Tyrone Heigh, fourth from right, with employees of the Salalah Methanol Company in Salalah, Oman where Heigh was teaching a firefighting program in December of 2017. — Photo submitted by Tyrone Heigh

Parksville assistant fire chief takes on teaching in the Middle East

Tyrone Heigh has made trips to Oman and the United Arab Emirates to teach firefighting programs

An overseas fire education program has one of Parksville’s assistant fire chiefs looking at training from a different perspective.

Tyrone Heigh, Parksville assistant fire chief, travelled overseas three times in 2017 to teach firefighting programs in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in February and twice in Salalah, Oman, in August and December.

Heigh said he’s one of a number of Canadian firefighters who go overseas to teach companies that are looking for certain types of certification.

“What we’re doing is we’re teaching different programs,” said Heigh. “The first time I went, I taught the fire inspector program and this time (in December) I taught the fire service instructor program and the fire officer program.”

Heigh said the programs he’s teaching are developed to the National Fire Protect Association (NFPA) standard.

“We go and we teach them these programs based on that standard and then help them (the companies) get certified in different programs,” he said.

Heigh’s role in teaching firefighting programs overseas started with a stint in a promotional video for a home safe fire escape program.

Heigh said he did an “off-the-cuff” video one day, and was later approached to help teach the firefighting programs overseas through Achiever Education because of his “apparent ease of adaptability” when doing the promotional video.

And when teaching overseas, Heigh said, people have to be adaptable.

“I think anyone who’s been overseas understands that, culturally, we’re different,” said Heigh, adding that the customs, work schedules and the approach to learning are all different from the experience of training in Canada.

“You have to be able to adapt. We go over, and they don’t just learn the way we do in North America. We start at 8 a.m., we finish at 4 p.m., lunch is here, coffee is here; that’s how we’re doing it,” Heigh said. “You have to take in the fact that Oman is also a Muslim country, so you have to stop. During the day they (the people of Oman) have to go for prayer.”

The language barrier can also be a challenge, he said. In Oman, the first language is Arabic, so Heigh said he needs to remember to speak clearly, and in terms that are easy to translate.

“Frequently, we are flying through (the programs) way faster than we would do it here because we’re only there for a short period of time,” said Heigh, adding that he tries to set a goal for the program each day. “It produces a challenge as an instructor, but the benefits are just unreal.”

Heigh said his three experiences going overseas to teach have been “awesome.”

“It really pushes you out of what we’re used to here. It gets us to start thinking about instructing in different ways,” he said.

While teaching overseas, Heigh noted, he needs to use examples that are relevant to those he’s teaching.

“Say I was teaching on a remote island somewhere, they don’t have the same money that we have (here in Parksville) and budgets and equipment and manpower,” he said. “I can’t assume that everything’s like Parksville. You have to do a little research… (find out) what is pertinent.

“The more places we get to go and see, the more places we get to understand,” Heigh said.

But the same goes for firefighting in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Dubai, for instance, has hundreds of high-rises and boasts the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, at 828 metres, according to Visit Dubai. Heigh said the city is breathtaking but it is a huge city.

“When you’re talking about inspections there, you start talking about multi-storey (buildings). How can a guy from Parksville, whose biggest building is 11 storeys, talk about 60-, 80-, 90-storey buildings?” Heigh said.

In Salalah, by contrast, the buildings aren’t nearly as tall. He said Salalah doesn’t have as many tall buildings, but instead the city is more sprawling.

One of the biggest difference while working overseas, specifically in Oman, Heigh said, is the roadblocks.

“You’ll see them occasionally and you’ll drive along and you’ll see a military jeep undercover with a big machine gun mounted in the back,” he said. “For me, it doesn’t bother me. You (just have to) be mindful and respectful to these people who are protecting their country.”

Heigh said he’s still working with Achiever Education and will be scheduled to go overseas periodically to teach.

Heigh said he’s been scheduled to go to places such as Qatar, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi in the UAE and Johannesburg in South Africa, but those teaching opportunities have fallen through.

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