Low- or No-Cost/High-Reward Public Education Programs and Resources

By Jack Durjan

“There is no honor in responding to any emergency if it could have been prevented through education.” I started working in public education nine years ago. It was a difficult road because of budgeting situations. Thus I had to come up with ideas on how to get things free or at very low cost.

Where to look
For information on any topic of fire and life safety, start at the local newsstand, library, your very own fire station, your doctor’s office and so on. You must know what the one key item or program is you’re looking for and follow every avenue to the end. Look for back doors to open for the final product. Don’t be afraid to ask for something if you need it.

How to look
When you are scanning the pages of the paper, magazine, Web site, television, or whatever, be on the lookout for these words: “FREE,” “TRIAL REVIEW,” “FREE SUBSCRIPTION,” “LOW COST,” and “TRY”. Whatever is hitting you in the face, do it. In the fire service, we have an advantage because everyone wants to help the firefighter or public safety educator. You just have to know how to accept or ask for the help. When there is no budget to buy something, you might have to spend out of your own pocket or get some type of sponsorship.

Who to contact
While e-mail, snail mail, and toll-free numbers are okay, it is best to come face-to-face with the resource. When writing to a person or company, never use a form letter or copies, because when you show that extra effort, those individuals will see the extra effort and are more likely to come through. Be sure to use your company or department letterhead, not just a plain piece of paper. Be as professional as they are. Always let the people know how to contact you if needed and try to make verbal contact, not play phone tag. You will lose the resources if they can’t contact you.

Limit resources
It is possible to get too many resources. I keep only three vendors of resources of any one kind. You rarely need more. You can give the rest to other educators. If you can’t get what you need on a large scale, learn how to break it down and get it piece by piece.

Tracking materials
You must keep track of who has sent you what so you can thank them in the form of a letter or an award on occasion. Keeo the information you have on resources current. I go through my files twice a year and update and clean out what I don’t need. Always keep backup files in some form.

Helpful sites
Students can go on line and get free coloring pages of Sparky, Smokey Bear, and others. They can get programs on fire and life safety and many other topics. Here are just a few of the many sites I use:

  • www.usfa.fema.gov: Videos, brochures, cassette tapes and more;
  • www.helpusafety.org:Site for the at-risk population special people;
  • www.seniors.tcnet.org: Senior citizen site;
  • www.bhsi.org: Bicycle safety;
  • www.pbs.org: Public broadcasting station for fire programs;
  • www.firepals.org: Kids site safe;
  • www.smokeybear.com: The forestry bear hero; and
  • www.nfpa.org/sparky: Flashcard game and coloring pages.

    Jack Durjan is a 35-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant with Martin County (FL) Fire Rescue. He is also a volunteer with the Division of Forestry in the Okkechobee District, located in south Florida. He is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Martin County in the Public Education Department.

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