By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Over the last few years Lethbridge County has been working on a fire inspection program of regular fire inspections of specific higher risk buildings, according to Darryl Beaton, the county’s emergency services co-ordinator.
“In the past, we haven’t done regular fire inspections on commercial/industrial large assembly buildings. Our quality management plan under the fire code has always said we will do those inspections upon request or complaint. Sometimes we will get a request or a complaint and therefore, that gives us the authority to go in and do a fire inspection,” he explained.
County council, Beaton noted, has had the vision and now supports participating in a program of regular fire inspections.
“It’s all about safety. If your building isn’t fire code compliant — your occupants are at risk, anybody that might visit your building are at risk and certainly, your emergency responders are at risk. We’re going into buildings and we don’t know if that building is code compliant. Do the sprinkler systems work? Do the fire alarm systems work? Do they have exit doors chained? Those situations are nightmares for people in the building and for firefighters trying to help,” said Beaton.
The intent of the program, according to Beaton, is to improve the safety of buildings according to the provincial legislation and code.
“We have to work with building owners and occupants to bring their buildings up to code. We don’t want to walk into places with a heavy hammer. There’s alternative solutions to situations. There’s time allowed to fix a non-compliant issue. We’re going to move toward a program like that. The official launch is in perfect timing for Fire Prevention Week,” Beaton said.
Beaton also discussed the Town of Coalhurst’s emergency services department going to digital communications
Beaton said he supports a provincial radio system but there’s a cost.
“A relatively significant cost to switching over from VHF to the digital system. The province has put the infrastructure in, for anybody that wants to use the system, but then we have to buy our own radios,” he said.
Where it gets complicated for Lethbridge County, Beaton explained, is the county contracts five different fire departments.
“Unless we do this collectively, we can’t really support one department going to a radio system that can’t talk to the other departments. When the fire departments, that we contract with respond — typically they respond together. They need to be able to talk to each other,”
But talking to Coalhurst’s Emergency Services Fire Chief Mathew Conte, Beaton said, Conte’s come up with a solution.
“They’re planning to, from what I understand, purchase radios that are dual-purpose. They can be on the digital system or they can be on VHF, which is great. Then they can talk to the other departments. That solves that problem,” he noted.
For the county to support the system on a regional basis, it would have to look at all the departments migrating to a digital system. “That’s what we’re looking at. We don’t want to piece meal the system.”
Coalhurst, Beaton said, has submitted some costs to the county to consider. “We’re looking at it as a budget item,” he noted.
“They’ve met with us to ask for some assistance in the funding. We said, we have to have a closer look at it. Basically, that’s where we’re at,” said Beaton.
This year’s theme during Fire Prevention Week, Beaton explained, is Here the beep — where you sleep.
“It gets back down to your smoke detectors in your home.”
It’s being promoted this year, Beaton noted, to put a smoke detector in every bedroom of the house.
“To ensure, if that goes off, you’re going to hear it.”