Hydro Ottawa and Ottawa Fire Services ignite new partnership

Hydro Ottawa and Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) have partnered to enhance firefighter safety training and proficiency in handling fire-related incidents on/near electricity infrastructure. 

In recognizing the burning need to efficiently respond to emergencies involving electricity, OFS has spearheaded the development of a specialized hydro pole training program to provide comprehensive, hands-on experience for fire responders. This initiative enables them to navigate challenging scenarios involving power lines, elevated structures, and leverage aerial truck capabilities during emergencies, effectively fanning the flames of progress in firefighter training methodology and safety practices.

OFS has seen a rise in overall incidents, with 28,633 reported in 2022 compared to 23,875 in 2021. This uptick can be attributed in part to factors like population growth and urban intensification, alongside the heightened severity of weather events such as the derecho storm. Notably, the derecho storm impacted over 180,000 Hydro Ottawa customers and necessitated OFS's response to 696 incident calls. These figures underscore the critical need for collaboration between OFS and Hydro Ottawa in effectively responding to emergencies in our city.

Hydro Ottawa's involvement in the project is significant as the utility has funded and overseen the installation of essential electrical infrastructure, which mirrors the type of equipment used across our service territory. Leading the project from Hydro Ottawa's side is Darcy Provost, Assistant Manager, Distribution Operations at Hydro Ottawa, who also serves as the District Chief of Russell Township Fire Services. Acknowledging Provost’s dual expertise, OFS reached out to him to discuss the project’s potential. Shedding light on some of the challenges faced by firefighters, Provost emphasized the need for more comprehensive training that includes input from experienced power line technicicans.

Furthermore, Provost highlights the importance of hands-on training opportunities: “By providing such experiences, this initiative allows responders to practice maintaining safe distances from electricity infrastructure and familiarize themselves with the equipment in a controlled environment.” In line with this focus on practical training, two hydro poles have been successfully installed, featuring three-phase power lines, a neutral, and a transformer, to simulate real-world scenarios. Addressing past challenges encountered by OFS related to aerial devices and overhead electrical lines, this effort minimizes safety concerns during training sessions as there will be no power running through the infrastructure.

Ottawa Fire Chief, Paul Hutt, and Hydro Ottawa's Manager of Distribution shake hands
Paul Hutt, Chief of Ottawa Fire Services (left), and Darcy Provost, Hydro Ottawa's Assistant Manager of 
Distribution Operations and District Chief of Russell Township Fire Services (right).

Beyond Hydro Ottawa and OFS, Lourenco and Botelho, a civil contractor, have played a pivotal role in the project. They've handled tasks such as conducting locates, providing hydro-vac truck services, digging holes, and installing bollards around the poles.

The benefits of this partnership are clear: ensuring heightened safety for both firefighters and the broader Ottawa community, improving responsiveness to fires involving electrical infrastructure, and extinguishing the extent of possible damage to the grid caused by such incidents. Ultimately, this reduces the impact on customers in terms of both duration and severity of outages.

With the successful completion of the electrical training infrastructure installation on March 22, Provost reflects on the partnership stating, “the connection with Ottawa Fire Services is invaluable. Being part of this partnership means a lot to me because it's an opportunity to directly contribute to firefighter safety and community well-being.” 

With active training sessions set to begin shortly, we’re eager to witness this initiative in action.

Installing training infrastructure


Installing training infrastructure
Hydro Ottawa crews installing electrical infrastructure for firefighter training.
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