Innovations In Public Education & Information

Public Education/Fire Prevention is commonly one of the first divisions hit by budget cuts when the purse strings get tight in tough economic times.


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Photo By Nathan Traurnicht

Public Education/Fire Prevention is commonly one of the first divisions hit by budget cuts when the purse strings get tight in tough economic times. Those of us who are assigned to the front lines of public education are faced with the challenge of doing more with less. Not only that but at the same time, doing it well!

Through the use of some creative thinking, I believe I have found a solution to this problem that is working well for our department. It comes in the form of a Chevy Suburban that has been converted into a "Mobile Information and Education Center". What is that you may ask? Well quite simply it is an all-in-one solution to your public information and education needs.

The rig is truly a "community" vehicle starting with the truck itself. This 2003 Chevy Suburban was donated by Roy Robinson Chevrolet of Marysville, Washington. After having a conversation regarding the concept of the Mobile Education and Information Center, our local Chevy dealer was well on their way to being convinced that helping to support our fire prevention cause was the thing to do. I also made contact with our regional Whelen distributor who donated emergency warning lights for the vehicle. What we ended up with was a very cost-effective and innovative way to deliver our public education messages.

For the back of the suburban, I designed a slide-in "command box" style cabinet that was custom built by Fineline Fixtures & Cabinets of Marysville, Washington. The centerpiece of this unit is the drawer in the "command box" style slide-in that was constructed to be a brochure rack/storage space for our department's public education materials (coloring books, stickers, trading cards, etc.).

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Photo By Nathan Traurnicht

I have often tossed around the idea of purchasing other types of display units, but the hassle of hauling cumbersome tables and tough to assemble panel units didn't seem to be the most effective way to bring our messages to the streets. The beauty of this unit is that it is quick and easy to set-up, not to mention, highly effective in engaging the public.

Mounted on the brochure rack side of this unit is a flat-screen computer monitor which is linked to a lap-top. A library of fire prevention DVD's are able to be looped on the monitor as community members come to pick-up our fire prevention items they are also given safety messages they can see and hear. This creates the best environment for learning and making sure that we get the most impact possible for educating the community.

The second drawer has a full compliment of equipment for the public information role as well. Brand new technologies including a: digital camera, digital video camera, lap-top computer, and LCD projector are available at your finger-tips providing the ability to capture emergency incidents (or PR events) in several mediums while the action is happening, increasing the chances that it will make it into the headlines. Or one could even put on an impromptu class using the LCD projector.

Also housed in this second compartment is an assortment of "After the Fire Supplies" including: blankets, bottled water, vouchers for hotel stays, and meals. There is also room for our novelty youth fire helmets in this drawer.

The idea behind this concept is that the Mobile Information and Education Center could set-up a proactive fire prevention display ANYWHERE. Whether it be in front of a grocery store, outside of a bank, school parking lot, or at a large community event; this unit provides an outstanding platform for the fire department to interact with and educate the community on many different levels.

This entire unit is the result of the desire to imagine and create something new using means that we don't commonly think of. Innovation is the key to the survival and quality of our public education and information endeavors. So dare to dream and think outside the box!!!

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