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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Firehouse: Is marketing part of the strategic plan?

Bourne: Marketing is very much part of the strategic plan. As part of the Blue Ribbon Commission Report that helped to transform USFA, marketing and outreach was one of the largest set of recommendations and was widely viewed by the commission members and the USFA staff as critical to the future success of the Fire Administration.

Firehouse: How does USFA's national marketing penetrate and make itself felt locally?

Bourne: One of the keys to the success of any marketing strategy is how your organization gets its message to the local level. For USFA the key has been to focus on understanding who our audience is. Who are we trying to reach? What message are we trying to send? What is the most effective way to send that message? How do we measure the results? It is an ongoing process that must include a good understanding of the best ways to meet your audience. Media such as TV and radio, newspapers, flyers, training programs, conferences and the web are all ways to reach audiences, but you need to focus your effort to penetrate the local level with the method that they will be likely to see or hear.

USFA has concentrated its efforts to several high-risk audiences. We set five strategic goals in three categories, which we live by, budget for, measure against and set timeframes to achieve results that are ambitious but not necessarily unreachable.

The USFA Five-Year Operational Objectives are:

  • Reduce the loss of life from fire by 15%.
    By reducing by 25% the loss of life of the age group 14 years old and below, and
    By reducing by 25% the loss of life of the age group 65 years old and above, and
    By reducing by 25% the loss of life of firefighters.
  • 2,500 communities will have a comprehensive multi-hazard risk reduction plan led by or including the local fire service, and
  • To appropriately respond in a timely manner to emergent issues.

To achieve those goals we focused on specific marketing products - video, radio, fact sheets and outreach efforts - to address those audiences. As an example, we have launched an aggressive media monitoring program that reviews the media for fires from across the nation and when one is identified involving an injury or loss of life and fire safety fact sheet is sent directly to the media in that community to take advantage of the "teachable moment."

Firehouse: What are the key initiatives USFA wants to achieve from a marketing perspective?

Bourne: Our strategic goals I mentioned above are our key initiatives. Every effort we have in place is oriented to helping achieve those goals.

There is still a "fire problem":

Challenge 1 - There is still a "fire problem." We continue to unnecessarily lose too many people to fire related deaths across this nation. We lost 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001; however, we continue to lose more people than this, each year, to fire. Most of these deaths are under the age of 14 and over the age of 65.

Challenge 2 - Firefighter deaths and injuries. Too many firefighters are dying in the performance of their duties. In 2002, 102 men and women lost their lives in service to their communities. The most disturbing part is the majority of those deaths were due to heart attacks and traffic accidents. Everyone in the fire service today can make that number go down.

Challenge 3 - The need to achieve interoperability among departments. We need to recognize and work together to address equipment interoperability. A firefighter can leave a fire station and travel less than a mile to assist another fire department, and nothing works. Breathing apparatus, rescue equipment and hose couplings are just a sample of equipment failing to achieve interoperability.

You and I know that we need each other in the fire community. There is no fire department in this great nation that is capable of handling, by themselves, an act of terrorism or a massive disaster. There is also no firefighter that can guarantee to the American public, that all of the equipment arriving on location will be compatible. The individuality of fire service equipment has cost us lives. Our inaction to achieve interoperability will hurt our ability to address the challenges of these times. The time has arrived to provide solutions to this problem together.