Profile: First Responders Engagement

Given the increasing number of people living with dementia, first responders are more likely to encounter individuals living with dementia in crisis or emergency situations. First responders play an important role in keeping those living with dementia safe in the community.

Okotoks First Responders

The DFC Okotoks Coalition (Coordinating Committee) included representation from the Okotoks Fire Department and Alberta Health Services EMS, who contributed immensely to the pilot objectives.

By leading the working groups, first responders in Okotoks supported progress in the priority focus areas for the community as identified by the coalition. The Town of Okotoks has hosted a dementia awareness training workshop at the Okotoks Fire Department for municipal front line staff and first responders. The Town’s ‘train the trainer’ sustainability approach includes a first responder who is responsible for continuing to offer training to new staff beyond the end of the pilot project.

“People with dementia are one of the vulnerable populations that we deal with on a regular basis… Having firefighters understanding and empathizing a bit more just makes them better providers.”

Pat MacIsaac, Deputy Fire Chief, Okotoks Fire Department

Calgary First Responders

The DFC Calgary Alliance (Coordinating Committee) included representation from the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) and Calgary Police Services. The CFD Community Safety Team collaborated extensively with numerous City of Calgary and external stakeholders to support implementation of the Dementia Friendly Community pilot project.

Dementia awareness training was provided to approximately 1400 CFD staff, both uniformed and nonuniformed, in February and March 2018 through an online training module. Special hands-on age simulation training was delivered to firefighters working at Coach Hill Fire Station 29 (within the Calgary Westhills pilot area), and to all new CFD recruits in 2018 and 2019.

“The training helps firefighters develop awareness of what life is like with dementia through experiential learning. It helps participants develop new skills to support people with dementia more effectively so that firefighters can better support our city’s vulnerable populations.”

Derek Arthurs, Community Safety Officer, Calgary Fire Department

Shortly after completing the training, the Coach Hill department received a call and successfully managed to help a senior who was stuck in very deep snow. The crew noticed that the gentleman was not appropriately dressed for the conditions with no gloves or hat and had been trapped for a long period of time. Thanks to the dementia awareness training, they recognized that he was displaying symptoms of dementia, and found the training to be extremely helpful in dealing with the situation.

“There were several clues touched on in your course that helped us identify that he indeed had dementia, and this helped us deal with him appropriately and empathetically, and explain to him that we were there to help, as well as how we were going to go about helping make him feel better.”

Captain Todd Puzey, Calgary Fire Department

The Calgary Fire Department’s Community Safety Team all worked with 3-1-1 to implement a new Home Safety Program that allows Calgarians with dementia, along with their families and caregivers, to contact 3-1-1 and request a free Home Safety Visit. Community Safety Officers will visit residences to share important home safety information, inspect smoke alarms and, when needed, replace and install free smoke alarms.

As a result of their contribution to Dementia Friendly Communities, the Community Safety Team was recognized by the City of Calgary as the ‘One City’ award recipient in the Safety category. The awards recognize employees who make life better every day through their work.