Ill. FD Thinks Outside the Box With 'Cardboard Brian'

Cardboard cutouts are often used to promote movies and products, but what about fire prevention?

The Washington Fire Department in Illinois is making use of that idea and is rolling out "Cardboard Brian" as part of its Fire Prevention Week efforts.

Fire Chief Mike Vaughn said that the idea has been in the works for over a year, but that they wanted to have it ready for Fire Prevention Week and the timing worked out well this time around.

The life-size cardboard cutout of a firefighter in full turnout gear will be placed in places such as the library, community center and schools and will be used throughout the year.

The fire prevention tool is named after its creator, and a long-time member of the department, Brian Barron.

Barron, who works at State Farm's headquarters in Bloomington, Ill., had seen similar life-size cutouts directing people to exits and other parts of the building.

"He ran it by me," Vaughn said. "It was pretty inexpensive and good PR."

Bruer Photography snapped the photo of Barron and the department spent less than $200 dollars to get the cutout made at a local print shop.

The cutout will offer tips on practicing escape drills, knowing two ways out, stop drop and roll and other basic fire safety messages.

The particular message will depend on the location, according to Vaughn.

While the department won't be able to gauge the success of the program until the cutout had been out in the public for an extended period of time, he said that other fire departments could easily mirror the project.

"Just get someone to take a picture and take it to a sign shop," he said.

While the department holds annual open houses, visits schools and teams up with Dominos pizza to go door-to-door inspecting and installing smoke detectors, the idea of "Cardboard Brian" elicited a different type of response leading up to Fire Prevention Week.

The department was featured in the local newspaper and has received inquiries about the project.

"Usually we have the open house and go to the schools; everyone sort of does that," he said. "This just pops a little bit."