Amherstburg firefighters sharpen skills at Duffy’s property



By Ron Giofu


Just because Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is closed, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been busy.

For the last number of weeks, the Amherstburg Fire Department spent three nights per week at Duffy’s working on various exercises and techniques. The training, which wrapped up last Wednesday night, was largely due to the amount of new firefighters that have been brought into the fold.

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy's Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

“All three stations did (the training),” said deputy chief Lee Tome. “In the last four months, we’ve hired roughly 20 new firefighters.”

The Amherstburg Fire Department is trying to get everyone up to speed on the standardized training and ensure all three stations have every firefighters fully trained on what is needed and what is mandated by the Ontario Fire College and National Fire Protection Association.

“When the town purchased the Duffy’s property, we asked to use it for practical firefighter training,” said Tome. “The Duffy’s property has been a great training tool for a number of our new firefighters.”

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy's Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

Tome said they have been able to use Duffy’s to practice such training as forcible entry through walls and doors, ventilation, how to work off a ladder, search and rescue and many other training techniques.

The entire department has been involved, Tome added, noting senior officers and veteran firefighters helped organize and carry out the training. That training would have been more difficult to do if the fire department didn’t have access to the property.

The new firefighters, hired due to the number of retirements in recent years, represent a turnover of about one-third of the Amherstburg Fire Department, Tome said. The training at Duffy’s allowed them to train together with the deputy chief pointing out they would all have to work together in the event of a large fire.

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy's Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

Amherstburg firefighters used the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn during recent weeks.

“Our firefighters are dedicated and committed to the town they live in,” said Tome. “The commitment of the senior officers to train the new recruits has been outstanding. We’re well on our way to get everybody trained.”

Tome added that the town can be assured that their firefighters are working hard, are well trained and are dedicated to the community.

Council gets training from integrity commissioner, health and safety officer


By Ron Giofu


Town council has been given an update on its roles and responsibilities from its integrity commissioner and has also updated its workplace violence, discrimination and harassment training.

Integrity commissioner Robert Swayze outlined his role, and noted he does not report to administration.

“As integrity commissioner, I’m independent of staff and report directly to council,” he said.

Swayze said he tries to have “a balanced approach” when dealing with municipal matters and praised the Ontario municipal political system and those who choose to govern in it. He told council members they are allowed to say “no” to certain people and organizations and that there is nothing wrong with doing that.

Lively political debate is encouraged, he added.

“I appreciate political debate is something I must extend considerable latitude to,” he said. “There is a line that can be crossed but feel free to actively debate things.”

Town hall sign

Council members were urged to “be careful” about accepting gifts from the public and developers. He indicated that it would be a better scenario if gifts were accepted on behalf of the town.

One matter Swayze said he was strict about was the spreading of confidential information. Swayze told council members that “you can’t say anything” about what happens in an in-camera session.

“I might come down on you. It depends on the case,” said Swayze. “It is a very serious offense.”

Swayze also warned council about blurring the lines between council and administration, noting that the CAO has primary responsibility over employees.

“The majority of council runs the town but none of you have executive authority over any member of the staff,” said Swayze. “Don’t think you have executive authority over any member of staff, ever. There is a chain of command over staff that ends with the CAO.”

Council members were encouraged to “be careful about their relationship with staff” but indicated council can discuss things as a group.

Swayze said through his experiences, he has dealt with a lot of politically-motivated complaints but assured council he would look at things fairly if a complaint was filed. While he has dealt with many frivolous complaints over the years, those council members that do violate their code of conduct can face a reprimand or a suspension of remuneration.

Adrien LeBlanc, the town’s recently-hired health and safety officer, noted there are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 132) that take effect Sept. 8. He noted the town is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.

LeBlanc played videos demonstrating unacceptable behaviour in order to give council members and those in attendance a look at what not to do or say.

The town has posted that violence or harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated, he said, but noted a single comment might not be considered harassment unless it becomes something that is repeated. If a complaint is made about a member of council, the mayor can determine whether to bring in a third party to investigate the complaint. If the complaint is about the mayor, human resources and the CAO would determine how to investigate.

“My suspicion is they would err on the side of caution and enlist a third party investigation,” said LeBlanc.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned how council members could respond to website and blog posts about themselves or others. Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, acting in place of vacationing CAO John Miceli, said libel and slander laws come into play if something written or said is inappropriate and said, as a private person, someone could allege libel and seek a reward. According to the town’s code of conduct, the mayor speaks on behalf of council but individual members can speak to the media or others on their positions on issues.

Amherstburg engages in emergency training exercises



By Shelbey Hernandez


Each year, municipalities do training exercises to prepare for various reportable events.

Last year’s Exercise Spring Day event prepared the Amherstburg emergency crew for an earthquake. This year’s scenario of choice: a nuclear reactor shutdown at Detroit’s Edison Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Facility.

If this were to happen, a press release said it would impact at least four county municipalities which includes Amherstburg and Essex. This event would also cause long-term and short-term problems when it comes to cross-border transportation.

Those involved were able to use a variety of technologies like emergency notification and communication systems and the 211 Call Centre. The exercise was in a “table top” format, meaning that emergency responders spoke about different scenarios and discussed what would be done in each situation. Then, there was the exercise “play” where officials had sirens going off while acting out what they would do.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and assistant deputy fire chief Lee Tome are photographed at the "table top  exercise" held last Tuesday.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and assistant deputy fire chief Lee Tome are photographed at the “table top exercise” held last Tuesday.

Although emergency officials said this is an unlikely disaster, there are some holes in the emergency plan for dealing with such a problem. That is why Lee Tome, the assistant deputy fire chief for Amherstburg, said he chose this reportable event as the one to train for. One of the gaps is possible miscommunication.

“It’s enough of a challenge to communicate not only within an organization but outside of your organization to different local agencies, local municipalities. We’re also communicating with a cross border, an international situation,” said Tome. “What happens when an event comes in over there, the state of Michigan notifies the provincial emergency operations centre which in turn, notifies us so you can see where things can break down.”

According to Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo, one big reason why it’s necessary to train for this is because of the impact. He said the tip of Amherstburg is actually part of the primary fallout meaning it would experience the greatest impact. The Mayor in particular is responsible for declaring an emergency officially so knowing what would happen is important in his role.

“We are a ground zero in Amherstburg because we have primary fallout and secondary fallout,” said DiCarlo. “So essentially all of Amherstburg will have some fallout and then the other municipalities will be secondary and third level and so on.”

Still, DiCarlo said it is incredibly unlikely so residents should not worry so much. He went for a tour at Fermi and he said there are a lot of fail safes put in place. Even so, he said you can never be too prepared for something.

“When you look at places like Japan, things happen, we can’t control nature,” said DiCarlo. “On the tour (of Fermi), we saw very clearly that there is a lot in place so that even if it does happen, it should not be able to breech the perimeter of the facility but it can happen and we’ve learned that and one of the biggest things we can’t predict is nature and nature can cause things to happen that we have to be ready for.”

Although the exercise is over, there will be another one next year. Each time a training exercise is done, Amherstburg and its surrounding municipalities become even more prepared for what could happen. It may not be as likely as other occurrences, but it is always good to be prepared.



Questions over fire captain training addressed at town council


By Ron Giofu


Questions from two former firefighters regarding the recent Ontario Fire Marshal (OFM) report and the training and education of captains came to council Monday night.

Those questions were met with assurances from the fire chief and assistant deputy fire chief that Amherstburg fire captains and the entire department are well trained and capable of protecting the community.

Keith Lauzon and Dave Wharram posed questions with regards to “gaps” in education and training identified for captains and how many captains and senior fire personnel meet the necessary standards.

“We’re not here to instill fear within the town as has been said in the media,” said Lauzon, adding their concerns were with regards to liability and cost should personnel not be properly trained at a fire scene.

Fire chief Al Reaume and assistant deputy chief Lee Tome noted the reply from the OFM report, with Tome pointing out the entire section of the report dealing with job specifications deals with all ranks.

Reaume noted the OFM reply to Wharram and Lauzon’s questions states there are no provincial standards that defines minimum standards for fire captains in the province of Ontario.

“Every municipality sets its own,” said Reaume.

“Anyone can be a fire captain is what you are saying?” responded Lauzon, who said he saw standards posted on the OFM website for level one and two firefighters and company officers.

Reaume replied that municipalities have their own standards as to how firefighters achieve their training.

“Again, there are no standards in the province of Ontario,” he said. “There hasn’t been for many years.”

CAO John Miceli noted there were 27 recommendations in the OFM’s report and the council has been supportive of senior administration’s ability to implement those recommendations. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo suggested if the delegates were unhappy with the OFM report and their reply to their questions, “contact them and work it out with them.”

Councillor Diane Pouget said it was “unbelievable” there were no provincial standards.

“How does the Amherstburg Fire Department go into a fire when they don’t have job descriptions or standards?” she asked.

Reaume said all firefighters know what to do when arriving at a fire scene and that is because of their training.

“They are all trained the right way,” he said. “We will make sure these people are trained and trained to the best practices in our industry.”

fire logo

Pouget said firefighters do a “phenomenal job” but still voiced concerns with liability.

Training is well documented, Reaume stated, with Tome adding most firefighters have level one and level two training already.

“We have a well trained fire service,” said Tome. “We have a great fire service in the town of Amherstburg.”

Tome added they would like to have a training officer and said he was glad this issue was before town council so they can see the issues and know where the fire department is at going forward.

“What it costs for a fire service here is dirt cheap for what you get,” he added, noting they are not perfect “but no department is.”

Tome said negative comments on social media “has to stop” and that “it’s time to move on.”

The recommendations are being worked on and any issues the fire department has are being addressed, pledged Reaume.

“We’re not sitting back and looking at it,” said Reaume.

“We can’t move on until we fix what the problems are and deal with them,” said Pouget.

Pouget thanked Wharram and Lauzon for coming before council, adding her belief that many problems the fire department has had might still be happening if it weren’t for Lauzon and Wharram stepping forward. Over 15 firefighters were in council chambers with more in the lobby with some heard to quietly remark “wrong” after Pouget spoke.

Reaume emphasized after the meeting that “the residents of the town of Amherstburg have nothing to worry about” and that officers and firefighters are well trained. He said there were issues when he arrived but they are working through them, noting such items as the Ministry of Labour orders have been satisfied.

Training expenses questioned, legal opinion to be obtained


By Ron Giofu


A legal opinion will be obtained as to whether town administration violated a motion and authorized training expenses.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned over $5,000 in training and conference expenses that appeared on the accounts receivable for the Aug. 10 meeting.

Amherstburg town council

Amherstburg town council

“This is a violation of what council agreed to,” said Pouget. “I don’t think we can pay the money because it was never pre-approved by council.”

CAO John Miceli said the budget was tabled Feb. 26 and there were five budget meetings. Eight motions were passed pertaining to training reductions, Miceli continued, and that when the budget was passed it was council’s authorization for the training left in the budget.

“At that point, it became an administrative function to manage the budget,” said Miceli. “I believe I have satisfied council’s motion.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne disagreed with Miceli’s view, noting other training requests have come before council.

“Why not this one?” he asked.

Lavigne asked for a legal opinion, adding “the motion is very clear – no outside travel unless it is approved by council.”

Lavigne added: “We’re talking about $5,000. What benefits do the taxpayers get? If we’re going to have staff taking $5,000 training exercises, we have to ask why.”

“When did we reconsider the motion?” Pouget added. “We did not reconsider this motion.”

Pouget added the town should be hiring qualified people and not people who need an education while on the job.

Miceli said council went through the budget line-by-line and approved training budgets. He said he would get a legal opinion on the matter.

“If we are looking at the future development of our staff, we have to educate our staff,” added Miceli.

“Life is a continuing education program,” said Councillor Leo Meloche. “Things change in business. Things change in a municipality. Education is important to keep employees up to speed.”

Meloche believed it to be in the best interest of the taxpayers to have the most qualified staff and to keep them as the most qualified staff.

Councillor Joan Courtney questioned why each individual councillor has a $1,000 training allowance when staff is allotted more. Miceli said the $1,000 limit for council members was a decision of council that could be revisited if they choose.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said Amherstburg has always sought the best possible candidates but hiring them was not always possible, noting that Amherstburg was “not attractive” at various points during the previous council. He said often times the better candidates didn’t want to apply.

“Over the last council it happened a lot,” said DiPasquale. “Amherstburg was not attractive to a lot of people but it is now.”

“It was my understanding when the budget was passed, as long as administration operated within the budget that was approved, the CAO was free to determine how that would be,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “I think going back-and-forth reflects too much micromanaging. At some point we are going to have to accept we hired a CAO, we pay him a lot of money and as long as he does so within the requirements we set before him, he should be free to do so.”