inadequate. However, participants were optimistic about the positive changes that the IFMO
project is seeking to achieve.
The need to continue to create awareness and communicate with communities about the project was a recurring theme. The importance of creating a culturally astute organization that recognizes the diversity
of Indigenous communities was a consistent theme, as was the opinion that this organization represents an opportunity to think outside the box.
As an organization for us, by us, participants feel that the IFMO should be non-political and representative of national diversity.
It has also been a busy year for program development:
- National Incident Database: Work was undertaken with Indigenous technical and community
representatives to validate the data elements and reports used by the system. Testing is underway to identify user requirements and needs to facilitate a move towards an operational evaluation of the system this coming year. The system collects data related to the cause, origin and circumstances of fires primarily through a web-based application with alternative inputs where the internet is not available.
- Community Fire Safety Assessments: An environmental scan was done of existing programs that deal with fire safety risks at the community level, followed by the development of a template and process for a program. Evaluation work was done on the draft template with communities in two different regions to incorporate community feedback.
- Home Fire Safety Assessments: An assessment tool and process to assist community residents in identifying potential fire safety risks in the home is being developed. It was tested with different communities to incorporate their feedback and inform the further development of program delivery.
- Fire Department Assessments: An assessment template to create a tool for Indigenous fire departments to use to identify gaps and risks and provide recommendations for mitigation and improvements was developed and tested with several fire departments.
- Preliminary Development: Initial research looked at the potential for programs in the areas of fire investigation, youth fire setter intervention, and interface fire protection.
In April 2020 we will be announcing the next phase of the IFMO project based on our funding and project plan for the 2020/21 fiscal year.