Fire community collaborates in spirit of solidarity

Courtesy of Delta Professional Firefighters Local 1763 taken during Captain Mark Janson’s January 28 firefighter procession.
Captain Mark Janson’s January 28 firefighter procession. Photo courtesy of Delta Professional Firefighters Local 1763.

To honour the life and contribution of Delta Fire & Emergency Services’ Acting Battalion Chief, Captain Mark Janson, a firefighter procession was held on January 28, 2015. And in an unprecedented show of support and collaboration, fire services from across the Lower Mainland joined forces to provide the opportunity for all Delta firefighters to attend the procession. They did this by staffing all Delta halls for approximately six hours.

With the support and collaboration of the Greater Vancouver Fire Chiefs Association (GVFCA), President Chief Tim Armstrong (New Westminster Fire & Rescue Services), led the planning for what became the largest mutual-aid fire event of its kind. The planning unfolded in record time thanks to the contribution of many individuals.

New Westminster Fire & Rescue Services took command of Delta Fire during this event and along with neighbouring fire departments—including 25 firefighters from Richmond, Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby and New Westminster—provided backfill relief for Delta fire halls.

“This was a great opportunity to test interoperability and communications between various agencies,” said Chief Armstrong. “We have many available resources outside our respective borders and we need to build on this so we are better prepared for events that potentially overwhelm our own resources.”

The Chief added that this would include Chief Officers outside our departments to support command and control as well as assisting with logistics and planning functions. “I encourage members of the GVFCA to help build the future of mutual-aid and interoperability in the Metro Vancouver area.”

E-Comm—dispatch partner of both Delta and New Westminster Fire—was asked to develop a communications and dispatch plan to support the numerous operational logistics, which included connectivity between two radio systems and dispatch centres.

“E-Comm worked with Delta and our partners to set-up a highly commendable interoperability system that made this event possible,” noted Chief Dan Copeland, Delta Fire & Emergency Services. “It transpired to be a very busy morning, and the efforts of all involved would have been looked upon by Captain Janson as the kind of collaboration and mutual respect he was known for.”

An hour after the procession began there was a serious motor vehicle accident south of the Massey Tunnel combined with multiple other events. This major accident led to a significant spike in 9-1-1 call volume, which ultimately put the operational plan and fire agencies to the test.

In a special presentation and debrief to the E-Comm Board of Directors, Chief Armstrong, joined by Richmond Fire Chief John McGowan and Delta Deputy Chief Ken Sim, advised this was a highly complex event that demonstrated the value of integrated communications and mutual-aid across all municipal boundaries.

“The Board extends its congratulations to the GVFCA and the tremendous efforts of all contributing departments and firefighters,” said E-Comm Board Chair Jocelyn Kelley. “It is also important to acknowledge E-Comm Fire Manager Jennifer Gjaltema for her leadership and expertise in the planning of this mutual-aid event and to the call-takers and dispatchers on duty that day.”