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Network for Fresh Ideas in the New Year

A combination of networking, research, training, and just plain experimenting can help evolve your messages and delivery methods.

Quite often when we look ahead on our calendars and start thinking about how to best utilize our time, we have a good number of annual "got to's" that must be fit in. These annual "got to's" are typically the local festival, health fair, fire prevention week.-- you get the picture. We recognize these major events that take place each year and, hopefully, we can find time to plan a fire safety message that will reach our target audience. Each year we get plenty of opportunities to share our time and talent in ways that will make a difference.

But it's easy to get caught in a cycle. It's not only easy, it's convenient. However, cycle programming like this can lead to mediocrity. Mediocrity leads to boredom. Boredom leads to seeking out other avenues for our creative energy release. And before we know it we are on another committee, taking on a new role, or heading down a path looking for renewed passion. This diverts our focus and attention from our original goals, causing fire and life safety education in our community to suffer.

So how do we beat the mediocrity blues? How do we stay excited and interested if it's the same old thing year in and year out? The fact is that it doesn't have to be that way. The only thing making it the same is the limitations we place on ourselves. The answer to continuous stimulation from our efforts is change.

Some logistical things about an event may be concrete, but what message you deliver and how you deliver it should be ever evolving. This can be accomplished by a combination of networking, research, training, and just plain experimenting. These experiences will not only bring a renewed vigor to you the educator, but that energy will be relayed in your delivery of the message to the public. And hey, guess what chief? This will enhance work performance, productivity, morale, and retention as well.

Most educators I know get the majority of their "charge" from watching the faces of students of all ages as the light comes on and they have digested the message we offered. It is a wonderful and indescribable feeling to look into the eyes of a smiling fellow human being that you have trained to prevent tragedy and respond appropriately to fire.

With this said, what we must ask ourselves is, "are we staying on top of new and exciting trends in learning, marketing, and presentation methods so we know we are capturing their interest?" Once again, this can be achieved through networking, research, and training.

Here are just a few of the resources within my state and around the country. These are just a drop in the bucket, so let's take a look at what's out there:

Minnesota Events

National Events

There are a number of other groups and networks within your state and nationally that meet regularly to discuss new ideas, share old ones, and assist one another in providing the best fire and life safety education to their communities. These are a few of the many opportunities for us, as educators, to expand our knowledge and abilities to provide life saving lessons to our citizens.

One last thing, here is the challenge:

In relation to public fire and life safety education in 2009, I promise to
Experiment: ex-per-i-ment
abbreviated definition
-->To determine the efficacy of something previously untried.
-->To try something new, especially in order to gain experience: experiment with new methods of teaching.

DANIEL BERNARDY is chief instructor/owner of RESCUEPAX, a company that offers custom all terrain technical rescue training programs and serves as the training officer for the Inver Grove Heights, MN, Fire Department. A 21-year veteran of both the career and volunteer fire service, Daniel is the former Minnesota Deputy State Fire Marshal responsible for public fire and life safety education and juvenile firesetter intervention. He was honored as the Minnesota Firefighter of the Year in 1996, and is a recipient of the Congressional Fire Service Institute Award. Daniel participated in The Assistance to Firefighters Grant 2008 Program - Part 2: Success Stories podcast on You can reach Daniel by e-mail at: