For fire prevention programs to be efficient and productive they need to be targeted to the appropriate audience, and the department needs to be offensive in its approach in reaching them. As I have said a thousand times before the people who most need to hear your messages are probably not the ones who will be walking into your station, calling for a program, or live in school districts that can afford field trips. You need to go out and get them.
Summer time presents a great opportunity for any department to set up a productive year for fire prevention programs. It gives you the opportunity to plan an offensive attack and deploy your resources effectively to ensure victory. If you want to reduce fires, if you want to have a true prevention program, then you need to have a plan and the summer is the time to do it.
The three steps of fire prevention planning are:
- First - What is your fire problem?
- Second - Where are they occurring?
- Third - What resources are in the area(s) that can be utilized to establish your beach head to start your invasion?
Next gather the statistics you need to support your research and decide what can be done to prevent the problem from occurring and if it occurs what can be done to minimize damages? For example:
If cooking fires are your number one cause of fire (probably is) what can be done to prevent them (education programs)? But should they occur, what can be done to minimize damages (fire extinguishers), and what specific statistics will support this claim (85 percent of all cooking fires we do respond to occur at dinner time and residents do not have fire extinguishers).
You now have the outline for your campaign. Talking with kids in East Smithville about stop-drop-roll when your fires are occurring in West Smithville is not an efficient use of resources for fire prevention. It may make your numbers look good and help you feel good, but isn't going to do anything to reduce your fire problem. Spending $1,000 on plastic fire hats when you could have purchased fire extinguishers for your problem neighborhood is not a wise investment. These are a waste of resources!
So now what? Plan your offensive!
Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming year. Divide the targeted area(s) up into manageable sections and take a look at the programs you want to present. Again, as in the example of the cooking fires, you may want to implement several programs; fire extinguisher training and then home fire safety inspections. Instead of tackling all of West Smithville in one month, which may cause burnout and affect your delivery effectiveness, divide West Smithville into blocks (Jones Street to Forest Ave) and set your schedule. Think in dimensions; children, adults, senior citizens, and people who work or have contact with each.
Now starting outlining your attack!
Every neighborhood has an elementary school. This could be a good place to get flyers home to the parents, maybe even use the children to do the home fire safety inspections as part of a class contest. Do they have parent nights which will assist you in program delivery, or do they have an active parent-teacher associatoin? Who are your points's of contact in the school that can help? Here in South Carolina physical education teachers are our connections because they are required to teach health and safety and fire safety is a category within that. Set up a meeting with your contacts and get face to face to discuss your plan.
Are there any colleges in this community for an adult audience? Do they have a neighborhood association or a neighborhood watch group that can provide an audience or help you set things up? Talk to your local law enforcement because many times they will have these answers or know who the community leaders are.
How about assistance? What would get the community out to listen to you?