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Summary of the April 18th 2024 ROFFA Spring Meeting

The meeting was called to order by ROFFA President Bob Larochelle at 1015 am with a welcome to all in attendance.

All members rose for the national anthem and remained standing as Bob read the names of our dear members who passed away since we last met.

Bob introduced all the Directors who serve on the Board along with a thank you for their work on behalf of the members.

Bob announced that website manager Steve Carkner is stepping down due to health issues. He thanked Steve for all his efforts and stated that the ROFFA board is seeking a replacement to start anytime. Steve will assist in training them prior to his permanent departure from the board at the end of this year.

Bob reminded the members that ROFFA is their best source to keep in touch with fellow retirees, spouses, and widows. ROFFA is continually adding services to assist members and holds many events throughout the year to encourage members to get together (east and west end breakfasts, golf tournaments, bi-annual meetings, etc).

On a motion from Al Karkainen, seconded by Dave Smith, the minutes of the 2023 Fall AGM were accepted.

Bob presented the treasurers (Debbie McCabe) report in her absence. The savings account is at $15,032.25 and the clothing account is at $4,703. On a motion from Al Murphy, seconded by John McCarthy, the report was accepted. Bob stated that we are no longer going to offer clothing for sale, but will continue to offer items such as licence plate covers, caps, patches, etc that will be available at Frontline Credit Union or from ROFFA directors.

John Sobey (ROFFA/OFS Protocol director) was happy to report that he has been relatively quiet through the winter with, thankfully only a couple of deceased members. John continues to work with OFS to ensure that all ROFFA members and their families receive the appropriate care at the time of their passing. He reminded members that the funeral kit (flags, palls, urn container, etc) is kept at the Platoon Office for easy access. 

John McCarthy (Bytown Historical Society liaison) reported in Peter McBrides (Society President) absence that they are busy with many initiatives. These include organizing artifacts; revising bylaws; fleet maintenance; working with the City of Ottawa Museum to digitize and store archives; documenting women in the Ottawa Fire Service and Bytown; podcast recording; studying safety, health, and wellness in the fire service; 'shovel' art by local artists for sale to the public. 

John also stated that former OFS fire chief, and current head of Emergency and Protective Services (EPS) Kim Ayotte is retiring. Chief Ayotte has asked that his retirement be celebrated at the May 9th Bytown Fireworks Dinner with any funds raised being donated to Bytown to assist in their operations! Tickets are $85 and can be purchased through Bytowns website or by contacting their Directors.

Fire Chief Paul Hutt presented a very comprehensive update on Fire Service initiatives and also stated that Kim Ayottes final day of work is June 14th, '24. New Fire Station 45 in Kanata North opened on March 11th with a four person 'career' pump in service and was immediately busy. It's a three bay station very similar to station 46. OFS is currently working through their third accreditation cycle with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) and expects a successful outcome by August of this year. Mental health has been a top priority with a full time psychologist joining the staff in addition to a partnership with Wounded Warriors Canada. Ten new firefighter positions are being added as well as two new training officers and two additional fire prevention officers. Provincial certification of all firefighters is well underway. An 'urban/wildland' interface study is underway to better understand the impact to homeowners and to offer 'Fire Smart' initiatives to protect homes. SCBA's are reaching their life cycle and this very expensive replacement process will begin soon. A fire station location study will take place in 2025 to ensure that OFS is offering the best possible service. A false fire alarm bylaw was passed and this is expected to decrease the large number of nuisance calls. 

In repsonse to a question from the floor, the Chief reported that Stittsville station 81 is currently undergoing extensive renovations and will be staffed by a career pump crew of four sometime next year. The Chief also expects to see service enhanced in Ottawa South and Greely in response to the large population growth in those areas.

In response to another question from the floor, the Chief stated that OFS's current staffing compliment is at about 1,000 full time and 500 paid/on-call members.

John Sobey introduced Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC) representative Matt Muzzi. 

NOTE: In his role with the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF), John is seeing sad and alarming statistics relating to mental health, including suicide affecting firefighters.

Matt is an eight year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and has many friends and family who are first responders. Matt explained that WWC is a mental health charity for first responders and their families. 84% of funds raised goes directly into programs, due in large part to the fact that most staff, including Matt are volunteers. Once an applicant to the program is accepted, and an appropriate treatment is determined, all costs are covered. Programs include Trauma Resilience; Couples PTSD; Equine Therapy; Surviving PTSD; Warriors Kids Camp; and Service Dogs. WWC provides service to the military, police, fire, paramedics and other first responders. 

While it's often difficult for first responders to ask for help, many are starting to seek treatment and of those, many are experiencing great success in dealing with their symptoms. Matt concluding by saying that he will be available after the meeting, pamphlets with information on how to get help are available, that John Sobey and Rob Milligan can also help get people in touch with WWC and that donations can be sent to ''. 

Brian Conway provided an update on the activities of the Ottawa Firefighters Community Foundation (OFFCF). An advisory committee has been established to assist the aging founders. Members include Chief Hutt (OFS), Dave Andre (OttawaPFFA), Steve Kingan (Frontline CU), Peter McBride (Bytown Historical Society), Johanne Laferriere (ROFFA), and Brian Lasalles (Ottawa FD Band). Their goal is to expand and improve services and they have met twice. They have established five priorities... the annual September ceremony; fund raising; communications; succession planning; and governance. 19 new plaques will be added to the memorial wall this year. 

NOTE: the OFFCF requires your help in obtaining information regarding some deceased members. Please check their website for these names.

Steve Kingan of Frontline Credit Union presented a comprehensive report on banking and internet cyber security and fraud. Steve warned that the threat to members is very real and very serious. Losses to ordinary account holders in Canada has reached $10 million per year and is growing. Canada experiences extremely high amounts of digital fraud compared to other countries because of our centralized banking services, allowing greater access to hackers. It's critical to check all incoming emails to ensure their authenticity. Make sure that you are familiar with the sender. If not, delete it immediately! One way of doing this is by 'hovering' your cursor over the senders address to highlight the entire thing. 

A strong password is critical. It may take a little extra time, but hackers can learn an easy password in seconds. It must be a minimum of nine numbers/letters/characters and must not contain any personal information such as names or birth dates.

Hackers are going after lines of credit and joint accounts and they can easily learn enough about an individual from social media to fool an unsuspecting victim. 

The average loss from an attack is $47,000! They may appear as a bill payment, are impossible to trace, and take only minutes to execute.

Google Password Manager is not secure and Steve advises against using it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become so refined that voices generated can fool family members.

Steve is pleased to report that the Credit Union has invested heavily in cybersecurity measures and that two factor authentification is also helping to secure members accounts.

Dave Andre, President of the Ottawa Professional Firefighter Association (OPFFA) provided the following update. The WSIB committee is dealing with a very large volume of cases and may be slow to respond to some applications. Dave encouraged ROFFA members to  continue to reach out to Steve Brabazon if they have any issues reaching the OPFFA. If the case is of a serious nature and no response is heard from his committee, reach out to him directly. In an effort to clear up the backlog, the OPFFA is now using the legal firm of Howard Goldblatt to deal with some cases. 

Both of the OPFFA office staff resigned and their status is under review. It is unlikely that another office manager will be hired, however staff to assist with clerical work and WSIB may be brought on. In the meantime, Sick Benefit Fund (SBF) manager Craig Morrison will soon be back in his old office.

NOTE: $500 Health Screening Available! The OPFFA has contracted with United Diagnostic Service, who is now approved by the province to provide cancer and heart screening through a very comprehensive full body scan. While approved, it is not covered by OHIP.

IF approved at this years international convention, the IAFF may soon be offering 'active retired' memberships for a reduced monthly fee and to include some non-voting benefits.

As the Chief mentioned earlier, the total complement of OPFFA staffing is finally growing. In spite of that, the Maintenance Division remains severely understaffed and there is unlimited overtime required to meet the staffing requirements in the Suppression Division. Dave and the OPFFA believe that an increase in the total complement of firefighters is a more sustainable approach to ensure the daily staffing of urban apparatus. They are hopeful that the Emergency and Protective Services Committee (EPS) will support this position.

Brenda Tirrell and Gerry Pingitore provided an update on the activities of the Ottawa First Responders Foundation (OFRF). Brenda reminded members that the OFRF was founded to support not only first responders, but their families as well. They cover 100% of the costs of treatments. The number of applications from first responders/families seeking assistance from the OFRF is up a staggering 220%. Jeff Walker Real Estate currently has a fundraising campaign underway in support of the OFRF where they will donate $1,000 from the sale of every home!

The OFRF supports the Salvation Army/Frontline One canteen truck and recently provided lunch for all the dispatchers in the various Ottawa emergency services as part of their campaign to raise awareness. Following a comment from a member in the room, it was agreed that their TV commercial has been a excellent way of getting their message out to the public.

ROFFA founding member and former director Don Band rose to address the members on the occassion of Pat DeFazzio's upcoming 90th birthday. Sadly, Pat is not well. Don asked that all in attendance please sign the massive birthday card that he brought in the hopes of lifting Pat's spirits. There followed some reminiscing about Pat's tremendous contribution to the fire service and ROFFA. There was much appreciation and a round of applause for Pat and all of the founding members of ROFFA whose vision has provided this incredible opportunity for everyone to remain connected.

Peter Hunt, ROFFA Secretary spoke briefly on the board's intention to revise the constitution. While it was quite adequate at the time, ROFFA has grown to meet the needs of its members and the constitution must reflect this. Among other things, an election will take place at every Fall Annual General Meeting where three of the nine directors terms will expire each year. John Sobey, Bob Foster and Peter will work on these revisions in the coming months and present a draft proposal for the members approval in the Fall. Peter urged members to put forward any suggestions they might have to assist in this process.

There are several upcoming events including the ROFFA/Bytown Fireworks dinner (honoring Chief Ayotte) on May 9th; the OPFFA annual Reunion Dinner on May 22nd at St. Anthony's; the Airport Firefighters Golf Tournament on July 5th at the Meadows GC; the ROFFA Fall Golf Tournament at Equinelle on September 12th;

Good and Welfare:  

     Dave McEvoy of the Bytown Fire Brigade rose to say that Al Cote will be getting his helmet back in a brief ceremony to take place at the Historical Society. Al lost his helmet while responding to a call many years ago and it has miraculously made it way back.

     John McCarthy rose to tell members that Frontline One has prepared chilli which will be served upstairs following the meeting. He added that we have lost our Salvation Army liaison (Teresa) who was a great friend and supporter. With that, John must now deal with their head office resulting in delays and potential service disruptions. He told the story of the recent loss of the canteens microwave oven during an extended operation in Dunrobin. The Salvation Army was to take several weeks to replace it. Instead, one was 'borrowed' from the local fire station to complete the mission. Following that, the OFS Maintenance Division donated their own microwave from their lunchroom and installed it in Frontline One! John also added that several rural firefighters will be joining the team.

In his closing remarks, Bob Larochelle thanked everyone for attending todays meeting and urged that we continue to support our valued sponsors whose generous support ensures that there are no costs to members. The 50/50 draw will take place upstairs during lunch and the bar will also be open.

On a motion from Al Karkainen, seconded by Ron Terriault the meeting was adjourned at 1215 pm.


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