Structure fires will soon be easier to extinguish and more lives and property will be saved as the result of a national fire services database being spearheaded in Surrey.
In the coming years, fire departments across the country will be uploading data to a central system where a massive database will be stored.
From there, teams of analysts will collate the information, presenting it in useful formats for fire departments.
In addition, each jurisdiction will be able to pose specific questions to the analysts, which will in turn will crank out the applicable statistics.
Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis will be heading up the project for the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and says it will be an invaluable tool for analyzing fires and figuring out how best to beat them.
The Canadian Police Research Centre provided funding for the project on Monday with a $149,500 contribution to get it under way.
That money will be used to determine what data will be most important to collect. It’s expected that will take a year to determine.
The data will examine issues such as how fires start and how they behave.
With that information, Garis said different jurisdictions will better be able to make better decisions on issues such as building safety standards.
“There are some very good systems across the country, but they’re in pockets,” Garis said. “We have pockets of good information, but by far, we don’t have a national system.”
The chief acknowledges it may be difficult to get support from every jurisdiction in Canada.
That challenge will go to Dr. Paul Maxim, associate vice-president of research at Wilfrid Laurier University, who is helping spearhead the academic portion of the project.
“At the end of the day, if the individual departments and regions aren’t behind this, it’s not going to work,” Maxim said. “We’re hoping to do a major consultation across the country to try to gauge the amount of buy-in, what they are hoping to get out of it, and what is the gap between what they have now and what they would like. Obviously not everyone’s ideal can be met. But we’re looking to close that gap.”
When all is said and done, the country will be armed to make better decisions regarding firefighting.
Surrey has a very “robust” information system in place, Garis said, but that’s not enough.
“This will allow me to say, ‘this is relevant right across the nation,’ ” Garis said.