While searching through the Firehouse Forums section the other day I came across a question that was asking "after Fire Prevention Week activities, what's next?" There were several replies having to do with fire safety year round but one reply caught me by surprise. It stated "Year round Fire Prevention is great idea in theory, unfortunately most North American departments only do lip service to prevention and in particular Public Education". This got me thinking if this is true in a majority of departments or is this a minority opinion.
I hope it is only true in a minority of departments because there are a lot of things that can be done year round. I come from a small department, in a small town and we strive to do fire safety education year round. We don't have a huge budget for fire safety but we make do with what we have. To do fire safety education year round you don't necessarily need to be teaching children in a classroom setting. There are lots of other ways to get across the fire safety education message to all ages.
I know some of you are already thinking, "sure we would love to do fire safety year round but we don't have the funds." You may be right to some extent but there are ways around this as well. Right now, FEMA is taking applications for the 2003 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant. This can be applied for online up until Nov. 14, 2003 through the FEMA web page. There may be other grants out there for fire safety education as well.
There are also other ways to get funding for fire safety education. Perhaps you could make a partnership with a local business. Some national chains will help you out as well as those of you in small town USA could approach your local businesses. If you live in a small community with little to no businesses, then if you put the word out that you need help funding fire safety programs, many times your local citizens will help out with donations.
There are also different kinds of fundraisers that could be held. Things like car washes, spaghetti suppers, turkey raffles, etc. Perhaps your local union or fire association could help out with some funds. The list is as long as your imagination can take you.
Then there are the programs you can run. Do all programs cost money? No!! There are many things out there that can be done with little to no cost. Most schools send home a monthly newsletter to keep the parents informed as to what is happening in the school. Could you perhaps approach the school to see if you could put in a small section on fire safety tips?
If that were possible then maybe they would occasionally allow you to put in something more substantial on special occasions like fire prevention week or different holidays. Perhaps your town has a local newspaper. Can you develop a relationship with a local reporter or editor? If so perhaps they could put in occasional articles on fire safety that you can help them with. Or perhaps you could even write articles yourself. Many times local papers are looking for local angles.
Can you approach your civic organizations such as Lion's Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, etc? Many times they are looking for speakers to present information at their meetings. Can station tours be conducted year round? Can you reach out to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, YMCA, Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, etc? They too usually would love to visit the fire station or have someone speak to them on fire safety at their meetings.
Another avenue to pursue is reaching out to your Council on Aging or Senior Center. There are many things that can be done with that age group. They too are usually looking for some one to speak to them. There are other things that can be done with them as well. Things like going out and checking their smoke detectors, replacing batteries or perhaps installing new detectors for them. If you do that could you use that opportunity to talk about escape plans, kitchen safety or any of the list of fire safety topics that are a concern to that group of citizens?