Fire Prevention 2011: Informing Your Community

By Brian Stoothoff

Fire PreventionAnother calendar year will soon be ending, and that means that Fire Prevention Week is here. Now is a good time to reflect on what your firefighters have done this past year to reduce fire deaths and property loss in your community. Is your agency doing the same things promote fire safety that they did in past years?

I would like to offer a few suggestions to assist you in promoting fire safety. If your agency is not using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, you may want to start. Ocala (FL) Fire Rescue began using social media earlier this year, after sending a few chief officers to a variety of seminars that were offered throughout the region. I would recommend talking with other fire departments that are using this technology and develop a written procedure to guide your members in its use. I see merit in using social media as a tool to market your department. In these days of declining tax revenue and budget cutbacks, it is comforting to know of a marketing concept that does not cost much to initiate. Occasional seasonal reminders are a good way to remind the community that fire safety is important to you, all year long.

The business community, in my experience, can still be a source of revenue to purchase coloring books and other items that promote fire safety. Let’s face it. There is no fire department I know in Florida that maintains the advertising and public education budgets we had in previous years. Creating new business relationships and maintaining those we had in the past may generate income that is sorely needed. I recommend developing a strategy that is a win-win situation for you and the community. For example, in exchange for a donation, you can have the name of the businesses who contributed money printed on coloring books. Make sure you follow up at a later time with the person who donated the funds to personally thank him and show him an example of what the company’s contribution was used for. Smoke alarms are another wonderful way to spend funds earmarked for the community. A common program among many fire departments is to supply smoke alarms to citizens who are in need and cannot afford one. Firefighters may install them on request. Remember that the community is looking at everything we do.

This October, please critique the efforts of your agency to promote fire safety. The analysis should include what you are doing correctly and what needs improvement.

Brian Stoothoff is a 28-year member of Ocala (FL) Fire Rescue. He is serving as a battalion chief in charge of public education, public information, and special projects. He can be reached at (352)629-8306 or by e-mail: bstoothoff@ocalafl.org

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