USFA: Marketing At the National Level

Question: As the primary fire safety office of the U.S. government, does the U.S. Fire Administration use and emphasize marketing to fulfill its role? Answer: U.S. Fire Administrator Dave Paulison is providing significant guidance in his...


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Question: As the primary fire safety office of the U.S. government, does the U.S. Fire Administration use and emphasize marketing to fulfill its role?

Answer: U.S. Fire Administrator Dave Paulison is providing significant guidance in his leadership in a vast number of areas to strengthen the focus and direction of the agency. His appointment of Marko Bourne as his executive officer has provided the agency with a public affairs professional who has a clear understanding of the significance of marketing as a tool for public and emergency services.

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Photos courtesy of USFA

USFA is a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to being executive officer of the USFA, Bourne currently serves as the acting deputy director for preparedness in FEMA. As FEMA executive officer, he is responsible for policy development and all USFA external communications to the public, the media, Congress and other federal agencies. He is also a principal advisor to the U.S. fire administrator and deputy administrator and served on the transition team that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Bourne was appointed in 1997 by Governor Tom Ridge as the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. He also was the founding executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, which he served for over six years. Bourne has over 18 years of disaster, fire and emergency services experience and holds bachelor's and master's degrees in fire science and public administration. He was the FEMA spokesperson at the Pentagon during the first days following the 9/11 terrorist attack and he was in charge of the FEMA Joint Information Center in New York following the World Trade Center attack.

Recently, I interviewed Bourne about the role of marketing within the U.S. Fire Administration.

Firehouse: In general, we would like to demonstrate how USFA uses marketing management to further the mission and vision of the agency to achieve its goals nationally. Can you give a quick overview?

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Photos courtesy of USFA

Bourne: Marketing is a critical tool for any agency or organization that expects to influence public behavior. Unfortunately for many years, USFA has not had a concerted marketing focus of its mission and its programs. Some of that has been a budgetary issue and some has been structural to its placement within FEMA. In the past two years, USFA has undertaken a much broader approach to marketing that is already showing extensive benefits to the agency, the public and to the first responders community we serve.

Firehouse: How does USFA define marketing?

Bourne: Well, the dictionary defines marketing as "the business activity of presenting products or services to potential customers in such a way as to make them eager to buy." At USFA we view it in a larger context of not just wanting the public to "buy" our fire safety message, but as a broader effort to prepare our communities for fires and all hazards.

Prevention and mitigation of fires and other hazards will do far more to make America a safer place to live and raise a family. As a result our marketing efforts are aimed at community outreach, direct public appeal, preparation of firefighters and first responders, training emergency officials and being the national advocate for all hazard prevention.

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Photos courtesy of USFA

Firehouse: How much value does it place on the discipline?

Bourne: We place an enormous value on marketing. Simply and most basely put, our budget, our existence and our most important success in reducing loss of life is wholly dependent on our ability to market our products to the public, Congress, the administration. In order to achieve those goals we need to make sure that when people think of fire prevention and preparedness, they think of the United States Fire Administration. When emergency and fire officials think about the premier training and education system for senior fire services leaders, we want them to first think of USFA's National Fire Academy and our state partners.

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