He’s travelled and visited hundreds, if not thousands of fire stations across the United States and Canada, but the Comox Fire Department left a particularly good impression on Richard Gasaway.
Gasaway is a 30-year veteran in emergency services and former fire chief, is now a professional speaker and author, considered to be one of the leading authorities on first responder situational awareness and decision-making under stress.
In early March, he visited the Comox Fire Department for two days of presentations with more than 170 firefighters (25 from Comox) from Vancouver Island attending the session.
It left a positive impact on Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner, but he felt even more honoured after he received a letter from Gasaway a few weeks later.
“Of all the thank you letters I have received over the years, this one is particularly rewarding as Dr. Gasaway is widely considered a fire service expert in North America,” he explained, and added he is considered a “rock star” of the fire service.
“I was very flattered to get the letter. We get a lot of praise, but nothing like this. It’s a new area of expertise, and we were honoured to have him,” he added.
Schreiner explained Gasaway focuses on the “B.S of emergency services — brain shutdown,” when a first responder or firefighter might get tunnel vision when encountering an emergency.
This was Gasaway’s first trip to Vancouver Island, and said when he scheduled his trip to Comox, he no idea what was in store.
“This would prove to be one of the most productive learning opportunities I’ve experienced in my 30-plus years in the fire service,” he wrote.
“To say I was impressed is a gross understatement. I was in awe.”
Gasaway went on to compliment the equipment and layout of the fire hall and quality of the training facility.
“The residents of Comox are truly blessed to have one of the finest fire departments I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit,” he added. “I remain hopeful that all fire departments across Canada and the U.S. would be as professional and committed.”
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No stranger to delivering fire training sessions himself, Schreiner recently returned from the Maritimes presenting his Stop Bad Tour to more than 500 hundred firefighters, and picked up some media attention along the way.
His two-week speaking tour throughout Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick caught the attention of CBC, and Schreiner was featured in a story during his stop in Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld.
Schreiner, who has taught the Safe and Effective Scene Management programs throughout B.C. and Alberta said rather than accepting a teaching fee, he wanted to make the class accessible to other firefighters.
“I have had so many wonderful opportunities in this business I truly want to pay it back by paying it forwards,” he noted. “My message is really all about firefighter safety.”