Grimsby FD Builds Fire Safe Community within a Community

Grimsby FD Builds Fire Safe Community within a Community

While the Grimsby Fire Department has no architects on staff, in mid-December 2013, it did celebrate the development and design of a new fire safe community program within its municipality. A number of retirement facilities in Grimsby were recognized for their work to enhance fire safety for their residents.

What happened?

In June 2012, Grimsby Town Council approved Bylaw 12-41, a bylaw to establish fire safety standards in care facilities. The intent of the bylaw was to reduce ambiguity and establish clear performance criteria for fire safety in Grimsby care facilities. In light of Ontario’s recent fire safety regulation changes, Mike Cain, Fire Chief of Grimsby Fire Department, is reviewing this Bylaw to better align it with these regulation changes and related technical guidelines.

Why was the program established?

Grimsby has three times the growth rate for seniors than any other area in the Niagara area. Protecting this group is important to the Grimsby Fire Department.

Tell me about the program.

The demographic make-up of the community served as a launching point for the fire department to inform facility owners and operators about their fire safety responsibilities and to provide them with tools to enhance their facility’s fire safety measures (i.e., staffing, limitations of residents, facility capabilities etc.). The program was developed and designed using a three stage approach, public education, fire safety plan and enforcement.

“In all, we had five retirement facilities join in our efforts,” said Chief Cain. “These facilities ranged from active living to a lifestyle of care.”

The first stage to be launched was public education. It began with the coordination of an ‘Open House’ event at each facility as a way to introduce operational staff to the bylaw (building managers, nursery care directors, corporate staff, etc.) to network, and to ensure everyone was on the same page. Approximately 90 per cent of residents and staff attended each Open House.

“We had a common interest in the life safety of the residents,” said Scott Pipe, Fire Prevention Officer with the Grimsby Fire Department. “It was just a matter of building a relationship between the fire department and the facility, so that staff and residents would become comfortable with us being there.”

“Having the residents be comfortable with us was a big part of the program,” continued FPO Pipe. “If they were comfortable with us, they would be more apt to ask questions, and asking questions helps people to understand their role and responsibility as it relates to fire safety. The residents have an obligation to fire safety, because to them, these occupancies are not institutions. They are ‘home’ to these residents – and this is the point we had to reinforce.”

For residents, a key part of the program is to enhance general facility awareness and engage them with site-specific fire safety education including hidden hazards, fire safe habits and being able to identify key points of safety in the facility.

“Some of our most vulnerable residents live in these facilities,” continued FPO Pipe. “It was important for us to educate them on if they saw a fire hazard in their home (the institution) to work with the operator to see how they could work through it.”

The Open House also gave Grimsby Fire Department the opportunity to emphasize the need for a community-based approach. Staff and residents live and work in these facilities, and on that basis there is a responsibility to care for each other; fire safety needs to be a part of this conversation.

In addition to achieving ‘buy-in’ from residents of these facilities, fire department staff also spoke to business and corporate staff about including their fire safety enhancements into the facility’s marketing strategy; as a way of demonstrating their ability to be proactive in fire and life safety and to promote their leadership in managing the well-being of residents.

“From an emergency management perspective, each of these facilities is unique,” continued Chief Cain. “What is the same is that each one of them is equipped with an emergency plan. As a result of our work to establish a community within a community, if there’s ever an emergency, they are now able to call on a neighbour facility to obtain resources and get access to these resources in short order, if need be.”

As for the next two stages of the program, they will be part of the ongoing compliance routine that the fire department provides.

In the next few months, local working groups are going to be developed to further build on the community that has been achieved. Activities such as recreational card games and some casino trips will be coordinated as a way to build a friendly competition among facility residents. It is all part of the community-based foundation on which the program was based and will serve to protect some of Grimsby’s most vulnerable residents for years to come.

Grimsby fire safety community partners

The Grimsby Fire Department recognized Deer Park Villa, Kilean Lodge, Lincoln Park Retirement Suites, Maplecrest Village and Shalom Manor in Grimsby for outstanding fire safety, during a council meeting in December. Photo credit: Stephanie Sisler of News Now.