Public Fire Education & Training: Making a Difference

Select Your Targets and Go Offensive


Public fire safety education and training are the keys to reducing the fire problem - and the fire death rate - in the United States. People die in building fires because of construction features, the reactions of occupants or both. Improvements in building codes can continue to assist in reducing...


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Public fire safety education and training are the keys to reducing the fire problem - and the fire death rate - in the United States. People die in building fires because of construction features, the reactions of occupants or both. Improvements in building codes can continue to assist in reducing the number of fires, but the public's reaction to fires will still determine whether occupants survive.

As it is presented today, public fire safety education - meaning lectures, videos and pamphlets - alone is not enough to reduce our fire epidemic. We need to train our public to prevent, respond and react to fires in the same manner we train our firefighters to suppress them. And that means training for adults as well as children.

Think about that. When firefighters go into a fire, is the environment any different for us than it is for the trapped occupants? Of course not. So why should the training we provide to our firefighters on how to survive that environment be any different from what we provide to the public? Our people didn't learn their fire survival skills via lectures, videos and pamphlets; it was their training. Firefighters react without having to think or recall; their bodies just move and they survive. This type of training builds confidence and thus instills calm, and that is exactly what our citizens need to be able to prevent, react to and survive a fire.

While children are important targets of fire safety training, they have little control of fire prevention in the home. The key to reducing fires and fire deaths is getting an adult audience. Few adults see the need for fire safety, and thus our nation's fire problem. Many adults believe that "Stop, drop and roll" and "Don't play with matches" are all fire safety is about. They remember when they were kids, when the fire service's focus on fire prevention was new. Back then, many of those doing fire prevention were not there by choice or talent, but because of injury or by being "volunteered" by their leadership.

We have come a long way.

If you truly want to make a difference, truly want to reduce the number of fires and fire deaths, you must target adults and go offensive. Sell your programs and create a need among adults to hear what you have to say.

The City of Beaufort, SC, created our "First Impressions - Lasting Impressions" program over two years ago. The original concept was to reach daycare-, pre-kindergarten- and kindergarten-age children early. It is an introductory program in which we introduce firefighters and teach basic fire survival to children in a fun and interactive way, making that important "first impression" and setting the stage for years of quality education and training as these children progress through the educational system - thus a "lasting impression."

We have since expanded the program to adults. In doing so, we turned to local institutions of higher learning to find adults starting out on their career paths and who can be targeted by us to make that same important "first impression." The schools, which include a four-year university and a technical college, teach a wide variety of subjects. Each publishes a schedule every year of upcoming classes and programs, and that is where we began our search.

We identified a handful of classes that would not only make an impact on home fire safety, but public fire safety as well, because during these students' career paths they will impact larger audiences; in essence, by talking to a class of 20 students, we could, through them, reach hundreds. We made sure that our topics fit in with the educational objectives of the classes we selected, so we were satisfying the needs of the professors and making it easier to get the class time. The classes we selected as our targets were "Early Childhood Education," "Culinary Arts," "Hospitality Management" and "Building Codes."

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