About Care with Lights and Sirens

Care with Lights and Sirens is a research project which explores the questions in two sub-projects and the relationships between them.

The sub-projects are:

Fire-Based Emergency Medical Response: Residual Welfare at Work, ongoing, described below

Equity Shifts: Promising Practices at Protective Services, completed in 2015, describe here

Fire-Based Emergency Medical Response: Residual Welfare at Work

Professional fire services in most Canadian jurisdictions respond to calls regarding medical and social care needs as much as half – and often much more – of their call volume. As firefighters themselves often say, “we are the ones who have to come when you need help the most”.

However, firefighters receive very little medical training and virtually no training to address social care needs.

Given the development of provincially funded professional Emergency Medical Services (EMS), staffed with paramedics, one might expect that fire fighters’ involvement in these emergency responses would be in decline. Yet, fire services have never been busier in this service area, and, despite regular battles with EMS and paramedics’ unions, this trend remains strong.

This project aims to examine why fire fighters are so often called upon to respond to people who are struggling to cope with mental illness, disabilities, chronic diseases, addictions and poverty.

Research Questions

  •  How has serving social care needs become such a large part of what urban emergency services do each day?
  • Where are the families, neighbours, social workers, health care and other public and charitable services that have historically worked to provide care and support for people?
  • And why is it that this population seems to be growing disproportionately in many Canadian cities?
  • What are emergency services doing when they respond to these calls and how do these workers, and the organizations they work for, deal with it?
  • Does it do any good, or is this a waste of public services and tax payer dollars?

The Research Team


From the Care Work, Aging and Health Lab

Portrait of Susan Braedley

Susan Braedley

Principal Investigator

Explore research outputs from Care with Lights and Sirens: