Chief Concerns: Building a Culture Centered on Fire Prevention

W hen the fire chief position opened up at the Spring Lake Park, Blaine and Mounds View (SBM) Fire Department in Minnesota, I marketed myself as a fire prevention specialist with a strong business background. I believe that the combination of my...


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• An interactive website at www.mnhomesafetychallenge.org that features a room-by-room online tour and identifies potential safety risks. The viewer receives a safety tip when a dangerous behavior or situation is identified.

• An online brochure provides in-depth information about potential dangers and the steps people can take to reduce risks. It also includes special advice for parents and caregivers, renters and older adults.

• The website, videos, safety forms and other support materials are available in alternative language versions for growing populations of Minnesotans who speak Spanish, Russian, Somali and Hmong. (Minnesota has a large Hmong-American population. The Hmong are from China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.)

Getting the word out

We were invited to introduce the Home Safety Challenge program at Vision 20/20. Thereafter, we were asked by at least a dozen states and Canada to present the program. We recently presented it to the Michigan Fire Chiefs Association and I’ve been asked to meet with the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association and to talk about prevention, customer service and community relations.

The feedback we continue to get is that a balanced approach between suppression and prevention is something departments want and need to do. But it’s a resource issue and, as a department, you need a fire prevention champion to make it work. In my mind, prevention delivers a tremendous return on investment. If you are only suppression oriented, you are missing 98% of the opportunities. n