Public safety outreach and fire prevention programs are one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of fire service. These programs should play a critical role in your agency and in the community that you serve. This should also be an ongoing process focusing on all hazards, ages and demographic features of your district.
Determine the trends of the area that you serve and tailor the program to meet the specific unique needs of your area. Establish these needs by identifying and reviewing local data. Start by reviewing your internal call data. What types of incidents do you respond to and which incidents do you respond to most frequently? Stay up on local issues that you could assist in addressing, and then devise a plan to correct those issues.
Identify the population group that these issues are impacting. Chances are you serve a wide range of demographics, but looking at data you may find one group that stands out. Determine if there is a large population of different or unique cultures residing in your area.
Solutions may include single programs conducted through the fire department, a cooperative partnership with the local school district, programs conducted with local businesses, or with other local emergency service agencies to create a regionalized program.
Program examples include:
- School children: Proper use of 911, Stop Drop and Roll, basic fire prevention, bicycle safety and helmet use.
- Middle school through adult: Home fire extinguisher use, Firewise, CPR & First Aid, Citizen Emergency Response Team, smoke detectors in the home, vehicle safety.
- Seniors: Medication safety, Vial of Life, home safety inspections, smoke detectors in the home.
Some programs may require a large amount of funding to design and implement while others may not. Many national public safety groups provide training materials for free or next to nothing. Consider charging a small fee for participation in certain programs, or ask for assistance from local business. Identify local grants that may offset your costs and as always you should apply for a Fire Prevention and Safety grant through the Department of Homeland Security.
Once you have your program designed, you must come up with an execution plan. This can be as simple as coordinating with the local school district during “Fire Prevention Week” to creating and distributing press releases, having a local news article released, attending a senior function to “pitch” your program, or flooding the internet to get the word out. The success of your newly created program will revolve around you getting the word out. You need to create buzz and build excitement about fire prevention and public safety.
Once the program is running you must reevaluate it. Here are some questions to consider:
- Are there improvements that can be made?
- Is there a different approach that would work better?
- What are current shortcomings and how can they be improved?
- Should the program be expanded or scaled down?
- Are there other ways to fund or continue the program?
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