This year, the Calgary Fire Department has received more calls unrelated to fire than in any previous year, something that has been taking a toll on the mental health of the workers.
The Calgary Fire Department’s public information officer, Carol Henke, says that the events are often medical, and it can be difficult to respond to an event you’re unprepared for, which is why first responders must be prepared for every situation.
“We attended 36,589 medical calls last year,” says Henke. “And so we have seen an increase, and our medical division works very hard to give us the latest training and resources to help in those instances because… 50 per cent of the time or more, we are there first on scene for that patient.”
Calgary emergency medical services have been stretched to the limit this spring and union leaders have called the situation a state of emergency.
With firefighters often being the first responders, fire marshal Glenn Baxter highlights how important teamwork is, saying an individual can only do so much on their own.
“You never know what’s going to come. And so along with that is that you’ve got to know how to manage,” says Baxter. “So how do you deal with the stresses of different calls and really not knowing what you’re getting into before you get there, so that teamwork is so important knowing your crew has your back.”
With the fire department facing its busiest year, Henke says the department will ensure to keep the support going for those responding to crises across the city, and for those who are calling. This includes a variety of counseling, teamwork, and outside services depending on each individual.
“Each situation is unique, but the level of support we have in the fire department is great and you are never on your own.”