By Lyonel Doherty
Members of the Oliver Fire Department will be subject to a new code of conduct that will regulate their behaviour.
At Monday’s Town council meeting, Mayor Ron Hovanes said the Town will revamp fire department operations by introducing a new code of conduct, which may be similar to the policy that currently governs the behaviour of Town council members.
Hovanes said the goal is to help the fire department become a more professional organization.
The mayor told the Chronicle that volunteer fire departments have taken on significant changes over the years.
“They require much more formal training as provincial standards require them. They also operate in a much more professional manner,” he said.
Hovanes said Oliver firefighters are in fact part-time employees of the community.
He stated the code of conduct provides a clear understanding of what is expected of them, adding it deals with respect in the workplace and other issues related to workplace performance.
Corporate Officer Diane Vaykovich said it hasn’t been determined yet if the policy for the fire department will extend to what members do on their own time.
But the mayor said, “If you are representing a community and paid by public trust dollars, there should be an expectation on how you will in fact, represent the community.”
Vaykovich noted there is no existing code of conduct for Town employees at this time.
Hovanes announced that Bob Graham has been re-appointed fire chief for 2018.
Graham said the department has never had a specific code governing the conduct of members, and believes it’s a good thing to have in writing considering the “sensitive” nature of some of the incidents that members are involved in.
Graham said the new policy is proactive by setting out guidelines regarding what members can and cannot do. For example, it will regulate who can take photographs at a scene and where these photographs can and cannot be posted.
The code will also regulate the interactions that members have with bystanders and victims of crises.
“We want to be sensitive to people,” Graham said.
The chief said sometimes members will be talking to each other at a scene, and sometimes they will laugh and a bystander may not understand what they are laughing about. Such behaviour will be covered in the code of conduct, he pointed out.
One firefighter is currently on a leave of absence from the department as he faces a criminal charge of being unlawfully in a dwelling house. The alleged incident occurred in May of 2017 while the firefighter was off duty.