Hitting Close to Home

By now, thanks to all of the efforts that National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has put in developing great statistical reports year after year, we in the fire service know that the majority of the fires and the fatalities occur in homes.Take a look...

These examples of NAACP, AARP, and the Hispanic organizations are just to show a point.  We need to do much better.

The first step though, is for us to truly believe in the importance of public education and fire prevention ourselves. Maybe the reason that we haven't made such alliances with those organizations yet, is because we haven't yet committed ourselves fully to have a higher priority for fire prevention. But then, how many more reports should point out to the same conclusions before we commit ourselves more to better educate those high risk population groups? What are we waiting for?

I believe that we have a great opportunity with the NAACP, AARP, and the Hispanic organizations; since these organizations have tremendous political powers, and when they talk, people on the Capitol Hill listen. Besides, active involvement from their local chapters would be instrumental in the implementation of our life safety and fire protection strategies.

Here is my suggestion for whatever its worth.

I believe that with Kelvin Cochran and Glenn Gaines at the helm and leadership of the USFA, we have a great opportunity to establish strong, sustained, and systematic organizational ties at the highest levels with both the NAACP, and the AARP.

Can you imagine the positive impact of Kelvin delivering his "Fully Involved" presentation to the NAACP? Any doubts that his leadership and direct involvement at the highest level would also energize all African American fire service organizations such as the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), to get involved at the local levels and establish strong and direct connections to the membership of the NAACP at all the cities across the country?

What better way to educate our African American population about life safety and fire protection and reduce their fire fatality rate, which is twice as high as the others? That would be public education at its best. Again, the key to success though, is for us in the fire service to truly believe in the public education and the fire prevention first. We must recognize that we are public servants, and fire prevention is our job. It is only when we do our job right, that the public is better protected.

Similarly, Hispanic fire service organizations such as International Association of Hispanic Firefighters (IAHF) could also be actively involved in educating our Hispanic population in all our cities, utilizing all of the great Spanish public education materials that NFPA has developed throughout the years.

I believe that as an organization, the IAFC also is set up ideally to play an important role both at the national leve. Through their regional divisions and various sections, they can play an active role at the local levels to better educate our public.

How about if every year, the outgoing president of the IAFC, while serving his/her term as the past-president on the IAFC Board, assist the USFA Administrator and along with him serve as the fire service liaisons to the AARP? Why not?

I also believe that the role of NFPA and its president, Jim Shannon, is of extreme importance. NFPA must be actively involved in this public education effort to better educate millions of the NAACP an AARP membership about life safety and fire protection. NFPA's public education materials, research, statistics, and reports are essential, and their involvement in establishing these organizational alliances with NAACP and AARP is of utmost importance.

After all, I am not suggesting making an organization contact with the AARP, and the NAACP, just for the mere sake of establishing ties with them. We must have a solid game plan, along the public education materials, and of course the necessary expertise to have a systematic and sustained public education programs for their membership.

Planting the seed is important. But then it is only the first step. The most important part is the continuous attention, care and maintenance that must be given to these efforts to establish the roots, sprout and continued growth. And NFPA's leadership and involvement at the highest national level and the through their regional offices are essential in all phases of this process.