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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber
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    Jan 2006
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    Lancaster, Ontario
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    Default Getting the word out

    Hi everyone,

    I'm the new Fire Prevention Officer for my area and I want to get the message out about fire safety. We help out at events, were in parades and I've put together a department website.

    Now with all of this I still don't think that the message is really getting out there. What kind of tips can you give me to get the media to help out. We publish Public Service Announcements but I want the media to do "more" for us.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Scott Hayes
    Lancaster Fire Department
    Lancaster, ON


  2. #2
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    Jan 2007
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    Pacific Northwest
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    Default

    I see that you want more from the media. Good luck with that.

    We have something called the "square mile project".

    As time permits, with no particular deadlines to rush it, on-duty crews will from time to time pull out the square mile project book and identify the next square mile to focus on.

    They take a rig out and literally go door to door, trying to visit every home or business within the current target square mile block. Progress is marked so another crew can pick up where they left off.

    During the visit, they engage in a variety of public relations work and offer assistance with some or all of the following: voluntary and sanction-free fire safety inspections, advice for installation of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers (including free checking of batteries and/or installation of new detectors provided for free), advice as to clearing vegetation from near buildings and making areas defensible, explain services we provide, make sure the fire number sign is present and visible or offer to install a new one if needed, distribute sticker badges/coloring books/play helmets/etc to the kids they meet, provide a tour of the apparatus they brought along, answer any and all questions. You get the idea.

    Once in a while they encounter a "get the hell off my property", most of the time folks are grateful for the attention and welcome the freebie smoke detectors and kid stuff, and only once in a while do they get engaged in the whole shebang.

    Overall, the reception is overwhelmingly positive, and gives the department a great way to interface with the taxpayers, let them see what they're paying for, explain to them what we need to provide what they want (upcoming tax levy, hint hint), and also do some recruiting to augment our volunteer force.

    That's my overly-long but best idea for you to try to improve your department's presence in the community's daily thoughts. Lots of folks will sign up for your newsletter and visit your web site if you greet them in person and give them a reason to think about you in the first place. Without that visit, they pretty much don't give you a thought until they have to call you at 2:37AM for whatever went wrong.

    Good luck with your efforts.
    Last edited by ElectricHoser; 07-29-2007 at 08:34 AM.
    You only have to be stupid once to be dead permanently
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  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    11

    Default Media relations happens every day

    Working with local media is a two-way street. Newspapers and TV want something visual. Radio wants something you can hear--crackling fire, radio traffic, sirens, etc. You have to make personal contact and work to provide what they want.

    Start by calling every paper and station in the area. Find out who is responsible for coverage of the fire service and start to develop a personal relationship with each person. When there's something newsworthy (in their judgment, not yours), give them a heads-up. Let them know they can call you 24/7 and give them all the phone numbers. At or immediately after an incident, stress how it could have been prevented (if it could, of course).

    After a while, they'll be open to doing what YOU want.

    Target Fire Prevention Week in October for a media event. One or two weeks beforehand, set up a ride-along/ station tour/training demo--not for them all at once, but one outlet at a time. Make it as dramatic as possible with live fire, smoke, ladders, master streams, etc. Provide fire prevention handout materials that are localized to your area, not stuff that is nationwide. Have local statistics--$$ in annual fire loss that could have been prevented, number of deaths and injuries. Cite specific incidents with details.

    Make sure you ask each reporter if he/she has everthing he/she needs for a story.

    Always be friendly and open. Answer every question honestly, even if it's embarrassing to the department or someone in the department. Or even if you think it's a stupid question. Use regular everyday language, not department jargon. They don't know what Nomex is or the difference between an engine and a truck unless you educate them.

    You'll find most reporters will cooperate willingly with the fire service. Remember, they were kids once, and had the same fleeting dream of being a firefighter that you did.

    Cheers!
    Chuck in California
    (Reporter, editor and board member of a fire protection district)

  4. #4
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    Lancaster, Ontario
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    Default

    Great advise guys, thanks for responding.

    Scott

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