Regional district firehalls to create their own alcohol policies

RDOS board turns down staff recommendation to prohibit alcohol in firehalls

Regional district firefighters will still be able to enjoy a beer in their firehalls after the regional district board turned down a staff recommendation to prohibit alcohol in RDOS firehalls at Thursday’s board meeting.

The board was asked to accept staff’s recommendation to adopt the regional district’s Alcohol and Storage Consumption Policy, after a lengthy discussion over the matter several weeks ago during a protective services committee meeting. Staff were recommending the action largely on the basis of liability issues.

The matter had been deferred for several weeks in order for regional fire chiefs to be informed of the matter and be given time to make comment to their respective regional district directors.

Keremeos Director Walter Despot told the board that he still was not in favour of the policy.

“I am aware of the litigation issues,” he said, “I’m upset that we’re saying that firefighters don’t have the ability to make decisions with regard to alcohol on premises.”

Despot took exception to a comment made in the staff report on the matter that stated, “Some communities are recognizing that when communities adopt alcohol policies they lose an average of four to six members, but add an average of eight to 10 new members.”

“I would like to know how that data was collected,” Despot asked a staff member present, who  admitted he did not know.

“I think it came out of thin air,” Despot responded.

Ken Roberge of Summerland also questioned the comment.

Oliver Director Pat Hampson agreed with Despot’s statements, adding that, “society seems to be treating people who drink like social pariahs.”

Hampson suggested that the regional district firehalls could follow an example set by the Squamish firehall, who were able to deal successfully with the alcohol and liability issues.

Oliver rural Director Allan Patton suggested that the board look for middle ground.

“Let the firemen come back to us with a consumption policy we can live with – so we aren’t the ones telling the firemen how to behave.”

Area “G” Director Elef Christensen agreed, saying, “They are responsible people or they wouldn’t be there.”

Naramata Director Tom Chapman noted that there had been some “really good comments so far.”

“I think the alcohol ban in the Naramata department is a little premature after hearing from the others,” he said, noting that the board had become so concerned about liability that they couldn’t turn around any more.

Area “D” Director Bill Schwarz agreed with the recommendation,  commenting, “This is not about firefighters drinking – it’s about a uniform policy across the regional district. If we make exceptions for firefighters, we’ll be making exceptions for everyone. I had a long talk with Chief Haddow about this – he understands the need for the policy.”

The board voted down staff’s recommendation, opting instead to make a motion requiring the individual fire departments to bring forward an alcohol and storage policy where  “safety is the primary concern and that saves the regional district harmless from liability.” The policy is to be brought forward for consideration by the board.