Firehouse.com: Covering The Deadly Month Of December

Charles L. Werner interviews the web team that kept the world informed about a deadly month for firefighters.


The Firehouse® Magazine website, Firehouse.com, was used as a source of information about the Worcester, MA, and Keokuk, IA, tragedies, as well the other firefighter line-of-duty deaths that occurred in December 1999, by media outlets throughout the country and abroad. We asked Firehouse.com Senior...


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What was your personal experience when you traveled to Worcester? How were you received? What did you hear from other firefighters?
One of the most amazing things was that we were a little late getting to the memorial service after following the procession, so the road and media entrance had been closed down by the Secret Service due to the President being there. We asked a Worcester police officer how we could get in and after telling him where we were from, he mentioned that he had been visiting the site every day to see the pictures and stories about the fire and walked us in personally. Even after covering the events extensively throughout the week leading up to the memorial service, nothing could prepare a person for the sights that were there – the warehouse, the engine covered in flowers, thousands of uniformed firefighters proceeding under the arch in front of the fire station. It was both tragic and inspiring at the same time ... the unity of firefighters and emergency workers. It didn’t matter, career or volunteer, or what part of the country or world – everyone was together to share in grief and offer support.

Give a brief time period synopsis of the visitor growth of Firehouse.com since it debuted on Dec. 25, 1998.
On Christmas Day 1998, about 2,500 people came to check out this new site called Firehouse.com. Over the summer, that number had grown to more than 5,000 a day and was approaching 10,000 a day before December began. But with our constant, in-depth coverage of the tragic month, combined with a fresh new look and enhanced content and services throughout the site, traffic has been steadily rising and averages 15,000 user sessions a day, peaking at double that during the Worcester coverage.

What awards/recognition has Firehouse.com received?
Just a week after its launching, Firehouse.com was selected as a Yahoo! Pick of the Week, as well as an iVillage pick, but by far the greatest recognition was the GII Award this December. It was amazing to be chosen along with nine other sites, prestigious sites that included E-Trade, Comedy Central’s South Park and Garden.com, just to name a few.

How many people have signed up for the free FirehouseMail.com service?
After just a month of the FirehouseMail.com service, nearly 3,000 people had already signed up for our free web-based e-mail service. In the coming months, we’ll likely be offering a variety of new services for our visitors. We’re adding a new, integrated, improved chat service soon. And our NewsTicker, which lets webmasters deliver the day’s top emergency services headlines right on their own sites, is fast approaching use on 200-plus websites from around the world.

Have you heard any remarks from emergency personnel from around the world?
The reaction has been great. Our forums are really taking off and there is a genuine sense of community on the site. We especially enjoy the e-mail from visitors who just happen to stumble upon it for the first time and then can’t believe that there is so much information and how frequently it’s updated. The goal of the site is to be the community and resource for firefighters, emergency medical workers and the like, and I think we’ve really achieved that. It’s not just about having a website that brings people in once in a while, but rather about making a site that’s a community and becomes a part of our visitors’ lives.