A few years ago, as a member of the Birdsboro Fire Department, I was involved in a major house fire in Amity Township that made all the news channels. I called the stations to see if I could get a copy of their tape for training purposes and was given the name and number of the “stringer” who submitted the tape to the stations. It turns out that I knew this gentleman from his days as a photographer from a local newspaper. However when I called him to ask about the tape he turned me down and said it was because he has “trouble” with local fire companies not letting him get in to get pictures. It also turns out that this man was involved in an embarrassing situation for some firefighters at a recent Rolling Stones concert.

What can we as firefighters do to avoid situations such as these?

This is just one of the topics of discussion that takes place during the Public Relations for the Fire and Emergency Services class at the Montgomery County Fire Academy May 3 & 4, 2008.

The 16-hour state fire academy class is designed for all emergency personnel who come into contact with the media, public, businesses and government. The students will come away from the class with a new understanding for the need for a year round and ongoing public relations program.

The first session, “Defining and Planning Public Relations”, sets the tone for the class by showing the need for implementing a year round PR program, several ways to achieve it and help in selecting the proper personnel to do it. This session was presented at the 2000 FDIC in Indianapolis.

“Building Business Coalitions” show the students ways to involve local businesses and government in special projects. A writing workshop will be held during the session on “Writing Effective Press Releases”. “Designing Audio Visual Materials” is a vital session for those who want to get their message of service out to the public including Web Sites. The last session, “Working with the Media” involves students in actual media interviews to practice their on-camera skills as well as setting up parameters for establishing a Public Information Officer and on-scene media management.

While you may think I’m giving you this information in order to have a full class, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a subject I feel so strongly about that I wrote the class in 1985 and have been presenting it ever since, sometimes to a not so full house. However since the recent incidents above I feel that it is more important than ever that we as firefighters know how to handle the media on scene and also know whom to keep out of future scenes. Also, several recent incidents involving firefighters’ actions on and off-duty show that we all need to know how to project a positive image for our fire companies. Hopefully this new image can result in greater participation in fundraisers and ultimately greater funds raised.

Further information and registration is available at the Academy’s website, http://www.montcopa.org/eoc/Fire_Aca...urse_Sched.htm

Hope to see you in May.