As a Fire/Life Safety Education Officer, Michelle John has spent the last 10 years, in this role, interacting and educating the residents of Brampton.
Presently, the COVID-19 pandemic changes the way everyone works, however she has continued her efforts to reach Brampton residents by inviting them into a virtual learning atmosphere.
Having worked with Brampton’s Fire and Emergency Services for the last 24 years, Michelle educates residents of all ages of the importance of being fire safe using the three pillars of fire safety: prevention, detection and escape. Michelle shared that in order for her to make an impact with life saving messages, she must adapt to different media methods which includes posters, videos, special events, and often in-person presentations. Her various community visits includes schools, seniors’ centres, shopping malls and individuals’ homes all with the intent of teaching Brampton residents the importance of practicing fire safety.
“People sometimes ask if I’m a teacher, and I am in a sense, in that I’m trying to change mindsets and subsequently behaviors” says Michelle. “I used to say that I educate residents from ages of 2 to 92. But recently had the pleasure of meeting a young lady who was 99, and then going into the home of another young lady who was 100 years old to test her smoke alarms. I go wherever we are needed.”
As folks spend more time in their homes during the pandemic, knowledge about fire safety has become all the more important. “We’ve always been active and creative on social media, but now we have seen the need to grow that area of learning to go to the next level” says Michelle.
Recently in going to next level, Michelle hosted a video in her home focusing on the importance of staying in the kitchen while cooking. She shared that unattended cooking is the #1 cause of fires in the home. Another team member also hosted a video dedicated to smoke alarm safety and showing families how to make and execute an escape plan in the event of a fire.
Part of growing the virtual learning component, Brampton Fire & Emergency Services has designed and implemented Google Classroom sessions for residents and students to be more educated about fire safety. They bolstered that content during the pandemic, posting tip sheets about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, electrical safety, and testing your knowledge with quizzes.
“It’s an amazing feeling – to be in this role, and to be able to give back to the community that contributed to my growth."
“Our team already has experience reaching out to our residents in different ways – right now, we’re just relying heavily on our digital tools to still make an impact” says Michelle.
Born in Trinidad, Michelle moved to Brampton at an early age and furthered her studies in Office Administration – Legal Secretary program at the Davis campus. While completing her diploma, she worked on campus at the cafeteria. After graduation, she went on to working as a Legal Secretary at a Brampton based law firm before becoming a part of the Brampton Fire Department family. She initially joined the department as an administrative assistant, and later returned to school to upgrade her skills and subsequently accepted the position of a Fire/Life Safety Education Officer.
Meeting Brampton residents is one of the joys and highlights of Michelle’s job. She recalls fondly the memory of connecting a family with the firefighter who helped save their home. In another instance, she remembers finding and reporting to the property manager, a faulty door in an apartment unit while she and a colleague were checking smoke alarms. However, two weeks later, a fire occurred in the same apartment, and because of the prompt response by the property manager to repair the door, it prevented the fire from spreading to the hallway and other units.
A lot of Michelle’s work cannot be quantified – it’s easy to measure how many fires have been started, but how can you measure the number of fires you may have prevented? – stories such as these reinforce the importance of her work.
“It’s an amazing feeling – to be in this role, and to be able to give back to the community that contributed to my growth,” she says.