Do not be lazy! During Fire Prevention Week school children will be flocking to the fire stations in droves, but training at this level is survival only after the fire has already occurred. Find a way to get parents involved, or at least get the information home to the parents. Look at your community for possible adult audiences and set a goal for the amount of adults you will talk to this year, particularly communities in which one or both of your top two hazards are occurring the most in.
Here is a simple idea to get the adults and into these targeted communities:
Team up with one of your local businesses for discount coupons for a child's favorite food or activity. When the children come to visit you hand out a home fire inspection sheet, and tell the children that if they bring it back filled out with a parent, they will get a free item. Be creative, but make it a point to find and train adults.
If you have money for fire prevention, purchase items that will further fire prevention, reaction and survival efforts like fire extinguishers and smoke detectors and if your community has multi-story residences, purchase some escape ladders. All it takes is for one house to have such a free item and it will spread throughout the community. Work with your local department stores on stocking these items and possibly offering discounts, so as you promote them, people will know where to go and get them while your presentation is still fresh in their mind and with the discounts available. Use your items as incentives to participate in and complete a fire safety skill, not just to hand out for the "warm fuzzy" feeling.
Would the above story have turned out differently if the firefighters on Engine 1 educated Mrs. Smith on the dangers of cooking (prevention), trained her on the use of a fire extinguisher (react), reminded her to change the battery in her smoke detector (survive), and gave Jonny and Mrs. Smith a fire extinguisher and/or a smoke detector to take home instead of a fire hat and coloring book? By doing these things does it not benefit the firefighters of Engine 1 just as much as Mrs. Smith and her son?
Fire Prevention Week is about saving lives, the lives of our citizens and the lives of our firefighters who respond and are put at risk. Take a serious look at your community and identify what the hazards are, how you can prevent them for occurring and how to train your citizens to react properly to them when they occur, and then to survive it. Not only should those working in fire prevention know this information, but every firefighter who will come in contact with your public...because you never know who Mrs. Smith is, and your life may depend on it!
- Learn from Lieutnant Byrne Live: Lt. Byrne will be presenting "Taking Public Education to Another Level" at Firehouse Central in Atlanta, Oct. 26 - 30, 2009.
DANIEL BYRNE, a Firehouse.com 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 and a National Fire Academy Alumni, he is a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2006 the City of Beaufort Fire Department was awarded the South Carolina "Richard S. Campbell Award" for excellence in public fire safety education. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at email@example.com.