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As a fire service we just need to stop talking, showing and playing, and start doing and educating. We need to understand the differences and relationships between fire safety awareness, fire safety education and fire safety training, and we need to correctly categorize the audience we are talking to in order to gauge and affect our "fire prevention" efforts. Our fire safety efforts should go beyond open houses, engine displays, games, posters, videos and banners, and on to involving programs which will require the audience to perform and demonstrate the skills they will need to execute in order to prevent a fire from occurring, or to survive the fire when it erupts.
There are thousands of great and effective public education programs out there in the U.S., but the one problem we seem to have in this professional area is a means in which to disseminate and share the ideas and programs that work. Most of our fire service periodicals involve fire suppression, and what to do once a fire has been reported. There is very little information on programs that will help us effectively prevent them.
In my next column, I will share with you some of the programs we have successfully used at the Beaufort Fire Department, and assist you in creating or adding to the programs for your department to get the most bang for your buck in your educational efforts. If we start to share ideas and lessons learned, just like we do with our suppression efforts, we can begin to stem the tide of battle on our most hallowed of ground, the battle we are currently losing — the battle of saving lives and property in the residential occupancy — and start winning the war to protect the fire service's core values.
DANIEL BYRNE is a lieutenant and the fire marshal for the Beaufort, SC, Fire Department, where he has served the past 10 years. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he is a National Fire Academy alumnus and a volunteer paramedic with Beaufort County EMS. A U.S. Marine veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm War, he is a technical sergeant with the Georgia Air National Guard, serving in the Fire Protection Division airport crash crew. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.