Fire Prevention: It Takes a Community

As the fire services continues to take the brunt of the economic downturn, there is no doubt that prevention is now not only a backseat of many fire departments, but hitchhiking along the side of the road.If fire departments are doing any prevention at...

Again creativity is the key because your stakeholder may not see a connection. When you approach a potential partner or coalition member, and want to utilize their time and resources, you need to have this well thought out, detailed plan and place.

Not only does such a plan add value to what you are trying to accomplish, but assures your contact that you value their time and resources and they will not be wasted.

Because the fires are occurring during after school hours it is highly likely the persons starting the fires attend the local elementary school.

The school is an obvious stakeholder. But do they realize that? While they may empathize with your problem, they also have issues and are almost always overwhelmed with overcrowding and academic requirements they must meet. This is where your plan comes in.

Who in this school would be a contact that you could speak with who has a vested interest in working with you? School nurse? Principal? Guidance counselor? School resource officer? All of the above?

This is where a little knowledge and research goes a long way. Here in South Carolina health & safety education is in the physical education curriculum and the responsibility of the physical education teacher. Part of that curriculum is fire safety. So, by reaching out to the PE teacher, not only can he/she assist me in having time with the students, I can in turn assist them by putting a check in their box as well.

Partnerships? Maybe, contact the housing complex and school to generate times and audiences to provide fire safety programs and get funding or additional resources from insurance companies or social services, etc.

Maybe, join with law enforcement and environmental groups to create after school programs to keep the kids occupied. But through the partnerships you meet to conduct the programs and then return to your respective organizations.

Coalitions? Again, these are long-term commitments to address issues from and engineering or enforcement standpoint. Should you chose a coalition, you would meet regularly over an indefinite period of time to create and then monitor the solutions. Some may include implementing a curfew, limiting access to combustible areas, regulations on the sale and purchase of matches and lighters, social services benefits in relation to committing arson, etc.

Fire prevention is a community issue and should be approached as such.

It is up to the fire service to provide the leadership. We can no longer continue at this alone and must reach out to other community resources in a professional, knowledgeable way.

Give your fire problem some thought. Think outside the box, be creative and you can make a difference.

Everyone has a vested interest in safety. You just have to find and direct it.

DANIEL BYRNE, a 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 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