Railway fire and explosions rock Cote Saint-Luc in Tabletop Exercise

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Emergency service leaders, city service directors, elected officials and community partners ‘raced’ to Cote Saint-Luc City Hall’s Emergency Operations Centre Thursday morning for a mock rail disaster. The exercise was coordinated by Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson in conjunction with Montreal Agglomeration’s Public Safety Centre.

The live action exercise included Montreal agglomeration police and fire services, Urgences Santé ambulance services, CP Police, West-Central Montreal Health, Federation CJA’s community security branch along with all services in the city of CSL.

CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson oversees the Emergency Operations Centre

The scenario involved an overnight train derailment that resulted in a fire and explosion, just east of the Westminster underpass, affecting 250 residents requiring immediate evacuation. Water and electricity was cut off. City personnel established an evacuation centre at the aquatic and community centre on Parkhaven at Mackle. Reichson gave orders to all service directors to huddle and coordinate with their first responders and personnel.

As city councillor responsible for emergency preparedness I can attest that it is evident why CSL is renowned for its level of readiness. The ongoing training, testing and preparing are well worth the investment in time and resources.

Police Commander Jean O’Malley confers with Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson. Executive Assistant Tammy McEwan keeps tabs on all decisions.

In this mock scenario I served as official spokesperson for the city in partnership with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, and neighboring municipalities and boroughs. A mock press conference was set up to inform our residents.

Several issues arose for the members of the Emergency Operations Centre to deal with on an urgent basis including diminished air quality, wind direction, sheltering of animals, providing kosher and non-kosher food, evacuation of mobility reduced residents and babies, registering residents willing to take in evacuees, distribution of drinking water and more.

Director Jordy Reichson consults with Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen

Participants dealt with a spreading power outage affecting the whole city. Traffic lights were out. Expectations were two days to restore all to normal.

The three hour scenario demonstrated the participant’s ease in dealing with unraveling urgent situations and in collaborating around the table to ensure the safety of our residents. Discussions, swinging back and forth effortlessly in French and English, flowed smoothly and in a spirit if great cooperation.

Montreal Fire Department Division Chief Martin Ferland and Police Commander Jean O’Malley update the leaders in the Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Operations Centre

Cote Saint-Luc residents can take pride in knowing that their emergency, city and community services along with mayor and councillors hold these exercises from time to time and place such a high priority in testing their skills and readiness. Through these exercises improvements and adjustments can be made, professional skills developed and relationships enhanced to be well prepared for the real deal.

On behalf of our residents, thank you to our dedicated leaders around the tabletop mock disaster. Your commitment to emergency services and to our residents and community is exemplary and greatly appreciated. Thank you to Sid-Ali Talbi of Centre de sécurité civile de Montréal and CSL Public Safety Chief Philippe Chateauvert and kudos to Jordy Reichson for his leadership in orchestrating a successful demonstration and return to normalcy for our city.

Councillor Ruth Kovac and I have been involved in emergency preparedness in Cote Saint-Luc for 36 years. I was involved in EMO in the 1987 floods and we both participated in leading city services in the 1998 Ice Storm and in preparation for Y2K. We’ve taken part in many exercises over the years and we were very impressed in how these leaders came together to deal with a sudden, life-threatening crisis in a calm and professional manner.

We’re in good hands in Cote Saint-Luc!

For more information on emergency preparedness in Cote Saint-Luc and to learn what you can do to better prepare your own family please visit the CSL Emergency Preparedness page here or GetPrepared.ca.

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Urgences Santé website to be bilingual

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Jan. 21, 2015 | Suburban News | Click to enlarge

Jan. 21, 2015 | Suburban News | Click to enlarge

Thank you to D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum for his interest in advancing this dossier. Each time I contact him concerning local and language issues he and his skilled staff are quick to respond and to make representation to the relevant ministers. In this particular case, David’s assistance was significant in getting a quick and positive response from Urgences Santé.

Urgences Santé promotes safety for all on French only website, Twitter

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For quite some time I have been pushing the issue of language on signs, websites and social media within the public safety departments and agencies in the Quebec government as well as in the City of Montreal.
Recently, I noticed that Urgences Santé (the provincially mandated Montreal and Laval ambulance service, where I worked as an ambulance technician for 18 years) launched a new website and has taken to Tweeting. This is terrific and to be commended.
A major problem that I’ve discovered though, is that their new site doesn’t have a word of English. Rien de tout. Quite incredible for a major emergency operation serving over a million people, many of whom are English-speaking.
Furthermore, Urgences Santé policy, similar to the Quebec Police Force (SQ), is to tweet in French only, unless they consider the situation to be an emergency. There is a fundamental problem with this misguided policy when they consider an emergency situation message as being appropriate to be conveyed in both languages however messages promoting public safety (and not an immediate emergency) cannot be in English. This is plain wrong. It is dangerous.
In responding to my request for them to tweet in English Urgences Santé cites Bill 101. However, the Charter of the French Language, Section 22, allows for use of another language when it comes to “health and public safety”.
Therefore, once again, this public body, whose mandate is indeed health and public safety, refuses to communicate in a language other than French, for the purpose of educating the public in matters of health and safety. This makes no sense. It is a dangerous practice and a narrow view of the language law.
Of course, the reach of the Charter into social and digital media is in and of itself questionable as to jurisdiction but we’ll leave that argument aside for now.
Emergency medical services and public safety matters are very important to me. So too is the notion of the Quebec Government showing respect to the English-speaking population.
In the last months I have communicated with the communication policy at Urgences Santé, Transports Quebec, Hydro Quebec and the Quebec Police Force. All these agencies hide behind a very narrow interpretation of the French language charter. This must change. I have called upon D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum to help in these matters and appreciate whatever assistance he will bring to these issues with the goal of attaining more effective safety-related communications for Quebecers of both language groups.

Letter: Hand over responsibility for ambulances to the municipal level

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THE GAZETTE JULY 18, 2014

Re: “A critical need for better ambulance service” (Editorial, July 16)

This is an excellent editorial about the substandard level of the pre-hospital emergency medical care across Quebec. Sadly, there have been many excellent editorials over the decades just like this one.

Many of us have been advocating for the recognition of Advanced Care (Advanced Life Support) Paramedics for 30 years as Quebec lags woefully behind its neighbours. While “Paramedic” is now emblazoned across our ambulances, the term gives a false expectation to the public.

We continue to lose our most skilled ambulance technicians to other jurisdictions. Quebecers need not suffer, or die, before getting to the hospital when there are so many eager ambulance technicians available and willing to be trained to perform at a much higher level.

The lack of transparency, lengthy response times and fleet availability in the regional ambulance service cited by the editorial is fixable. Hand over the service to the municipal level. Fire and police services for the Montreal Island are not run by the province, nor should they be. The same stands true for ambulance services. The level closest to the citizen will result in better care and a higher quality of services.

Glenn J. Nashen

City Councillor

Côte-St-Luc

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Editorial: A crucial need for better ambulance service

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Gazette Editorial, July 16, 2014

Not that long ago, calling an ambulance in Montreal often meant summoning a vehicle from a funeral home. True, the optics weren’t good, but emergency response in those days was a private business — and a competitive one. Funeral home station wagons could carry stretchers, so they took calls.

Emergency services have come a long way since then. They are now highly professionalized and centrally coordinated. Montreal police took over ambulance service starting in 1958, and Urgences-Santé was established in 1989 to cover Montreal Island and Laval, although Côte-St-Luc maintains its own supplementary first-responder service. But the reality is the greater Montreal region today lags behind almost every other jurisdiction in Canada and the U.S. in pre-hospital emergency care. And now our shortcomings have been highlighted once again as the union representing almost 1,000 Urgences-Santé employees threatens pressure tactics as they negotiate a new contract.

Quebec may call those first responders ambulance paramedics, but the vast majority are not trained — and not permitted — to provide the same level of emergency care that is allowed in other jurisdictions. For years, the Collège des Médecins, and the professional order of nurses, have jealously guarded the right to perform “medical acts.”

When Premier Philippe Couillard was health minister a decade ago, a pilot project created 18 new “advanced care paramedics” — trained in Ontario for work in Quebec. But until two years ago, they still couldn’t use their new skills unless a physician was on board. Today, only 12 of those original 18 are still left; the others have left to work in cities where they have more freedom to practise independently at advanced levels.

Now the union for first responders wants to see 150 or more advanced-care paramedics in their ranks. This is a long-overdue reform. Empowered paramedics have proven to be a valuable asset outside of Quebec, not a public-health liability.

A broader challenge for Urgences-Santé, however, lies in improving its basic response times. The ambulance operator claims its average response time, for the highest priority calls in Montreal and Laval, is 7.04 minutes. But anecdotal evidence, from both patients and first responders, casts doubt on this. There are times when there are no ambulances in Laval, and vehicles are directed there from as far away as LaSalle. Urgences-Santé has denied a Gazette access-to-information request to open its books, so there is no way to tell how response time is being calculated.

The lack of transparency is troubling, but there’s reason to suspect that there simply aren’t enough ambulances and paramedics. In fact, the union is asking for 20 more ambulances and 40 more paramedics as part of its contract talks. The government, as overseer of health care in Quebec, should take this bargaining period as an opportunity to review the entire structure of Urgences-Santé. In Toronto and Ottawa, ambulance services are run by a body accountable to the cities, rather than the provincial government. At the same time, user fees should be reviewed, and brought into line to support higher standards of service, especially as the population ages.

Ambulance services aren’t entirely unwritten by the public purse. People pay out of their own pocket; a ride to the hospital costs a basic $125 and $1.75 per kilometre. There are exceptions — those on welfare, those over 65, anyone involved in a car crash or a workplace accident. But the rates haven’t changed since 1997; meanwhile, services still trail other jurisdictions.

None of these issues are new — but they are still issues of life and death, and they deserve closer public attention than they are getting.

A healthy ambulance service needs advanced care paramedics

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EMS_ambulance

Opinion by PHIL MCHUGH, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE JULY 2, 2014

The decision last month by paramedics in Montreal and Laval to invoke pressure tactics against Urgences Santé to protest against the lack of ambulance resources is just one part of a larger problem with ambulance services in this province.

I have worked as a primary care paramedic with Urgences Santé for the past six years, and every year seems to be worse than the last.

Our response times have been unacceptable for quite some time now, and no one seems to be noticing.

However, there is a bigger problem here in Quebec, and it’s what we are doing once we arrive on the scene of an emergency.

Quebec is the only place in North America (aside from New Brunswick) where advanced care paramedics are not part of the operational routine. The rest of Canada has three levels of paramedics: primary, advanced and critical. Advanced care paramedics have more training than primary care paramedics and are able to bring the hospital emergency room, so to speak, out onto the road with them.

I completed my advanced care course in Ontario, a program that is accredited in all of Canada but not in Quebec, where it has been stuck at the pilot-project stage since 2001. Urgences Santé and the Quebec government fail to recognize my training, and keep me at the level of primary care paramedic.

For the last year, I have had to sit on my hands and watch as patients had seizures while being transported to the hospital, because I am not allowed to administer medication.

If you fall and fracture your hip in another province, the treatment you will get includes use of a scoop (a device that goes underneath you to lift you off of the floor), an IV, morphine for the pain and anti-nausea medication if you need it.

In Quebec, by contrast, you will be put in a vacuum mattress (a device that becomes rigid and acts as a full body cast), which requires a paramedic to turn you on your side, which is extremely painful if you have a hip fracture.

Why is it that we are the highest taxed citizens in North America, yet we are the only ones that don’t have access to advanced pre-hospital care?

It’s time we stand up and start demanding that we get treated just as well as our neighbours in the rest of Canada. As for me, I’ve been forced to move, to work in a province that recognizes my training and that will allow me to properly treat my patients.

Phil McHugh is moving July 7 from Montreal to Calgary, to take a job as an advanced care paramedic. He has worked the last six years with Urgences Santé.

CSL recognizes long serving veterans of EMS

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It was a great honour for me to be included among those recognized last night for their many years of service in building the Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services. CSL EMS turns 50 years old this year.  The recognition event and graduation of the current class of new medics took place amid pomp and ceremony Monday night at Cote Saint-Luc City Hall.medal-003s

The Governor General’s EMS Exemplary Service Medal was presented by Mayor Anthony Housefather, Public Safety Councillor Sam Goldbloom and Director (and long time volunteer himself) Jordy Reichson to eight veterans following more than 20 years of dedicated service.

The Exemplary Service Medal, which was established in 1994 as part of the Canadian Honours System, recognizes individuals with at least 20 years of service in Emergency Medical Services and a strong commitment to exceptional performance.

I started at what used to be called EMO (Emergency Measures Organization) immediately after high school back in 1979. These were the years prior to First Responders and a coordinated ambulance service in Montreal. Residents would telephone directly to EMO and we would respond in our small fire-rescue truck, known as RMF-11 (Rescue, Medical, Fire).

Cote Saint-Luc EMO launched my side-career as an Urgences-Santé ambulance technician in 1980

Cote Saint-Luc EMO launched my side-career as an Urgences-Santé ambulance technician in 1980

Glenn J. Nashen on duty with Urgences Santé and Jeff Silver (in brown coveralls) with EMO

Glenn J. Nashen on duty with Urgences Santé and Jeff Silver (in brown coveralls) with EMO

Our first responder service was launched a few years later and I spent the next 20 years in active duty as a volunteer.

Shortly after being first elected in 1990, Councillor Ruth Kovac and I set off to form the EMO Review Committee and proposed upgrading the service to a full city service with a paid director, round the clock coverage, in-house training of our volunteer medics and widespread training of our residents, staff and visitors in CPR.

My EMO involvement also led to 5 years of volunteer service on the Canadian Ski Patrol.  I rose to the level of Assistant Patrol Leader at Mont Alta in Ste-Agathe.

My EMO involvement also led to 5 years of volunteer service on the Canadian Ski Patrol. I rose to the level of Assistant Patrol Leader at Mont Alta in Ste-Agathe.

In total I have been involved in our Emergency Medical services and every aspect of Public Safety for 35 years, well over half of my life!

Receiving the Governor General's medal from Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Mayor Anthony Housefather and Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson

Receiving the Governor General’s medal from Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Mayor Anthony Housefather and Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson

Additionally I served 18 years as an Emergency Medical Technician with Urgences Santé, five years on the Canadian Ski Patrol, and founded and spent countless hours with the CSL volunteer Citizens on Patrol group. My involvement doesn’t stop there having overseen Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on City Council since 1990.

I am very proud to have championed the first municipal bylaw requiring bike helmets in Canada and spending the last three decades advocating for mandatory helmet requirements for cyclists. It is with passion for caring for the injured, sick and needy that I  have promoted the legal recognition of Paramedics in pre-hospital emergency medical care in Quebec.

Proud to be among many deserving veterans of EMS including Patti-Bath Lietman, Hal Newman, Rick Liebmann

Proud to be among many deserving veterans of EMS including Patti-Bath Leitman, Hal Newman and Rick Liebmann

There are so many highlights in my years in EMS. I have performed CPR more than 125 times and successfully revived one in four patients. One of my most memorable occasions serving on Montreal ambulances was my first and only delivery of a baby boy in his mother’s house, which permitted me to proudly wear a tiny blue stork pin on my uniform.

Riding aboard Cote Saint-Luc's first Rescue Medical Fire vehicle RMF-11, 1981

Riding aboard Cote Saint-Luc’s first Rescue Medical Fire vehicle RMF-11 in 1981

I remember with pride serving CSL EMO in a historical torrential downpour in 1987 that closed our underpasses stranding thousands of residents and spending fifteen straight days overseeing emergency services and communications during the 1998 Ice Storm.

Glenn J. Nashen on duty with Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization, 1981

Glenn J. Nashen on duty with Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization, 1981

Of major importance was my involvement, seven years ago, alongside Mayor Housefather, Councillor Kovac and MNA Lawrence Bergman in solidifying community support for EMS and the adoption of a special law in the National Assembly to allow our city to keep EMS as the First Responder service when the Montreal Fire Department took over this mandate everywhere else on the island.

Saving EMS at the Quebec National Assembly

Saving EMS at the Quebec National Assembly in 2007

Thank you to Mayor Housefather for his confidence in appointing me to my public safety and emergency preparedness positions for the last ten years and to Jordy Reichson for his collaboration and dedication to serving our community.

Councillor Glenn J. Nashen on duty with vCOP

Councillor Glenn J. Nashen on duty with vCOP

This has been a most rewarding, inspiring and epic journey for me, and for the thousands of volunteers who have crossed through the doors at Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services. Thank you to all those who have been involved in EMS for this great honour and immense privilege to serve.

 

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