Customer-Centered Prevention: Part 1 – “Size-Up”

Question: How can a fire department leverage marketing to achieve its prevention goals within its community? Answer: Comprehensive fire and safety prevention - largely in the form of education - presents the best opportunity for any department...


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How we see ourselves is one of the key issues with which we must deal when we grapple with prevention and education. It is the excitement factor. We must look beyond suppression as a necessary function of last resort and see ourselves in a multi-dimensional manner, delivering a wide array of services and knowledge to help our citizens protect themselves with us as the activator and guide. This means we must understand how to instill the proactive, mission-centered mentality to prevention and education so that we are serving the need of our citizen customers for safety.

Thanks to the proliferation of information and the increased interest in personal and national safety among the aging baby boomers and all of society since 9/11, we have a real opportunity to fulfill our mission while increasing or marketing support. Here is a challenge: read your department's mission statement. I will bet you in 95% of the cases, the words prevention and education are in the first or second sentence. It is time to give them the priority they deserve as stated in the departmental mission. Their effective marketing can result in a quantum leap for our awareness and image in our communities, while fulfilling our primary mission.

Next: Strategic Marketing Action Plans for Fire Prevention and Education - Marketing Their Effectiveness Through Measurements

(Works cited: Corbett, Glenn P. "The Fire Prevention Bureau." The Fire Chief's Handbook. 5th ed., Bachtler and Brennan. Chapter 27; Crawford, Jim. "Comprehensive Prevention Programs." Managing Fire and Rescue Services. Dennis Compton and John Granito (Ed.); Nachbar, Mary. "Public Education." The Fire Chief's Handbook. 5th ed. Bachtler and Brennan. Chapter 27; Schaenaman, Phillip. "Concepts in International Fire Protection." Tri-Data Corp.)


Ben May has over 15 years of experience creating and applying the discipline of marketing management to fire departments and emergency service organizations. He has been a firefighter and fire commissioner, and is a graduate of the Montgomery County, MD, Public Service Training Academy. May has over 25 years of experience in business-to-business marketing and sales in the U.S. and internationally. Currently, his responsibilities include developing new business at Walt Disney World's Epcot. May was fire commissioner in Woodinville, WA, from 1994 to 1998. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor of arts degree in public affairs and received his master of arts degree in international communication from the American University. May is a member of the Society of Executive Fire Officers, a trustee of the Education Foundation of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association and a board member of the Tampa Firefighter's Museum. He welcomes your feedback on the column and he may be contacted at firecom1@aol.com.