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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Bourne: We are very proud of many of our outreach programs, especially the ones that address senior citizens and children. Fire death and injury rates have declined in the past few years and we are looking now to see if our programs have had an impact.

Last year, we unveiled a new campaign to re-energize the use and maintenance of smoke detectors through what we called the "Tribute to Heroes Campaign." This PSA (public service announcement) campaign for print, TV and radio focused on the new public appreciation of the fire services and highlighted the need for the public to "protect those who protect you" by installing and maintaining a smoke detector. The key point is have a working smoke detector so you and your family can get out of a burning building, so the firefighters don't have to additionally risk their lives to get you out. This PSA has had thousands of airings across the nation last year.

Firehouse: Please list possible programs you would like to create and implement if you could.

Bourne: The list is almost endless, but to narrow it to one, we are looking to develop a national strategy to promote the use of automatic fire suppression sprinklers in all occupancies to include single- and two-family homes. Even systems just in kitchens can have a dramatic impact on fire loss. We are working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and others to develop this initiative.

Firehouse: How would you see marketing "perfection" for USFA?

Bourne: I honestly don't believe perfection is possible and we will always be looking to improve our message and our strategies. The ultimate goal would be to have no fires involving loss of life or property. We can never achieve the "no fires" part, but USFA is firmly committed to the idea that we can, working with partners across the nation, achieve or come darn close to the "no loss of life" goal in the next 20 years.

Firehouse: Does the National Fire Academy have a comprehensive marketing curriculum for executive fire officers?

Bourne: Marketing is embedded in several of our programs for executive fire officers. We do not need to develop Marketing 101 programs, but instead create public safety higher-level programs that look to strategy and management levels. How to build a marketing program in the face of tough budget times and how to show marketing success through analysis of local fire losses are critical elements of the Executive Development course. It is also a part of the Fire Prevention curriculum.

Firehouse: On behalf of Firehouse® I would like to thank you for the time and thought that you contributed to this interview.


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.