Offensive Fire Prevention: Target Acquisition

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...

Stakeholders! Check with local churches. Many times they have community outreach programs that you can partner with - they also believe in a kind of fire prevention, they save souls and we save homes. Here in Beaufort we were able to effectively get into our target neighborhoods with such a church group. They provided the food, the grills, and a stereo sound system, we provided the fire safety. They preached their version of fire prevention (hell and brimstone) and we preached ours.

How about law enforcement? Every year police departments conduct a community night out and this type of activity is regular to them. They also have a vested interest in such a program because I am willing to bet your target neighborhoods for fire are their same target neighborhoods for crime. Check with your health department and social services because again, their customers are probably the same as ours and would be great partners to assist.

Free stuff! People will turn out for free stuff. Talk with places like Lowes or Home Depot to donate some fire extinguishers. They have programs designed for community support and may even take it a step further by providing other items to make your program more dynamic. Talk with places like K-Mart or Wal-Mart to donate gift cards or food for a community outing.

One approach maybe that everyone who demonstrates the proper use of a fire extinguisher gets an extinguisher for free, then a week later if they agree to a home fire safety inspection and their extinguisher is mounted, they get a gift card. Bring it all together.

Use this summer to develop your program and plan your attack to ensure your efforts and resources are delivered on target. Find out who your community contacts are and use this time to make a liaison with them and get them on your team. Involve the media and think outside the box. If your cooking fires are occurring at dinner time, see about doing a publice service announcement before or during the evening news (dinner time).

Quality fire prevention means being on the offensive, acquiring your targets and going after them with a well thought out plan; because the ones who need you probably will not be the ones who seek you - but they are counting on you all the same.

See Daniel Byrne Live! Daniel will be presenting "It Takes More than Plastic Fire Hats! Taking Public Education to Another Level" at Firehouse Expo on July 23 in Baltimore. Later that day he will be a panelist on the Radio@Firehouse podcast looking at fire and life safety programs.

DANIEL BYRNE, a Contributing Editor, is a lieutenant, EMT-P, with the City of Beaufort, SC, Fire Department and currently serves in the capacity of fire marshal, public education officer and public information officer for the City of Beaufort and Town of Port Royal. 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. The City of Beaufort Fire Department has twice been awarded the South Carolina "Richard S. Campbell Award" for excellence in public fire safety education. He was a panelist on the Developing and Adapting Successful Fire Prevention Applications podcast on You can reach Daniel by e-mail at