Redmond Health & Safety / Barbera EMS Conference 2013 Report

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Report by Derek Balcaen

Recently, members of UFFW L867 attended the bi-annual John P Redmond Health & Safety Symposium and the Dominick F Barbera EMS Conference in Denver Colorado. What had been stand-alone conferences for decades were merged for the first time two years ago to now represent the largest firefighter health, safety and EMS gathering of its kind in the world. This year’s conference attracted nearly 1000 participants and expert presenters from around the world.

Alex Forrest, Dave Naaykens, Tom Bilous, Russ Morrow, Rolfe Kajpust, Greg Ohalloran, Lionel Crowther and I attended this year’s Redmond-Barbera Conference.

Due to Winnipeg’s reputation as a leader in the field of Fire-Based EMS in Canada, I was honoured to have been asked by the IAFF to speak on the topic. My presentation focused on the benefits of our current service delivery model, the positive results of our system as highlighted in the recent provincial report, self-regulation and our ongoing media campaign to promote our valuable services in the community.

Both sessions were well attended and generated a tremendous amount of discussion among the locals. It is important to note that in many communities across North America, we are under attack by private services that ignore the community benefits of our system, and still attack us in the media at every opportunity.

Because of our continuing efforts and successes on the issues of presumptive cancer, fire-based EMS, and our political involvement, UFFW is held in high esteem within the IAFF.

On Saturday, President Forrest sat on a panel of presumptive cancer experts for the unveiling of the latest NIOSH cancer study results. This study was the largest of its kind ever undertaken, involving 30,000 firefighters from Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia with data collected from 1950 through to 2000. This NIOSH report has now conclusively confirm a scientifically undeniable causal connection between firefighting and occupational cancer.

Delegates from New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and the UK were in attendance for days of invaluable discussion on this topic in hopes of furthering their own presumptive legislations to protect firefighters.

Lionel Crowther was also asked to speak this year. His panel discussion centered on the devastating effects of burn injuries on firefighters and the services available to them through the IAFF to help deal with the physical and psychological effects. Lionel did a great job representing us as the 13th district burn foundation representative.

Other important highlights from the conference include being able to sit in on the IAFF’s general EMS committee’s discussion about our overall direction and strategy for the coming years. General President Harold Schaitberger and his assistant in the field of EMS Dr Lori Moore were present for this meeting and commended UFFW’s current media campaign for its merits.

Friday morning’s general session featured a report on several line-of-duty deaths from North Carolina, Philadelphia, Houston and most recently the Prescott Arizona 19. These reports included actual footage from the incidents and testimonials from firefighters that took part in the operations. If there is only one lesson to be learned from any of their experiences, it is the IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUOUS QUALITY TRAINING. Train like it’s the real deal – every single time.

On this point, President Schaitberger spoke at length about the ongoing budget cuts and lay-offs across North America resulting in safety being compromised for our members on the job and the communities we serve.

Other valuable courses taken by our UFFW delegation included: a tour of the NIST radio communications research center, fire ground carbon monoxide, toxic environment “giving the all clear”, personal protective equipment, suicide prevention, behavioral wellness, burn injuries, emergency vehicle safety and a day-long session featuring medical directors from around North America discussing our major concerns and advancements in pre-hospital care. All tolled, more than 100 classes, sessions and practical workshops were offered during this year’s conference.

All of the major general sessions are available at IAFF.ORG and are worth the time to watch.

I would like to thank the membership of our UFFW for the opportunity to have attended and presented at this year’s conference. Having the opportunity to network with so many leaders in our industry is an incredible motivator to come back to our local and put into practice the knowledge and experience gained. I look forward to continuing our work and advancing our causes.

Derek Balcaen

Executive Board Member

United Firefighters of Winnipeg


Pictures from the Redmond Health & Safety / Barbera EMS Conference 2013