Jim Pauley and CFBVRA President Carlos Alfonso, flanked by OBA's president, Carlos Ferlise, and CFBVRA's secretary, Ariel Alejo, at the signing of the MOU between NFPA and CFPVRA.
As part of NFPA’s continued efforts on contaminants that are causing fire organizations to deal with the deadly effects of cancer and other related health issues, and as the Argentinian fire service has begun to address the issue, NFPA’s President Jim Pauley and Olga Caledonia, NFPA’s Director of International Development, visited Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 5 and 6, to meet with the Consejo de Federaciones de Bomberos Voluntarios de la República Argentina (Council of Volunteer Firefighter Federations of the Republic of Argentina or CFBVRA), the Organización de Bomberos Americanos (Organization of American Firefighters or OBA) and the Undersecretary of Emergencies of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, to discuss occupational exposure and firefighter health and wellness, including initiatives to raise awareness, analyze data and share best practices that go beyond our codes, standards, and training.
Prior to their two days of meetings with the various fire service institutions, Jim and Olga met with the board of directors of NFPA’s local chapter. Established in 2004, the Chapter is a networking group of NFPA members, who work to support NFPA’s mission through local initiatives, including participating in code making committees and organizing short one-day conferences around the country addressing a variety of fire and life safety topics.
In Argentina, 95% of the fire service is a volunteer corps, and CFBVRA is the operational arm of Civil Defense representing the National System of Volunteer Firefighters (SNBV), a network that includes the National Firefighter Academy, 26 federations with their provincial training schools, and 900 fire stations with a total of 43,000 firefighters. Additionally, CFBVRA administers RUBA (Registro Único de Bomberos de Argentina) the national reporting system that compiles and administers statistical information provided by SNBV to uniformly report on the full range of their activities including human resources, materials and services rendered; and the Fundación Bomberos de Argentina (Firefighter Foundation or FBA) the organization dedicated to the creation of programs and activities for firefighter wellbeing, in additional to supporting the Academy with educational programs.
During their meetings with CFBVRA, Jim remarked that as fire organizations are working hard to change firefighter culture and alter occupational cancer outcomes, NFPA is helping to spread the word, to analyze data, and to share best practices from a variety of sources, while our research affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has been looking at PPE cleaning, contamination and firefighter cancer, as part of a larger Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control research project. These studies will provide important scientific, medical and educational insights. NFPA has also generated safety bulletins, fact sheets, NFPA Journal articles, webinars, and countless blogs to help departments engage audiences, some of which have already been translated into Spanish and shared with the Fundación.
After their meeting with CFBVRA officials, Jim and Olga met with Carlos Alberto Alvarez, Director for Emergency Planning and Fire Service Coordination and the sub-secretary, Nestor A. Nicolas. Their teams oversee the career fire service of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, and with recent changes is administrative legislation they are looking to further discuss areas of collaboration with NFPA. Historically (since the early 1800s), career firefighters were part of the Argentinian Federal Police, however, as of February 1, 2017, the Cuerpo de Bomberos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (City of Buenos Aires Fire Department) was transferred from the police to the Ministry of Justice and Safety, under the Sub-secretary of Emergencies. As part of this change, and to better serve the community, the Bomberos de la Ciudad, have created the Professional Education and Training Academy, with a cadet school, being this the first time they will have a professional development institute for those wishing to enter the Fire Department.
To conclude their trip, Jim and Olga met with FBA, which included a visit to the first volunteer fire station in the country. In 1884, motivated by the destructive fires in the predominantly Italian immigrant port neighborhood of La Boca, where the majority of homes were built with wood and zinc from the shipyards, local residents founded the first volunteer firefighter association and station with the moto “Volere e Potere”, which in Genoese means “where there is a will there is a way”.