Marketing Coffee or Fireground Safety: You Have to Sell Your Product

I have taken a lot of abuse from the tough guys for being a safety sissy, but, during my time as an active chief officer, all of my people returned home.

For far too many years now, we have made much of our injury rates. We have thumped our chests and said what tough guys we were. Our departments have, in far too many cases, given lip service to the concepts of safety. Or to say it in still another manner, being safe wasn’t fashionable - it ruined our tough guy image. As one who attended the first Life Safety Summit in Tampa, Fla., back in 2004, and many of the mini-summits around the country, I am here to say that we are the victims of our own marketing.

Think about how many times you have seen us portrayed in situations which were blatantly unsafe in nature. I can recall seeing a photo of a fire officer who ran into a burning building in street clothes to make a rescue. His ignorance in taking this action was overshadowed by the outcome. What would people have said if he too had died as a result of his lack of attention to safe procedures? We must proactively reward those people who play by the rules.

In this way, perhaps we once again can take charge of our safety destiny and stop the inmates from running the asylum of fireground safety. How can we do this?

  • By living the example of safety for your troops
  • Providing awards for units which go without an injury for a given period of time
  • Providing public recognition for those fire and EMS units which practice safety on a daily basis
  • Providing fiscal incentives for safety (and penalties for non-performance)
  • Patches, pins, coffee mugs, t-shirts and warm jackets for the completion of various periods of accident-free performance

Whatever means you can identify should be used. The only way for you to accomplish this is to make your product attractive. Only when people are convinced that they will like your product, will they buy into it. It works with coffee and it can work with safety. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Life Safety Summit, the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation is gearing up for a 10th anniversary session in Tampa next March. Why not get the jump on them and start marketing firefighter safety for your people?

It has been my lot in life to have been an advocate for firefighter safety for some time now. I have taken a lot of abuse from the tough guys for being a safety sissy. In my case the results have been good. During my time as an active chief officer, all of my people returned home. Some had bumps, bruises, and broken bones, but they all went home. That is my goal for you. Everybody goes home!

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. He is chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Howell Township Fire District 2 and retired from the Newark Fire Department as a battalion commander. Dr. Carter has been a member of the Adelphia Fire Company since 1971, serving as chief in 1991. He is a life member and past president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors and life member of the National Fire Protection Association. He is president of the United States of America Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) of Great Britain. Dr. Carter holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN.