General conversations during the meetings can be generated between firefighters and the citizens that can be more effective than an official presentation, and a great deal of information learned on the priorities of the community and what they feel are the major issues needing to be addressed. As time goes on and your firefighters become more intertwined with the citizens, and now with your new understanding of this community and their priorities and concerns you can work in a fire safety presentation tailored to their needs and interests.
If there no community events planned, how about planning one yourself, and utilize the above mentioned services to support or add to your event? How do you get people to show up? Appeal to their interests. What do you think they are interested in or would appeal to them? Could you get sponsors to support your effort? Hold a cookout? Have games for children? Invite a special guest like a local sports icon or celebrity? Let's face it, everyone is interested in that which is free, so is there an insurance company that would donate smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and if you have two-story homes in this area,rescue ladders?
The idea behind an event like this is geared more for a "meet and greet" than fire safety. It is a relationship developer, a rapport builder that is necessary in order to maximize your now tailored messages throughout the year; because now they are coming from a friend who understands their needs and genuinely cares for their wellbeing, who is involved in their daily life, and not another governmental entity who shows an interest only once and year and insists on dictating what they can or cannot do.
Fire prevention is about relationships between the fire service and the public we serve, and those relationships are also the lifeline of your department's ability to effectively deliver services. Spend this time to plan out your year to generate and develop those relationships; so come next October your messages will have a greater impact and you will affect the changes needed to reduce fires and exposure to risk that your personnel face.
Once again society has changed along with what they expect and value. While the fire service may influence, we cannot dictate, how society evolves. But no matter how the evolution develops, we are stuck dealing with the end results. So we must evolve ourselves as well and find new ways to deliver our services constantly to what society needs and has come to expect in order to be efficient. As firefighters we cannot simply accept things as they are, especially when it results in loss and risk, and raise our hands and walk away.
Simply put, times have changed and so must we -it's time accept that fact.
Use 2011 to reform our fire service and break with a traditional approach that has not produced the results we need. Tradition has many places in the fire service -- but no place in fire prevention.
DANIEL BYRNE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic, with the Burton Fire District in Burton, SC. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he holds both an associate and bachelors degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Alumni, and a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. Daniel is the recipient of local and state awards for public educations and relations. Daniel has been guest on two Firehouse.com podcasts: 2010 Fire and Life Safety Roundtable and Developing and Adapting Successful Fire Prevention Applications. View all of Daniel's magazine and online articles here. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.