August 9, 2020

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Emergency services birthday parades by the numbers

Liam Wagner, 8, was one of many local kids to get a drive-by salute from first responders for his birthday this spring. (File)</p></p>

Liam Wagner, 8, was one of many local kids to get a drive-by salute from first responders for his birthday this spring. (File)

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When Brandon’s emergency services said demand had exceeded their expectations when they wound down their popular drive-by birthday parades for children in May, they weren’t kidding.

According to documents obtained by the Sun, making these parades possible took a lot of time and resources from emergency services.

Police and fire personnel carried out 156 of these parades between April 6 and May 31, spending the equivalent of one day, one hour and six minutes on parades during that time period.

During this time, parents could request police and fire vehicles to drive by their homes with lights flashing as a way to try to make birthdays special when parties became impossible due to health risks.

Eight-year-old Liam Wagner told the Sun in April that his mom made his day when she arranged for a drive-by on his birthday.

The city stopped taking bookings for the parades in early May, with Mayor Rick Chrest citing the oncoming warmer weather and loosening of health restrictions as reasons.

On May 2, Brandon fire Chief Scott McDonald said the demand was more than they had ever expected. McDonald also cited increasing call volumes for fire and police as reasons for the parades’ cancellation.

Documents obtained from a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request filed by the Sun listed the time, duration, general location and number of personnel and vehicles for each parade conducted by emergency services.

Also known as a FIPPA, these types of requests allow members of the public to request access to information held by public bodies like the City of Brandon and for private individuals to request their personal documents from entities like health authorities.

The number of fire vehicles and fire staff involved with each parade was also included, totalling 409 vehicles and 716 staff members throughout the 156-parade run.

Finding a figure for the number of police and police vehicles on parade was more difficult.

"With respect to the column indicating the number of Brandon Police Service (BPS) officers and cruisers in attendance, BPS generally operates with one officer per cruiser," City of Brandon access and privacy officer Ian Richards wrote in the FIPPA response.

"Additionally, the number of participants from BPS was not tracked precisely for each parade. The attached numbers are the most accurate that can be provided, but on the dates where no BPS data is provided, between one and eight vehicles are likely to have attended."

The concrete figures provided show that a total of 266 police officers in cruisers participated in the parades. There are 85 blank entries, which means there were an additional 85 to 680 additional officers and cruisers that participated.

Though exact records were not kept, BPS estimates that its armoured rescue vehicle participated in 28 of the parades.

"I think it was just to add some enjoyment to the young people that we were trying to brighten their day and it allowed us to have, at one time, our mascot when we were able to out the top of the roof as well as an officer holding a sign to wish them a happy birthday," BPS Chief Wayne Balcaen said about the decision to include the armoured vehicle in their parades.

The Sun requested the dollar value of the expenses incurred from going on parades, but it was not provided because according to Richards, "records containing this information do not exist."

"Providing a discrete and accurate cost for the parades is not possible," Richards wrote. "There were no staffing costs associated with the parades, as all participants were on duty when the parades took place. Assessing fuel and maintenance costs associated with the parades is also difficult, because many of the Brandon Police Service vehicles would have been in use for routine functions such as patrolling when the parades took place. Some Brandon Fire and Emergency Services apparatus also participated in parades on the way from responding to regular calls."

» cslark@brandonsun.com, with files from Drew May

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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