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Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service adapts vital employee training during COVID-19 pandemic

More than 150 policy and protocol changes adapted between January and June

June 29, 2020

Fire and Paramedic staff wearing masks inside firehall

For members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), training is a regular part of each shift. Patient and crew safety is the WFPS’ top priority, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, crews have adapted to more than 150 policy and protocol changes between January and June.

The WFPS training academy acted quickly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure training would still meet its high standards, even with physical distancing guidelines in place.

“In an emergency service, you can’t stop or postpone training during a pandemic,” said Deputy Chief of Professional Development, Russ Drohomereski.

Drohomereski added the training helps prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19. He is proud of the hard work of staff who are adapting to changing protocol and to the efforts of the training and safety staff who have been working tirelessly.

As requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) evolved, so did the training for how and when to use it. To make sure every WFPS member received proper refresher training on PPE, the paramedic training team visited every WFPS station and held training sessions in small, physically-distanced groups to review the procedures, training more than 1,200 employees in a few weeks.

 Training was completed in person at a safe distance to ensure proper demonstration of techniques, answer important questions, and to provide an opportunity for responders to practice donning and doffing PPE under supervision.

“As soon as the new PPE protocols came out, members of the training team immediately headed out to make sure frontline staff had the appropriate training, much of which was accomplished between calls for service and on evenings and weekends,” said Drohomereski.

At the same time, training staff quickly shifted part of the Fire Officer training to an online platform to limit the time spent in-classroom to only what was absolutely-required. In-classroom training was adjusted to limit numbers of participants and ensure adequate physical distancing measures.

“Fire Officers are the incident commanders at fire and rescue scenes, and they are responsible for the safety of all crews and residents involved while leading the response to the emergency,” said Drohomereski.

Crews completed tabletop exercises online using remote video sharing technology. These scenarios are set up for Fire Officers practice their incident commander skills and learn from one another. 

In addition to the training adjustments, the WFPS safety team created online training videos about proper cleaning and disinfection to share with frontline staff.

“We’ve had positive feedback from our frontline staff about the training they received during the pandemic. This would not have been possible without the hard work and quick thinking of our training staff,” said Drohomereski.

Celebrating City Employees COVID-19 Emergency and Safety