Training Changes Recommended after Drowning Deaths
In the past seven years, two firefighters in Ontario have drowned during training exercises.
In January 2010, veteran volunteer firefighter Gary Kendall, 51, of Point Edward, was undergoing an ice water training exercise when he drowned in the St. Clair River. In February 2015, firefighter student Adam Brunt, 30, drowned when his survival suit got caught on a piece of metal under water.
A coroner’s inquest was ordered, and the jury for the inquest released 15 recommendations on May 25, 2017.
One recommendation is to stop all training exercises for ice/cold water rescue in locations where the current is deemed “swift”—meaning any water that moves beyond one knot per hour.
All ice/cold water training will be on hold until a committee of experts feel this training can be conducted in a way that minimizes risk, which includes designating locations in the province where ice/cold swift water rescue training may take place.
In the meantime, the committee recognizes the need to design two separate programs. One program being ice/cold water rescue and the other being swift water rescue, with both programs having transferable skills to a real ice/cold swift water rescue situation. Furthermore, trainers, instructors, and service providers will need to follow a specific curriculum for each course.
While many of the recommendations address the ice/cold water rescue, they also direct that all fire protection service training must be regulated for the content, design, delivery, and evaluation of all training.
The jury would like to see the creation of a system that will ensure training providers are certified or qualified to an appropriate standard. They also recommend creating and maintaining a list of approved courses and providers who may provide these courses. Finally, they recommend requiring a pretraining roles and responsibilities form, which includes proper sign-offs, to be completed for all trainees prior to any training related to fire protection services.
These recommendations will now be considered and/or implemented over the next three years.
In December 2017, Terry Harrison, the trainer who oversaw the training exercise in which Adam Blunt drowned, was charged with criminal negligence causing death. Harrison was also involved in the training exercise in which Gary Kendall drowned.