Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy (2016-2021)
The Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy outlines areas of mutual collaboration between Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) to promote fire protection on reserve. Commonly called the Fire Protection Strategy, it was first established for 2010-2015. With AFAC's support, the strategy was refined in 2015 to be implemented April 2016.
The renewed strategy aims to improve fire protection over the next five years by identifying activities and expected results. INAC will continue to work in partnership with national fire expert organizations and other public or private stakeholder organizations.
A working group of representatives from INAC and AFAC will oversee the strategy. These two partners meet in February and August each year to evaluate the strategy's progress against annual results and plan activities.
Although the 2010-2015 First Nations Fire Protection Strategy made progress in reducing fire related risks, both INAC and AFAC recognized a need to have a more focused approach for:
- partnership for First Nations fire service
- fire prevention education
- community standards
- fire service operational standards
The updated Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy identifies opportunities for INAC and AFAC to work together to improve fire protection in First Nation communities in 2016-2021.
This strategy promotes initiatives that focus on fire prevention in order to support First Nations communities on reserve in reducing the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries, as well as losses to critical infrastructure. Experts agree the first step in minimizing the risk of fire is through knowledge and awareness of fire safety.
Fire prevention is especially important in First Nation communities on reserve with limited fire protection services due to remoteness, reduced population, or limited capacity to sustain a fire service or Municipal Type Service Agreement. "Underserviced" sites are identified as those populated reserve sites without fire prevention programs and limited fire protection services or assets. These sites should be targeted for cost-effective fire prevention programs. With this in mind, efforts for fire prevention awareness will first focus on households, followed by the community, and then local fire officials such as firefighters. This will not only increase fire prevention awareness in these communities, but will also improve their capacity for fire protection.
First Nations Chief and Council manage fire protection services on reserve. They are responsible for making decisions regarding fire protection services under the annual core capital funding that they receive from INAC. First Nations may choose to establish their own fire prevention services, or may contract fire protection services from nearby communities. The participation of First Nations communities is essential to the success of the strategy. The AFAC Board of Directors and members represent many communities from each region and comprises of regional fire specialists with direct experience in fire protection on reserve and direct access to First Nation communities.
Along with the core capital funding provided to communities, INAC also funds complementary activities to promote fire prevention awareness, including regionally led initiatives such as the Regional Smoke Alarm Awareness projects.
The strategy outlines activities in 4 Pillars:
- Pillar 1: Partnership for First Nations Fire Protection
- Pillar 2: Fire Prevention Education
- Pillar 3: Community Standards
- Pillar 4: Fire Service Operational Standards
Pillar 1: Partnership for First Nations fire protection
INAC proposes ongoing collaboration with First Nations and First Nations organizations to improve community infrastructure on reserve. The strategy identifies priority areas for collaboration between internal and external partners aimed at improving fire protection with proactive measures. Efforts will focus on the key elements outlined below:
- collaborating with partners to help improve fire prevention suppression by sharing best practices and related fire safety information
- Promote First Nation firefighter associations for every region.
- identifying ways to reproduce fire protection pilot projects, campaigns, or training initiatives linked to best practices.
- Ongoing consultation with partners on potential opportunities to support fire data collection by a lead partner, in order to better inform national fire protection activities and better identify communities at risk.
Pillar 2: Fire prevention education
Fire prevention programs in First Nation on-reserve communities help reduce fire incidences, damage and deaths. Fire prevention education and awareness is key to saving lives. Strengthening fire safety education and awareness across First Nation communities is a central component of effective fire protection strategy. Efforts will focus on key prevention activities:
- promoting fire prevention programs nationally
- continue to improve student participation rates in the National Fire Safety Poster Campaign for children and youth
- identify and share fire prevention materials as well as best practices at fire safety events, through the Joint INAC-AFAC Working Group, and to the public via AFAC's website
- implement fire safety initiatives designed by communities and regions
- encourage Bands to prepare Band Council Resolutions to implement fire prevention programs, ensure code compliance, and support community capacity to increase fire safety.
- continuing to work with fire prevention partners to promote and enhance fire prevention education
- continue advancing the development of fire service policy and/or program design
- expand the circle of partners to potentially include among others the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Fire Protection Association
- establish agreements for implementing joint initiatives
- continue to support household fire prevention initiatives (e.g. smoke alarm awareness initiative across regions and regionally developed training for First Nations administrators and community members that may wish to develop home fire safety programs in their communities)
- education capacity (e.g., regionally sponsored fire safety awareness workshops offered through Tribal Councils and fire safety organizations)
Pillar 3: Community standards
Community standards include a range of items, from adhering to building and fire codes to informing community members of fires. Working together, partners will focus on key elements:
- promoting existing fire protection standards for communities nationally
- exploring options for compliance of building and fire codes in First Nations communities
- INAC is exploring options to improve compliance with infrastructure codes on reserve as part of the inspection regime of the Asset Condition Reporting System
- AFAC and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs have advocated for strengthening compliance and enforcement with federal or provincial fire codes to improve fire protection on reserve
- supporting Tribal Councils and First Nation technical organizations that provide technical expertise to First Nation fire departments working to enhance their fire underwriter survey rating or grading.
- showcasing the communities with exemplary fire protection services and fire prevention initiatives for Band-lead initiatives
- data management
- The department has engaged in discussions with AFAC, who will support a project to build a national, standardized reporting system for fire incident data led by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners, with Statistics Canada
Pillar 4: Fire service operational standards
With input from AFAC and an expert panel, INAC has updated its Level of Service Standards for Fire Protection Services. The renewed service standard defines the level of service that INAC is prepared to support in terms of fire prevention programming, training and capacity development, and capital investments.
The renewed Level of Service Standards places a greater emphasis on fire prevention and capacity development, code compliance, and partnerships. It provides clarity on the requirements for building and maintaining effective and scalable fire services based on established Fire Service Assessments and Community Risk Assessments. It encourages Band Council Resolutions for fire prevention programing, as well as fee-for-serve fire protection and inspections. The foundation of the Level of Service Standards for Fire Protection starts with fire prevention awareness, graduating to increased fire protection capacity on-reserve, followed by considerations for investments.
The refined Level of Service Standards will include an overarching policy piece with a proposed continuum for service while:
- establishing INAC Level of Service Standards for fire protection
- establishing a fundamental base of fire safety awareness in all communities
- helping to strengthen a community's ability to address fire protection weaknesses, as identified during asset inspections and community planning for capital projects
- promoting regionally developed firefighter training models
- Pilot projects for a Circuit Rider Training program in two regions
- The Quebec region's Firefighter Training Course
- supporting recruitment and retention strategies for First Nation firefighters as developed and implemented by this strategy's partners
- continuing to support community operational standards for fire protection with regionally driven initiatives
- British Columbia region's A Practical Guide to Fire Protection
- encouraging First Nation governance to address fire safety deficiencies identified during inspections
- Support governance to address safety concerns (i.e. training and outreach services to First Nations Chiefs and Councils in support of effective governance of community fire protection with tools such as Fire Service Assessments, Community Risk Assessments, and Community Risk Reduction Plans)
The health and safety of First Nation communities is a priority for INAC, and fire protection is considered an essential community service. To support this goal, INAC and AFAC will continue to work together on delivering concrete results under the 4 Pillars. Efforts will first target households, then communities, and then fire officials.
INAC will engage other partners, such as other government departments and national fire expert organizations, to focus efforts for ensuring the safety and well-being of First Nation communities.
This strategy may be updated over time as INAC and AFAC meet to plan joint activities and report on the successes and challenges in its implementation. Activities will be vetted by the Joint INAC-AFAC Working Group and agreed to by partners. The timeline for the renewed strategy is five years, beginning in April 2016.
Annex A: Schematic
|Key element of the Strategy||How it is being implemented|
|Pillar of the Strategy||Key elements|
|Pillar 1: Partnership for First Nations fire protection||
|Pillar 2: Fire prevention programs||
|Pillar 3: Community standards||
|Pillar 4: Fire service operational standards||