Clarington firefighters roll out extra protection

Clarington firefighters roll out extra protection - Eyes of fire departments across Ontario will be on Clarington as local firefighters roll out a new program called ‘Think Ahead’, designed to protect the most vulnerable children in the community.

The program, in partnership with the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Grandview Children’s Centre, will see the Clarington fire department take the lead in getting to know some 800 special-needs children in the municipality, and help prepare them and their families for emergencies. The comprehensive program includes filing information on the children that will be available to dispatch if the address comes up in an emergency call.

Grandview offered the Clarington Fire Department advice on what to ask the family of a special-needs child. For example, a child with a tracheotomy or respiratory issues might not be able to be laid on his or her back after a rescue; a child with swallowing issues could mean giving food or drink is dangerous. With Grandview’s help, the fire department has developed picture symbols about fire safety and emergency responders for families with non-verbal children. The picture symbols and a fire hall tour will help children become comfortable with strangers in their house during an emergency.

Clarington Fire Chief Gord Weir said part of the firefighters’ house tour will include asking parents to show their child’s favourite hiding space if they have one. If there are words that comfort the child, firefighters will make a note of it.

Reducing children’s anxiety about first responders in an emergency is a big part of the program.

Olaf Lamerz of the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal said other fire departments will likely be interested in how the implementation goes and the idea could be expanded to include other vulnerable people, such as families with cancer patients or elderly members who may need extra help.

Fire departments in Durham are already proactive in the community with fire prevention education and safety campaigns. Clarington is upping the bar and taking another big step forward by identifying and helping to protect families who face an extra worry in the horrifying event of a house fire. The additional level of protection offered should go a long way to ensuring all Clarington families are doing what they can in the area of emergency preparedness.

Clarington firefighters do an amazing job every day of the week carrying out their regular responsibilities. The time, effort, thought and teamwork going into this latest program is a shining gold star for the department. Well done.


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