What is Fire Prevention Customer Service?

Those assigned the task of fire prevention duties know the importance of being dedicated. Inspectors have the responsibility of identifying problems and mandating corrections.

The fact is, if you mitigate injury or loss before it occurs, that's where you make your greatest and most economical impact and save. Reacting after the fact will always cost more whether by injury, death or monetary loss. All one has to do to prove this is look at industrial loss statistics. It is just like the medical profession too. Where do we suppose "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" came from? Aren't we seeing heath care providers supporting preventative activities and measures now to address the rising cost of health care?

The recognition code enforcers typically get is negative. We are accused of being too restrictive, making up requirements and never working to help solve problems. We are often accused to demand compliance, just because we said so. Well, those that are in the business know the difference and those who aren't, well, it's just not the case.

As consummate professionals in the field of fire prevention we need to know what our duty and responsibility to customer service is and practicing it is a must. It is imperative we recognize anytime we open our mouth in the course of our duties, or put pen to paper, we are going to cost somebody money. We acknowledge that our technical background places us in a position to understand why the code calls for what it does and the business owner probably does not. We need to also honor and respect the many bosses we serve from our customers (citizens), our elected officials, our city officials and our chief. We strive to protect everyone's interest and above all else, protect our families, our community members and our fire crews. That is fire prevention customer service!

We need to routinely reflect on how we deliver the messages we do. We should always be empathetic to the difficulties a business owner experiences. We should always be working on behalf of those we are inspecting, exploring problems and considering solutions. There can be a tendency to be very rigid in our enforcement because it is more comfortable for us to follow black and white regulations; however, it is more important that we flex a little to solve problems, not demand fixes.

The code gives us the flexibility to work toward the intent of the code if there are practical difficulties and alternate means and methods can prevail. Don't be afraid to exercise your talent and training to help solve a business owner's problem. Understand we are not telling you to accept responsibility for fixing anyone's issue. Your responsibility should be to communicate the requirements, the reason for the requirements, and direct them to various solutions that would, at the very least, meet the intent of the code. It is still their responsibility to solve. Remember, being a partner in reaching solution is much more attractive than being an enforcer who throws one's weight around.

Being nice is an interesting fire prevention customer service concept too. We should go out of our way to be as nice as possible to everyone we come in contact with. We should do that regardless of what job we hold. This is especially true since we know we are potentially starting out on a sour note because we are costing someone money. Even if someone is nasty to us, we should set the example by taking the high road.

Our roles as professional experts already put us in a leadership role. We need to set the example, act professional and be nice. When we do this, it makes it extremely hard for anyone to stay upset or be mad. It is important to remember too, that we don't always have to get someone to agree with us. Many times, if we can just get someone to grudgingly go along with what we are asking, we have won! Celebrate that! They can still be upset that they have to do something they would rather not. That is their right! We need to support them though and let them know we recognize their efforts and understand their feelings. Don't make it personal by getting defensive. Just be professional and be proud that you are a leader and that you are serving your mission by providing the best customer service possible.