VIDEO: David Jephson on the “Death of a Member During a Training Exercise”

Sheilah Sweatman (Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Sun.)

By Derek Rosenfeld

Wednesday afternoon classes commenced with a somber but informative look at an unfortunate side effect of poor training decisions, as Terrace (British Columbia, Canada) Fire Department Deputy Chief David Jephson presented Death of a Member During a Training Exercise. Jephson’s presentation focused on the case of Sheilah Sweatman, a Nelson (British Columbia, Canada) Search & Rescue volunteer who lost her life in the line of duty while training on June 29, 2011.

“This topic is very serious to me and the fire department. After being a witness on the stand at the Sweatman inquiry, I felt that I needed to start hammering the truth about what happened and try to lead the charge against trainers who think it is okay to hurt or end a life of a student, Jephson said. “I will talk about three instructors who have done this, and one week after each death, they went and instructed another class, like there was nothing wrong. One even went to the police and asked for his suit back for a course.”

Jephson continued, “I believe that all trainers need to be held accountable, encouraged and respected for what they do, they are leaders in the fire service. For our fire departments, we have changed our whole approach to training, records, lessons, and ideas because of my experience at the inquiry. A day does not go by at the fire hall that we don’t mention a judge, a jury, or the ramification of an injury or a death. We believe it has made us better.”  

Here, Jephson begins by talking about the line of communications and logistics used for search and rescue by the province of British Columbia, Canada:


According to Jephson, “Training, leadership, accountability, leading by example, public perception, supporting the cause, and embracing what the fire service truly is” are incorporated into this topic.

Here, Jephson talks about the events of the day and the press coverage in the immediate aftermath of Sweatman’s disappearance:


Here, Jephson talks about the time line of the incident and what he and other administrators did to create new search and rescue safety standards in the wake of Sweatman’s death:


On FDIC International, Jephson said, “This will be my second [conference]. Last year was very quick, but I was able to see what has been created (I drank the koolaid). The wealth of knowledge and the desire to learn by all I think is the aspect that I felt.”

“After being there last year for three days, I knew I could send a strong message to all trainers by using my Sweatman presentation.”

Jephson conculded, “Be the best that you can be for the student that you lead and teach. You are the one setting the tone for their whole career. And stick to the program, follow your topic and training material by who ever it is from, do not deviate to make it or your self cool, that will only set up up to kill someone and be called to the courts.”

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