Fire Chief explains Naloxone program, certification standards

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by Sylene Argent

Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel took the time to explain the announcement of the expansion of the Ontario Naloxone Program and regulations on mandatory training/certification to Essex Council at the February 20th meeting.

Council received Arnel’s report “Expansion of the Ontario Naloxone Program,” which provided information about the announcement of the launch the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) made in regards to the expansion of the Ontario Naloxone Program.

The Government of Canada Public Health Agency established a special advisory committee in December of 2016 to review the epidemic of opioid-related overdoses, Arnel explained. Since then, data on opioid-related mortality had been collected.

Through the Naloxone program expansion, police and fire services will now be included. This expansion will make Naloxone kits available to all Fire Services to mitigate the impact of overdoses, Arnel wrote in his report, adding it should also help Firefighters in case of exposure to opioids.

Windsor and Essex County Fire Chiefs met with Dr. Paul Bradford, the local Medical Director with Southwest Ontario Regional Base Hospital Program, in January. Arnel explained that Dr. Bradford’s opinion was that each Community must assess its own municipality to view whether the program has merit. The report continued that Essex-Windsor EMS vehicles are stocked with Naloxone, and all paramedics are trained in its administration.

In a chart provided, it highlighted in 2017, Essex Windsor EMS responded to 58,732 calls, of which 38,936 required to be transported. 780 of those calls were drug overdoses and 62 needed a Naloxone administration.

In Essex, EMS responded to 2,505 calls, of which 1,654 needed transports. There were 20 drug overdose related calls and Naloxone was not administered at any case.

“After consultation with Dr. Bradford, EMS Chief Krauter and other local Fire Services, the Essex Fire & Rescue Services recommend that they remain status quo in regards to the Ontario Naloxone Program. Essex Fire and Rescue will continue to monitor the situation locally and should there be a spike of these types of incidents, Fire Administration will report back to Council on further recommendations to implement this response protocol,” Arnel wrote in the report.

A letter from the MCSCS noted as of January 29 of 2018, fire services have the option to contact their Public Health Unit to order Naloxone kits. The letter includes a list of recommendations with which fire services should comply to enroll in the program.

In addition, Council received Essex Fire Chief Arnel’s report “Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services: Public consultation on proposed regulations for mandatory training and certification and conduction of community risks assessments for fire protection.”

In his report to Council, Arnel explained on January 25, 2018, the MCSCS released two proposed regulations under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, related to new requirements for mandatory training and certification for firefighters, and community risk assessments for the delivery of fire protection services.

MCSCS is seeking public feedback on both regulations with comments due March 11, 2018.

Through the report, Arnel explained the MCSCS is proposing to establish mandatory certification requirements set out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for all new firefighters employed or appointed to a Fire Department in Ontario for the positions of suppression firefighters, pump operators, technical rescuers, fire officers, and fire educators. This would come into effect in the near future.

In addition, MCSCS is proposing mandatory certification requirements also be set out by the NFPA to be applied to existing firefighters currently employed or appointed in fire departments across Ontario, including for fire inspectors, fire investigators, fire instructors, hazardous materials personnel, and fire dispatchers.

Arnel’s report included ten recommendations, including that the internship program of twenty-four months for newly hired firefighters be expanded to include all applicable areas and positions, that the date of implementation of the program be reviewed (in light of an election year at the municipal and provincial levels), and that the Provincial  Government explore funding to potentially target training of volunteer firefighters in rural/northern municipalities.
Arnel explained the implementation period for the internship program should be expanded in length as this would be difficult for municipalities to meet.

Council further supported and approved the submission of the recommended comments on the draft regulation as referenced in the report through a resolution for the purposes of providing comments.

Arnel brought these concerns to Council to be put forth as a resolution as he believed this method held more weight than sending the Fire Department’s comments through the Ontario Registry.

During the meeting, Arnel explained the Ministry has received input on how to modernize fire service delivery in the province from the Provincial Fire Safety Technical Table, established a year ago. This group is comprised of fire service experts, in which the Essex Fire Chief was involved. It examined current and emerging fire safety challenges and opportunities, identified priorities for action, and supported the development of evidence-based recommendations that will enhance fire safety in Ontario.

Through the Provincial Fire Safety Technical Table’s recommendations, the new proposed regulations were developed.
Unlike Police and Emergency Medical services, there is no mandatory certification for Firefighters. Currently, each fire department in Ontario must determine its own training requirements and the associated method of delivery for such, he wrote in his report.

“While no requirements exist, most Fire Departments, including Essex, typically provide training that reflects the National Fire Protections Association (NFPA) Standards as most of the available training resources model their curriculum on NFPA job performance requirements and requisite skills,” it states in the report.

Essex Fire & Rescue currently has 83 percent of its personnel that will meet the new Certification guidelines if approved, Arnel noted. This is through grandfathering or through testing. Fire Management believes that by 2020 Essex Fire can be a NFPA Certified Fire Department and meet the necessary requirements as set out in our Establishing and Regulating Bylaw.

Through the proposed Mandatory Community Risk Assessment draft regulation, the MCSCS is proposing that Municipality’s be required to conduct a Standard Risk Assessment every five years, focusing on key profiles. Municipalities would be responsible for reviewing their community risk assessment annually to ensure that any significant changes in the mandatory profiles are identified, Arnel noted in the report.

This requirement is proposed to come into force January 1, 2019. Fire Administration have concerns regarding the implementation of this in regards to the financial impact on the municipality. Fire Administration is currently reviewing all of the Regulations to determine the impact on Essex Fire & Rescue. During the meeting, he said Essex should be in good shape to do this.

Essex Fire has forwarded out the report to other municipalities.