Inducted: November 21, 2023
Douglas Donald Arbour made Kent County a safer place to be. Along with his ambulance services, he promoted education and safety courses to the rural population. He also worked to improve the rural emergency response when accidents did occur.
Doug was born in Windsor on October 28th, 1936, the son of Sid and Frances Arbour of Tecumseh. He met Jean Gibson in 1956 and they had 49 wonderful years together until his passing on September 28th, 2005 in Chatham.
Doug graduated from the Windsor School System. He took courses, some of which included Canadian Red Cross First Aid, St. John First Aid and Casualty Care Attendant from Base Borden Ministry of Health.
A friend and co-worker said "Doug began his career with Windsor Ambulance before he could drive. His job was to sit in the back and care for the patient."
When Doug and his brother Bob moved to Chatham, they began an ambulance service. Bob writes – "The first few years in Chatham were tough. Doug and I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week with one or two employees. Tractor, barn and silo accidents were common." In 1963, the Ontario Ambulance Operator Association was formed with Doug as President. The code of ethics was to deal fairly with their client, peers, and employees and advance the profession, increase training and equipment standards while avoiding conduct or practice detrimental to the Association.
Blake Forsyth was hired by Doug out of university. As Doug was a firm believer in Patient Care Education, he sent Blake to the Chicago Fire Academy for initial training. Doug also sent staff teams to patient care competitions.
In 1973, the Ambulance Service Branch in Toronto asked Doug to help with the Traffic Injury Foundation in Ottawa to track injuries from accident scenes through the Hospital Departments. He was too busy so he sent his employee, Blake Forsyth to Ottawa. Eventually, this study led to our seatbelt law in 1976.
Doug also operated the Chatham Telephone Answering and Pager Service to the medical community and County Fire Departments.
He knew County locations like the back of his hand. After amalgamation, phone services and residential addresses had to be updated for EMS and Doug was a leader in the development of Civic Addressing in the County, renaming all of the roads and assigning an address to each property. This was the foundation for 911 and computer-aided dispatch resulting in more rapid response in the rural areas. Minutes Count!!
Blake said that as Doug was very familiar with farm injuries, he would lecture him to be careful around power take-offs.
Doug was instrumental in developing and financing the Southwestern Ontario Ambulance and Emergency Medical Services Museum located at the Canadian Transportation Museum in Essex County.
Doug was on Chatham City Council for about 31 years, and was Chair of Police Services during amalgamation.
Doug later took on a larger role with the Ministry of Health in Managing Ambulance Services in Southwestern Ontario when the Province took over ambulance service in the 1970s. It was a large contribution to the Province and also to Michigan.
Pete McGarvey said that Doug was a treasured friend for 40 years. He had a sense of humour that matched his zeal for public service. At 28 years of age, Doug was already a seasoned, astute and energetic professional. His staff slept on site. Doug alerted CFCO of car crashes in return for free advertising.
Win Miller, a longtime former reporter for the London Free Press said, "He did so much for the community and he did it quietly." She said that Doug and his brother Bob established an excellent service to replace a poor one. She said their service was efficient and the Arbours and staff were known for their kindness.
Mel Crew said that Doug told him "Keep a level head at all times and don't get too excited." "He worked hard at keeping spending down without hurting services. He was all about accountability." Mel added.
Doug's lasting benefit to farm injury prevention was his promotion of Silo Safety, Grain Bin Safety, Power Take-off Safety and First Aid courses for farmers.
A plaque in Doug's honour was given by Box 42, a firefighters enthusiast organization in Detroit, Michigan that supports firefighters while recording and preserving firefighter memorabilia. Kyle Wilkinson said Doug reinvigorated the organization. "He got us involved in a lot of things that helped out firefighters. Doug was vibrant and added a lot of life to our group."
Doug received Municipal and Provincial Awards, from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, and the Emergency Medical Exemplary Service Medals from the Government of Canada. In 2004, the Chatham-Kent Emergency Medical Services Headquarters was renamed the Doug Arbour EMS Headquarters in recognition of Arbour's service to the community and his interest in emergency services.