Milestones 2014 2013 - Page 10

Interview with Fire Chief Jamie Coutts We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service’s Fire Chief Jamie Coutts. Find out what he has to say about what’s happened in the past two years and the Fire Service’s outlook on the year ahead. What are some of the Fire Service’s highlights of the past two years since the 2011 wildfire? I guess that we have come together regionally. We cover 10,490 km 2 and about 10, 000 people with 5 halls, 32 pieces of equipment and 125 volunteers. That is a pretty amazing feat when you think about where we came from. The new equipment, and the halls are exciting, but working with 125 great volunteers is a highlight for me. Our training has climbed to some of the best available in Alberta and we get to use this new training to help people. What were some of the lessons learned? Obviously we needed to look at disasters in a new bigger way. Most will still be small, manageable events, but we need to train, and think bigger for when that time comes. Know what you are going to do when there is no power, water, and gas. Know who your outside resources are and how to get them coming. Do you know what a 72 hour kit is? Do you have one? You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours. What is planned for the upcoming year? Honestly, it is important for us to find a new normal in 2014. We can’t keep pushing our volunteers and fulltime people so hard. We need to find a balance and start acting like the rest of the world. Our team has done amazing things in a short time period, but people get tired. It is quick and easy to become better prepared to face a range of emergencies – anytime, anywhere. Use the checklists on page 11 to build a 72-hour emergency kit. These basic items will help you take care of yourself and your loved ones during an emergency. What was your experience helping with the flooding in Southern Alberta? It was the most rewarding feeling to be able to pay it forward to residents of Southern Alberta. We had to fight for a spot, THE MD OF LESSER SLAVE RIVER MILESTONES | October 2013 Having been involved in two major natural disasters in our province (wildfire, flooding), what would your message be to residents? Same as always, but I hope more listen to us now. Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for 72 hours. Know what you will do if there is no power, gas, or water. We can’t assume anymore that someone will swoop in and take care of everything. Both the fire and the floods have proven that when Mother Nature speaks we’d better listen. And most importantly make sure your internal staff are highly trained, highly competent individuals. Our new hall in Mitsue will open, allowing for more recruits. Our Search and Rescue group will continue to grow and prosper. 10 but once we got it we went right down there and dug in. The people that went and the people that stayed behind and covered for us all did an amazing job. We were able to connect with people like others couldn’t because we knew how they felt, and we know what they are going to be up against. Once again we have made friendships that will last a lifetime, brought together by disaster. Anything else you’d like to add? I am excited that the Regional Fire Service that the MD and the Town of Slave Lake have built is so strong. Everything bad that has happened has helped us learn to overcome and persevere. The future looks good and the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service is here to answer the call. We are very proud to protect our residents and look forward to the future. MD124.CA