One thing is certain; the demands for fire prevention services are dynamic and constantly changing. The challenges faced by fire prevention personnel today are many. Many of these challenges parallel those faced in the private sector. We are faced with doing more with less and have greater financial restraints each budget year. How can a fire prevention bureau succeed in a climate where many still question the need for such services?
First we must take a look at how we do business. Fire prevention requires a balancing act between operating as a business or as a government agency. We are in the service business! Our job is to provide customer service and sell a sometimes disliked service. Fire protection cost money, can alter the way an operation is performed and those who it impacts may see very little need to spend the money to address an issue. However, it is imperative that successful fire prevention bureaus must do this with an outstanding customer focused staff. Customer service is one of the critical elements to continually build a coalition for fire prevention. Just like the business community we must treat our customers well in order to succeed. This does sound complicated...sell a disliked service and be customer friendly! The sometimes disliked service can be easy to grasp but...customers in fire prevention? Who are they?
As with many large corporations, the customers of the fire prevention bureau are both internal and external. Internal customers consist of suppression personnel, the municipal building department and the municipal public works department. (Depending on your organization the number and type of internal customers may vary.) The primary internal customer is the fire department's operation and training division.
One of the outcomes of an effective fire prevention program is reducing firefighter injuries and firefighterdeaths. The elimination of dangerous conditions in a structure is one of the many accomplishments of a fire prevention bureau. This can be accomplished through the fire prevention bureau by overseeing the fixed systems in a building, ensuring adequate fire department access to the building as well as ensuring sufficient number of hydrants. All of these items help firefighter do their jobs when called for a structure fire at 0300.
Fire prevention bureaus need to work to ensure firefighters can perform their job. Seek suppression personnel's input for the location of fire department connections, fire alarm panels, and sprinkler control rooms. Provide them with enough building access and an adequate water supply. We usually have only one chance in the life of the building to do this. We can not afford not to address it! They are customers of the fire prevention bureau services.
Take this to the next level and provide a service to them through working with the training division. Train personnel on the use of the fixed fire suppression and alarm systems, fire hydrant locations. Teach them about the types of building construction and hazards they will encounter in their community. This only helps them do their job better and safer. They in turn will be your eyes and ears in the community. They can inform the fire prevention bureau of fire protection or building access system problems they encounter while performing their duties. Address the customer's concerns promptly. Follow up with them! Address the issue and let them know you did it!
We also mentioned the internal customers of the building department and public works department. Successful fire prevention programs must work hand in hand with other internal agencies. These two agencies play a significant role in the protection of firefighters and citizens. Fire prevention bureaus can assist these other divisions with the oversight of key elements such as hydrant locations and building construction. They in turn will assist the fire department with ensuring it is completed to their standards. The fire department typically is not out inspecting how the water main is buried or inspecting a building's structural steel installation.