Fire chief Jason Everitt poses for a photo at the Public Service Building in Whitehorse on October 2, 2020. A fire service review is underway. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Fire chief Jason Everitt poses for a photo at the Public Service Building in Whitehorse on October 2, 2020. A fire service review is underway. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Fire service review underway

Residents asked to complete survey by April 5

A review of City of Whitehorse fire services is underway with residents being asked to take part in an 11-question survey about the service.

“Whitehorse Fire Department (WFD) has a proud tradition of assisting residents and visitors in effectively responding to emergency situations,” it’s stated in the introduction to the questionnaire.

“In our ongoing efforts to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our community we are creating a community-driven Fire Service Review to guide operational improvements and enhance how the service is provided throughout the community.”

Deputy fire chief Chris Green said work on the review got underway in January with consultant Emergency Management & Training Inc. (EMT) of Ontario working with the department remotely to review current practices, documents and other materials.

As Green said in a March 30 interview, the last review of fire services in the city was done in 2014.

With significant growth in Whitehorse since then, it’s time to do a full review, he said.

As the city grows, the department needs to look at how its services are meeting the needs of the population and whether it has the equipment to deal with the growing needs of the city. If buildings are constructed taller to meet the needs of a growing population, for example, the fire department needs to have the equipment in place to reach those top floors of buildings.

“It’s pretty detailed and it’s going to take a lot of work,” Green said of the review.

The review will look at the fire service now – what is being done well, what can be done better and how the service can operate most efficiently.

A risk assessment will also be part of the review, looking at what could present the greatest risk to the city, such as a wildfire. Comparables with fire services in other jurisdictions is also slated to be included.

Green said the survey is part of the review’s public input portion that will explore how Whitehorse citizens see the fire service and what priorities they would set for the service.

Given the number of people impacted by fire service, Green said he’s hopeful there will be a good response from the community. It’s important to get that feedback, he said.

The survey includes 11 questions asking about the impression those taking the survey have of the Whitehorse Fire Department, any interactions they may have had with the department, as well as priorities when it comes to fire service such as rating the importance of how quickly the fire department responds to emergencies, continued training for firefighters, and the visibility of the department at community events among others.

It also raises the question of what top three issues residents believe are facing the department currently. Participants are invited to rank the department’s 10-core services in order of importance.

Those core services include firefighting, dispatch, auto extrication, investigations, fire prevention and safety inspections, community outreach and public education, hazardous materials and rescue response, public assistance and non-emergency responses, emergency planning, and medical assistance.

It also questions whether there are any other services that should be provided by the department, and asks for suggestions for improvements, and the most effective method for messaging from the department.

Noting the possibility of a virtual stakeholder meeting on the review, it asks those who are interested in taking part in such a meeting to leave their contact information.

Participants are asked to complete the survey by April 5.

Green did not have a precise timeline on when the entire review will be complete.

As he noted the focus is on having a full review of the fire service and that will take time, particularly with the consultants doing the work remotely.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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