For better or worse: Program aimed at spouses of firefighters

Puslinch Fire and Rescue is working with the Canadian Stress Foundation in a pilot project directed at spouses of emergency workers.

Speaking on the dedication of local firefighters, Puslinch Fire Chief Steven Goode noted that many of the events attended by staff were on a voluntary basis.

“I’m extremely proud of my staff and it just amazes me – their dedication to public education,” he stated at the July 20 council meeting.

Goode explained that in April, the Ontario government passed Bill 163 which supports Ontario firefighters and first responders regarding post traumatic stress disorder.

“The legislation does place some obligation on local municipalities to mitigate PTSD.”

Goode said the legislation requires the township to provide training for supervisors so they can recognize the signs of that behaviour – and training to safely communicate with those affected.

Also, Goode said there is a comprehensive back-to-work protocol which is customized to the staff.

The fire chief said there is more research needed as to what that means locally, “but I can tell you that we applaud this legislation.”

Goode said Wellington County fire chiefs are working together to develop a training program for all firefighters and supervisors within the county.

“We’re working with the Canadian Stress Foundation. They are extremely helpful and very knowledgeable and they haven’t charged us a dime.”

Goode added the fire chiefs in Wellington North and Minto are spearheading this initiative.

He added, “One thing we have done is partner with the Canadian Stress Foundation and piloted a program that’s never been done before in Canada. It is training spouses of emergency workers.”

Goode said the program is called – For Better Or For Worse. “Essentially we connect with the Canadian Stress Foundation.”

For those working as a full-time firefighters can talk to co-workers after a particularly nasty call, “but in the volunteer world, what happens is when the page goes off, the firefighter attends … and afterwards … generally goes straight home,” Goode explained.

“As a result, we don’t see or recognize that perhaps they are having a problem – so it is important spouses have this training – to recognize the signs, how to communicate, and know the contacts which may be needed.”

Goode said the program went over well.

He said 18 spouses attended the training “and it was very well received.”

Goode said there are now a number of other departments contacting the Canadian Stress Foundation for the same training.

Councillor Ken Roth added “I think this is something that has been lacking in volunteer fire departments for many, many years.”

Lever congratulated Goode on these efforts and recalled discussion of having spouses involved in the recruitment process – to ensure they understood what their partner was getting involved in.