The National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC)
Author: Laurie Sallis
Never has the conversation of fire safety in Indigenous communities been more pertinent, from the community level to the federal level. The curtains are rising, and the realities are not looking good.
The National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC) is an Indigenous-led organization driven by strategic priorities to provide national fire and life safety training and support services to its communities.
The services offered by the NIFSC include but are not limited to culturally appropriate home safety assessments, community risk assessments, fire department assessments, governance support, fire pre-plan examination, equipment maintenance support, fire inspections, and fire investigations.
We strive through open, honest communications and decisive action to collaborate with our partners such as regional Indigenous technical service groups and other First Nations, Metis, and Inuit leadership to ensure that:
- All Indigenous communities know the causes of fires, learn how to prevent them, and act on them.
- All regional operational partners are enabled to deliver and sustain quality services that cover fire prevention and protection needs and support them however necessary to achieve those mandates.
- Policy or practice improvements in fire safety, protection and related issues are in place and lead to a significantly lower incidence of fire events.
Anyone in the fire service would agree that there is no time to spare on this journey towards improving community safety and self-resiliency.
To shed light on the realities within communities, the NIFSC developed the National Incident Reporting System (NIRS), designed to track incidents that occur within Indigenous communities. This information stewardship has been steadily growing to reflect an honest portrait of how Indigenous communities struggle with fire protection and how stretched their resources are.
Why is the NIRS so important?
Reporting these incidents helps identify gaps in fire protection on reserve and supports the long-term reduction of fire-related injury, property damage and loss of life.
It also supports long-term decision-making that will help ensure indigenous communities living on reserves receive the same level of fire protection as other citizens of Canada.
Understanding how and why fires occur allows us to bring direct attention to the root cause and hopefully prevent future fires from occurring.
This information is shared with our Indigenous collaborators as credible data that will help inform First Nations' well-being.
It is the first of its kind in Canada, and with the support of 18 First Nations Fire Departments, multiple tribal/band councils, community emergency coordinators, and data share agreements from various provincial Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners, the NIRS has grown to reflect over 1300 incidents in just one year and will one day be tied into the national incident database in current development by the Canadian Council of Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners.
It is essential to underscore that NIFSC understands we are not the owners of First Nations data in any capacity; it belongs to the people it reflects. Our sole aim is to build collective strength and ensure we all have the same protections to grow safe, strong communities. We take the gathered information from the seven generations passed and bring it seven generations to the future and hopefully beyond.
"Alone, our voice is small; together, our voice is loud."
We invite you to share your ideas, comments and even allyship with the NIFSC to help us grow a very important piece of history. The NIFSC is a table we can all join together at to share experience and knowledge that will drive the change necessary in saving lives.
The NIFSC welcomes all Indigenous and non-Indigenous partnerships to help us grow and contribute to this very important piece of history. "Work with us" in creating collaborative relationships around joint research, educational seminars and activities, opportunities for Indigenous recruitment, and the exchange of fire safety materials, tools, publications, or other information.
The NIFSC is a table we can all join together to share experience and knowledge that will drive the change necessary to save lives.
Deputy Director and Partnership Service
Laurie Sallis came to the NIFSC as the NIRS as the National Incident Reporting System and External Relations Coordinator, thru her work she grew into the new role as Director of Partnerships and Service.
Laurie has an extensive background in Executive Administration, working in industries as varied as Corrections to Co-op Housing and Aboriginal Family Services to CN Rail.
She also adds her knowledge gained from living in different remote communities across Canada and her volunteerism on various committees.
Laurie has become the first to be OCAP certified within NIFSC and hopes to bring that awareness to all aspects of future development within the organization.
Her family is Coast Salish, Wolf Clan, and part of the Lyackson First Nation, presently based in Chemainus on Vancouver Island.
Laurie currently resides in the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in Vancouver.