First response and prevention save and protect lives

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Published on
November 17, 2023
Health, public safety and emergencies

Feature story

This feature story is part of the City of Ottawa Service Reviews: an initiative aimed at ensuring our services are meeting your needs. Visit today.

Every day, the City’s emergency responders – firefighters and paramedics – are ready to answer the call to help protect and save lives through first-response and prevention.



Paramedic vehicle with flashing lights

Expanding emergency services to include mental health crises

Each day, the Ottawa Paramedic Service responds to approximately 30 mental health related calls received through 9-1-1. Many of these individuals are needlessly transported to a hospital, when other more appropriate care options are available.

Mental Wellbeing Response Team

In 2022, the Ottawa Paramedic Service, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, launched the Mental Wellbeing Response Team. The Team is comprised of a specially trained paramedic and a mental health professional from The Ottawa Hospital, who, together, respond to non-violent, non-criminal 9-1-1 calls for service in the city of Ottawa where mental health and/or substance use are contributing factors.

The Mental Wellbeing Response Team aims to provide individuals with the appropriate mental health care, when and where they need it.  

The team consists of a healthcare professional from the TOH and specially trained paramedics, who provide a comprehensive mental and physical health assessment. This allows paramedics to provide any medical assistance while the mental-health specialist can provide resource referrals and follow-up mental health care.

Community and Social Services to pilot new response program

In June 2023, The Guiding Council for Mental Health and Addictions (the Guiding Council) released the Mental Health and Substance Use Crisis Response Strategy. It included defining a community-based alternate response for individuals experiencing mental health and substance use crises. The starting point of the Guiding Council’s work was the convergence of a number of situations that magnified some of the weaknesses in the current mental health and substance use systems and recognized the need to place a diversity, race, and inclusion lens on all Ottawa’s mental health and substance use systems.

Concurrent with the efforts of the Guiding Council, City Council approved Ottawa’s first Community Safety and Well-Being Plan in October 2021. The Plan includes six priorities identified through comprehensive community engagement, one of which is Mental Well-Being. One of the strategies within the Mental Well-Being priority is to “work with partners to explore safer alternates for mental health crises response.”

As a result of the Guiding Council’s work, in July 2023, Ottawa City Council approved the Safer Alternate Response for Mental Health and Substance Use Crises.

Your city, your ideas!

The profile story and fact sheet below are examples how our front-line emergency services continue to innovate and specialize to protect and support the safety and wellbeing of our community.  Do you have more ideas for these or other City services?  Share your ideas at

For more information on City programs and services, visit, call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401) or 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service. You can also connect with us through FacebookX (formerly Twitter) and Instagram

Fact sheet

Fire Services

Five firefighters, two damaged cars from a collision, onlookers, and fire truck nearby.

Dedicated staff from Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) are always prepared to take on battling structural and wildland fires – suppressing the flames and conducting rescue operations from life-threatening flames and smoke. But OFS also responds to other emergencies such as traffic collisions, medical traumas, and other human-caused or weather-related crises.

OFS conducts training for its new recruits as well as ongoing training for its current firefighters. Firefighters need a wide range of experience and training to support a wide range of emergency and rescue operations:

  • Vehicle and machinery extrication
  • Rope and confined space rescue
  • Trench/collapse and Urban Search and Rescue
  • Hazmat material responses, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear l
  • Explosives
  • Water/ice rescue
  • Specialized foam suppression

In addition to rescue and response, OFS places a strong emphasis on prevention, which includes:

  • Fire prevention inspections
  • Code enforcement
  • Investigating the cause and origin of fires
  • Community education and awareness campaigns:
    • Door-to-door smoke and carbon monoxide inspections
    • Wake Up campaign and Fire Prevention Week
    • Community and school presentations and information booths
    • Media stories and interviews
    • Social media and advertising


The Ottawa Paramedic Service responds and provides immediate treatment to life-threatening health emergencies across Ottawa, as well as supporting call intake and responses in neighbouring eastern Ontario communities. These health emergencies include:

  • Heart attacks and strokes
  • Serious respiratory conditions
  • Trauma from collisions, falls, natural disasters, fires and other emergencies

In addition to physical health emergencies, paramedics are also part of the mental health response team.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service also provides specialized emergency response operations to other first-responder emergencies, including marine paramedics for waterways and tactical paramedic for police operations. For special events, there are bike paramedics for easier and quicker access to respond to a health situation or injury, especially in crowded areas.

While responding to emergencies is the upmost priority, the service teaches important life-saving skills to the community through its first aid and CPR training. Its Public Access Defibrillator Program also helps place automatic external defibrillators in public and private buildings, along with support and training plans. In addition, they provide illness and injury prevention awareness presentations to schools and community groups These proactive measures help save precious time when every second counts during life-threatening emergencies. In addition, they provide illness and injury prevention awareness presentations to schools and community groups.

Paramedics also help support our health-care system to provide to home-based health care to patients with complex medical needs through various Community Paramedic Programs. The Ottawa Paramedic Service is also partnering with the Montfort Hospital in a pilot program that places primary care paramedics in the emergency room to help reduce paramedic transfer delays.

Communications centres: behind-the-scenes support for fire and paramedics

Communications officers work tirelessly behind the scenes at both communication centres. The Province of Ontario fully fund the Ottawa Paramedic Service communications centre.