Firefighting and Marketing?

Jan. 10, 2006
This column is part of what I have learned about marketing in the private sector and in the fire service. My purpose is to contribute to the fire and life safety services by bringing an understanding and awareness of its purposes, actions and results to the citizens and institutions it protects; to expand this mission globally to societies at risk with a goal of protecting them from the threat of fire and other disasters.

EDITORS NOTE: Fire Service Marketing ICS, a new monthly column by Ben May will cover the marketing aspects of the fire service that firefighters normally associate with businesses or corporations. Marketing for the fire service is a key insturement when trying to obtain new equipment and appartus or financing training programs. You can discuss marketing ideas in the Forums at Public Information & Media Relations .

You may love the fact that you are a firefighter. You may gain an inner satisfaction knowing that you work with some of the most intelligent, highly motivated and caring people you have ever known. You may glow with an inner pride when you and your sister firefighters have returned from a successful "knockdown." You may swell with satisfaction after having known that your department rescued a trapped citizen who will forever remember your firefighters' professionalism and care. You may know that your public educators really made a difference after delivering a prevention message that really got through to a group of citizens or children.

But, if you do not understand the importance of marketing as a discipline or how to use it as a tool everyday, you may not have the privilege of continuing do be a firefighter in the manner you have come to love. And love is really the key word isn't it? Many years ago a great Lebanese poet, Kalil Gibran said that, "work is love made visible." Wouldn't you say that applies directly to what we do for our fellow citizens and ourselves? If we are not able to understand and apply the principles of marketing, we may not be able to share that love-for what we do and why we do it.

First, let me tell you a story so we can understand each other a little better if we are going to talk to each other, and why you might want to read this column. Over 50 years ago I was a little Jewish kid in Oklahoma City. Being a Jewish kid in Oklahoma was strange enough. Being a Jewish kid who wanted to be a fire fighter was down right weird! My parents divorced when I was six and my father had me on the weekends. He would always say: "Benji, where do you want to go this weekend?" I would say,"Fire station number one on California Street." That's where I met Ben Dancy, a firefighter's fire chief and one of the best in the history of the Oklahoma City Fire Department. Dad and I would visit every fire station in the city each weekend until we came to the last one. Then dad would say, "OK, Benji where do you want to go next weekend?" "Fire station number one, of course." And so it went every year. Raising an only child alone, my mom tried to encourage anything I did; at least until I was 15 years old when she sent me to Casady, a prep school in Oklahoma City. After graduating from Casady, she asked me where I wanted to go to college. Oklahoma State University, naturally, for a degree in Fire Protection Technology so I would have a great start in my career as a firefighter. That's when my mother and I had one of those "talks." "Benji, Jewish boys aren't firemen. They are doctors, lawyers or merchants, but not firefighters." I sent you to Casady to make something of yourself, not to be a firefighter."

What happened after that is the next part of a story that might bore most people. Maybe I will share it later if enough people are interested. It's been a long way from Casady to being a firefighter in Montgomery County, MD, to a fire commissioner in Woodinville, WA, to working for a mouse.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!