Establishing Fire Prevention Bureaus - Part I

In the next two articles we will discuss a road map for establishing fire prevention bureaus. The first of this two part series will focus on how to create a fire prevention bureau and conclude in the next part with a choice of fire prevention staffing options.

The fire chief, fire marshal, or fire prevention manager must consider several key elements in an effort to lead the fire prevention bureau in the right direction. The initial framework in developing a fire prevention bureau must include:

  • Ensure the organization's mission statement includes the fire prevention bureau's primary functions.
  • Ensure the fire prevention bureau is part of the fire department's strategic planning process.
  • Adjust the entire organization as needed while monitoring the environment for internal and external change opportunities.

Before a fire prevention bureau manager, fire marshal or fire chief begins to address staffing options, he or she needs to first evaluate where the functions of the division fits in to the overall organization. The best way to do this take a critical look at the mission statement of the fire department. When the fire department's mission statement includes the roles of the fire prevention bureau, it informs the entire community (customers) of the significance of the fire prevention bureau.

The duties of the fire prevention bureau must not be structured to function independently within the fire department but to function with the other divisions of the organization. Just like the private sector, each division of the organization must share in the overall mission. It is essential that the fire prevention functions are part of the organization's mission.

As fire prevention bureaus evolve in an organization, an important element in its development is ensuring the fire prevention bureau is part of the fire department's strategic planning process. Strategic planning is a great tool that provides a number of benefits. It creates an organized plan with direction for the fire department to face the challenges ahead. Whether in their infancy or established for years, fire prevention bureaus must be part of this process.

Fire prevention bureau involvement in the strategic planning process allows the fire prevention to be integrated into the overall plan for the organization. Not only does this allow the fire prevention bureau to be involved but it creates an environment where everyone has ownership of the mission of the organization and a part of the cohesive plan to carry out the mission. With fire prevention as part of the organization's mission, and included in the plan to carry out the mission, everyone is involved in the success.

Once the organization has a strategic plan, one thing is certain, nothing will remain the same. The strategic plan of the organization must be fluid and able to adapt to internal and external changes. For example, as a community undergoes a change in growth, demographics, or resources, and the fire problem of the community might also change. There may need to be a shift in the fire department's operation to handle additional calls for service based on a changing community. New target hazards can be created in communities with changing risks. The strategic plan may be shifted or modified to address changes the fire department faces.

The fire prevention bureau must be cognizant of internal and external influences effecting the changing environment which they serve. One of the best ways to address change is having a method for open communication for all parties involved. An avenue for this may very well be short and long term strategic planning meetings. Change should be viewed as an opportunity for the organization and crucial to the strategic planning process. This will enable the organization to adjust as needed to effectively address change influences. In order to address these influences, staffing modification or alteration of assigned tasks may be needed.

Once we are sure the functions of the fire prevention bureau are clearly defined through the mission statement and implemented through the involvement in the strategic plan, we are now in a place to evaluate what staffing levels are needed to meet our mission. As we examine developing a fire prevention bureau, the size and complexity of the fire prevention bureau is not an issue in the development phase. The driving force of the size and complexity of a fire prevention bureau is dictated in the implementation phase by the level of services that the fire prevention bureau will provide to the community it serves.

In the next article we will examine the implementation of fire prevention bureaus and the staffing levels needed to perform the desired level of service.