Going the distance in emergency management training

Tom Lewis, 2013 JIBC Instructor of the Year

Tom Lewis a 30-year veteran of the Surrey Fire Department and one of JIBC’s Instructors of the Year

JIBC is home base for many of the most-experienced and most-engaging instructors in public safety. The Institute’s corps of instructors include paramedics, police officers, firefighters, sheriffs, and counsellors with decades of experience in the field.

Among them is Tom Lewis, a 30-year veteran of the fire department of the City of Surrey, one of the largest cities in the Metro Vancouver region.

Tom’s energy is undeniable. His enthusiasm, intensity, and passion for excellence have made him an internationally respected mentor in the field of Emergency Management. In 2013, he was recognized as JIBC’s Instructor of the Year.

Tom retired in 2006 as Surrey’s Deputy Fire Chief and City Emergency Coordinator. But his retirement didn’t last long. Less than 100 hours after leaving Surrey’s fire department, he co-facilitated his first course at JIBC.

Since then, he has facilitated emergency management courses in B.C., across Canada and around the world. He’s taught everyone from oil executives and First Nations leaders, to key stakeholders preparing for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the G8/G20 summits in Ontario.

Jerome Rodriguez, Program Manager of Incident Command and Emergency Training at JIBC said, “What sets Tom apart is how incredibly prepared he is for every course he teaches. Saudi Arabia was a prime example. It’s a 30-hour trip just to get there. He travelled with Captain Gavin Summers of the Burnaby Fire Department to facilitate a workshop on Command Tactics at Major Fires. Upon arrival, in spite of the jetlag, he met with conference organizers to confirm that the content was appropriate. After that meeting, given that the planning had been done from afar, he set about making tweaks to better address the participants’ needs. He worked into the wee hours of the morning and was up early the next day to facilitate the workshop.”

Summers says the thing about Tom is that he’s able to back up verbal explanations with visuals and card exercises that make it easier for students, especially students from different cultures, to understand the principles of Incident Command at major incidents.

Rodriguez says Tom’s emergency response experience at both the strategic and tactical levels allows him to establish the relevant context for the audience, select applicable case studies and examples, and then customize the course. “He possesses an innate ability to bring the training to life,” said Rodriguez.

“I ask myself what I would personally want to know, to take away from a course and that’s how I develop my delivery,” said Lewis. “Application of knowledge is the most important thing.”

Story by Richard Chu


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