Volunteer firefighters can once again drink alcohol in North Okanagan fire halls - InfoNews

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Volunteer firefighters can once again drink alcohol in North Okanagan fire halls

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February 08, 2019 - 7:00 PM

NORTH OKANAGAN - Volunteer firefighters will be once again allowed to drink alcohol in the fire hall thanks to new rules endorsed by area politicians.

The Regional District of North Okanagan board of directors voted unanimously at their Feb. 7 meeting, allowing the consumption of alcohol for staff members in fire halls.

Area B Director Bob Fleming welcomed the change of policy, describing it as a "privilege" for firefighters.

"I think it's a matter of trusting your employees to do the right thing," said Fleming. "These are paid on-call firemen and they are donating a lot of their time."

Fleming reiterated the new alcohol policy has stringent conditions attached. Firefighters will only be able to consume alcohol in the recreation room and only during social times such as after fire practices. The policy states, 'at all times, volunteers are expected to assume responsibility for their actions and to limit their consumption of alcohol.' The consequences of becoming impaired could lead to dismissal. The new rules also require the ranking officer or senior firefighter to be on site and not consume alcohol. The policy also states at least one member on site must have training in the “Serving it Right” and “Safe Ride Home” programs. The policy only applies to staff; visitors to a fire hall would not be able to consume alcohol.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen banned alcohol from fire halls in 2016 after trying various ways to achieve the policy since 2011. Those actions followed a 2010 incident in Oliver where firefighters took six kegs of beer from the ruins of a hotel fire and drank it back at the fire hall, according to the Globe and Mail.

Regional district manager of protective services Alastair Crick said the RDNO had brought it an alcohol prohibition policy last year while streamlining policies. Crick said technically, prior to the 2018 ban, alcohol was still prohibited under an RDNO policy that banned alcohol from all their buildings, although fire halls may or may not have been aware of the rules.

Part of the staff recommendation for the new policy says, "an important aspect of emergency services and the psycho-social welfare of crews is to debrief, unwind and discuss formally and informally the events of the day,' and continues to say 'it is accepted that alcohol (in excess) is not a recommended solution for destressing, but on occasion the importance of socializing, camaraderie and friendship is part of the process and a catalyst for discussion and relaxation."


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