Let Your Public Relations Gather Interest—Not Dust
Public relations is something all fire department officials agree is desperately needed but no one does anything about. Police departments in the last few years have developed effective public relations programs, which were catapulted by the ushering in of the riot and demonstration era. They grabbed hold of the opportunity and expanded it.
The police have learned the value of public relations and larger departments pushed the program with their own personnel. Small departments have made use of interested civilians capable of assisting the police. Fire departments have the same opportunity for good public relations, but it can’t be accomplished without effort.
The fireman is probably one of the most dedicated of all public safety employees. From my own experience, I have seen firemen return on their off-duty time to major fires and other disasters, as well as give their free time to civic functions without extra pay or compensatory time. These unselfish acts have gone unheralded simply because the fire service has failed to institute a public relations program.
Other talents utilized
Every organization has individuals with special talent. Men with mechanical ability are used to keep apparatus in top-notch condition. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc., have been used in most departments to make a smooth and efficient organization. Yet the man with the ability to enhance the fire department’s public image has been left to gather dust.
Public relations programs take hard work and good administration. The wise chief or director knows the value of a good public image. He must further it with a constant, vigorous program, never relaxing but always finding new ways to impress the general public with the efficiency of his department.
A good fire prevention program that extends into homes and businesses will teach not only the hazards and causes of fires, but also how to prevent them. It also will teach people to protect themselves, their families and their employees from fires and other disasters. A public display of equipment, job technique and ability by the members of the department, other than the Fire Prevention Week program, is another way of building the image.
Get in the public eye
A program is needed which will put the fireman in the public eye. Public speakers and table-top demonstrations available to civic and business organizations can be invaluable. Many departments have these programs available-on 24-hour notice and encourage civic groups to call for a speaker if their scheduled guest fails to appear. This is not any easy task and takes a well-planned program, but the rewards will be worth the effort.
As the public image of the fireman improves, so will morale. When morale is high, the men will have pride in their job and their department.
The image we are striving to overcome is that of a man who sits around the firehouse playing checkers or watching television and waiting for an alarm to sound. When he responds, the persons involved are often surprised at how efficiently the fire fighter accomplishes his task and how much compassion he shows. You yourself have seen this concern in your own men. Most any firematic publication will have at least one picture of a child being rescued or being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Concern is reflected in the faces of the fire fighters.
Let the public know
What about the people who have never needed our services? What are you doing to make the fire fighter number one? We know that the modern fire fighter has little time to sit and do nothing, but does the public? We know the fire fighter is a well-trained and efficient professional. Does the public? Why not let them know! Why not develop programs to inform the people? Why not let the people know what kind of a job your men are doing? It costs only a little effort.
Public relations is your means of advertising. You can’t sell a product unless you advertise. Our product is the service we perform. Don’t wait for the disaster to put you on the front page of the newspaper. Put yourself there. Make your plans, present your programs, be available and let people know you’re doing something while waiting for the alarm to ring.
Good public relations is the way to make a good job better.