Prevention top of mind at Oak Bay Fire

While Capt. Rob Kivell’s department is Oak Bay Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division, the job encompasses so much more

Capt. Rob Kivell

Jennifer Blyth

Oak Bay News

While Capt. Rob Kivell’s department is Oak Bay Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division, the job encompasses so much more.

“We don’t just focus on fire-related activities, we’re looking at all sorts of things,” such as seniors’ safety in homes, slip and fall prevention, hazardous materials and other areas, Kivell says, noting 70 per cent of the department’s calls are for medical aid. “Our motto is ‘No call is too small.’

“Public education really does work, but you have to get out into the community.”

In addition to teaching youngsters the time-honoured “Stop, drop and roll” and many other fire prevention messages, Kivell is also responsible for building inspections and code infractions, reviewing building plans for proposed projects and post-fire investigations, which he undertakes with other members of the Oak Bay team.

The department undertakes fire evacuation drills for all municipal buildings and engages with schools, condominium and apartment building residences.

One of the highlights of the school season is the Challenge Cup, awarded to the best prepared elementary school in the district – Willows is the reigning champ, Kivell notes.

“It’s one of the oldest trophies in Victoria, established by Local 1856 in the late 1930s,” he says. “Schools are evaluated on how they undertake the fire drill that day,” with firefighters looking to make sure windows are closed, for example, that the children aren’t panicking and that everyone is accounted for. “There is a lot of pride in it.”

At the high school level, prevention includes reminding the students what they learned as youngsters, and getting the older ones ready for safety as they move on.

Groups of all ages are also invited to contact the fire hall for prevention initiatives such as fire extinguisher training and life-saving CPR training.

“I think it’s such a great tool to get out into the community and reach them at so many levels,” Kivell says.

“I’ve been in suppression much of my career and I really like the team support, but I really do find being in prevention (a one-man office) I do have a lot of support from the guys,” says Kivell, who has worked in fire prevention in Oak Bay for three years, and had prior experience in the Office of the Fire Commissioner in Saskatchewan

It’s heartening to see the fire prevention message paying off.

While two years can’t predict a trend, from the 12 fires last year that caused significant losses, the department has this year seen only three to date, Kivell says.

In dollar value, that represents about $20,000 through September this year – despite the long, dry summer that could have proved disastrous – compared to a total fire loss of about $708,000 last year. Kivell does caution, however, that the last few months of the year can be common times for fires.

As the department celebrates this year’s Fire Prevention Week, Kivell notes the 2015 theme: “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep,” which emphasizes the importance of having a smoke alarm in every bedroom.

While alarms are often in the hallway outside the bedroom, if a fire erupts inside, perhaps from a candle or electrical appliance such as a hair straightener, a hallway detector may not raise the alarm fast enough.

“A lot of things that can cause a fire are in the bedroom, so having a smoke alarm in bedrooms will give you the best chance of early detection,” Kivell says.