Speak Up: The Unique Role of the Fire Service Public Information Officer

As a past chief of a sizeable volunteer fire company and a public information officer (PIO) for the preceding 27 years, I greatly appreciated your April and May issues, which brought much-needed attention to the largely overlooked and undervalued...


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As a past chief of a sizeable volunteer fire company and a public information officer (PIO) for the preceding 27 years, I greatly appreciated your April and May issues, which brought much-needed attention to the largely overlooked and undervalued subject of public relations/information (see “Qualifications of a Fire Department Public Information Officer” in the April issue and “Why Every Department Needs a Public Information Policy” in May, both by Timothy R. Szymanski). Your articles touched upon PIO qualifications and the need for a clear policy relating to the critical need for proper dissemination of information as part of our fire service culture.

Taking it one step further, I would like to stress that there is no substitute for an authorized, informed and motivated PIO who works hand in hand with an incident commander or chief officer. His ongoing participation in all phases of fire company activity translates into a cumulative expertise that becomes an indisputably indispensable resource for the entire department. Heaven forbid that law enforcement officers, local politicians or onlookers at the scene of an emergency offer their biased opinions of the actual events which transpired because there is no one else to set the record straight. We know from sad experience that when “others” tell our story, the end results can end up as an unrecognizable disaster, much worse than the event itself.

Since the residents of the communities we serve are entitled to know whether they are getting the full measure of their tax dollars, we must depend upon regular PIO releases as to emergency responses, training, equipment purchases, fire prevention activities and other special events, etc., in order to generate the essential ingredients of good will and trust. Such bridge building will have an equally complementary effect upon governmental willingness to provide adequate budgetary funding, without which the fire service could not survive in this age of expensive firefighting and EMS technology.

If w can view the PIO as the fire chief’s right arm, then overall departmental success will be that much easier to attain. Reckless media speculation will be eliminated and the “real” story told, to everyone’s advantage. Is it therefore any wonder that the unique role of the fire service PIO is receiving greater recognition than ever before? Thanks for helping to bring this about.

Ray Pauley

Past Chief

Board of Directors & PIO

Grand Island Fire Company

Grand Island, NY

For more about the duties and responsibilities of a fire service PIO, see “Handling Information at Emergency Incidents” on page XX.


 

How code violations affect fire safety

I loved Daniel Byrne’s recent article about building code violations and fire dangers, “Prevention Points: Ripped From the Headlines,” on Firehouse.com (http://www.firehouse.com/article/10703556/prevention-points-ripped-from-the-headlines) and I’m going to post a link to it on my blog so others can find it. I struggle with similar points, although as a door hardware consultant and fire door inspector I’m mostly focused on doors. I see door problems in almost every building I enter. How many times do people have to die because of a locked exit or non-compliant fire doors before everyone smartens up? I hear the passion in your article and I’m right there with you.

I have a question that I would love your input on, regarding the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, requirements for fire doors and certain egress doors to be inspected annually. Our industry was very excited about this change because for those of us who are involved with building safety we saw the inspections as a way to get some of the deficiencies addressed. The inspections are not done by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), they are done by a third party who is knowledgeable about doors. It’s the responsibility of the building owner to have the inspections done and retain a copy of the documentation for the AHJ to review.

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