Fire Prevention, Who Are the Customers?

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.

These are only two of the critical building components that can impact firefighter safety. We need to make sure this is done right. We need the buildings to stand as long as possible during a fire and we must have a good water supply. We only get one chance! What this actually equates to is building a relationship with your internal customers which in turn will establish a coalition of fire prevention. A fire prevention program can not succeed without a strong coalition. One of the best places to begin the coalition building is internally in your organization through your internal customer service.

External Customers

Our other fire prevention customers are outside customers. These are individuals outside the organization. These customers include the citizens such as homeowners, business owners, school principals, builders and developers. One of our challenges is to have the ability to sell a sometimes disliked service. However, when you are successful at selling this service, you have once again continued to establish a fire prevention coalition.

When a new building is constructed, the fire prevention bureau must be actively involved in the oversight of the construction process. During the construction permitting process, the fire prevention bureau will be portraying the image of the fire department to the new business owner and entire building team. At times during the process, the owner of the building may not like the requirements imposed by the fire department.

It is imperative at this point to keep the business owner informed as to the reasons for the requirements. Don't just inform the architect or developer. The business owner must be viewed as the primary customer during this process. Keep the business owner informed of the requirements and let him or her know that you actually are there to look out for their best interests. You want to ensure the business will be safe and well protected in the event of a fire.

This may include an explanation of why sprinklers are required and how they are beneficial to their operation. Take time to explain how the sprinklers operate. What occurs at this point is the development of a relationship with the new business owner. This is the start of a coalition building process. The business owner now has his or her first impression with the fire department. This must be positive and professional. The business owner will be in the community for hopefully a long period of time. The builders and architects will be done and off to the next project.

The fire prevention bureau will most likely continue to interact with this business owner through annual fire inspections. If he or she has had a bad experience with the fire department while constructing the building, it will filter over to interaction with the fire inspector the first time he or she conducts a fire inspection.

Just like the private sector, the fire prevention bureau must carve their niche in the market place. An organization's niche is what allows them to survive and continue to operate. The niche of the fire prevention bureau can easily be based upon excellent internal and external customer focused fire prevention services.

What have you done today to improve your fire prevention bureau's customer service?