Asst Fire Chief Erik Vogel Burnaby Fire Department with the Fire-ED Interactive System

Making 2018 the year to change fire safety education paradigms

How about making 2018 the year to change fire safety education paradigms?

Edd Ulushack fire safety cartoonist

Edd Ulushack fire and life safety cartoonist.

With another National Fire Prevention Week coming up next month what does your local fire department have planned again for community to attend?

  • Open house at all your fire stations? Check.
  • PSAs on radio and TV advising people to check their smoke alarms and to have a home fire escape plan for their family and to practice? Check.
  • Social media postings on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with the same messages? Check.

Some of the above noted events still sounds like last year’s fire prevention week plan, no? Maybe some departments have added a social media piece for this year, or other small steps to refresh programs, but the messages are still the same, am I right?

ICYMI, check out these past posts from my fire service colleague and fire and life safety educator, Tanya Bettridge. If you don’t know Tanya, you don’t know how to be more effective in your fire and life safety communications.

What Fire Departments Can Learn from Beer Ads – PART I

Emotional marketing can make for better fire safety messages

Fire Prevention Week Must Become Year-Round

On this point we can all agree, right? After all, preventable fires happen 52 weeks a year, not just one. But how can your department do that with “barriers” like these “blocking” the way?

  • Lack of available people who can deliver effective fire and life safety education and training programs year-round to reach adults and children in your community;
  • A suppression-centric focus within a fire department that relegates fire and life safety education to the “back burner” or even off the “stove” altogether;
  • Lack of quality teaching materials and the resources (people and money) to make things better.

A good fire prevention and education program nowadays should consist of a Learning Management Systems (LMS), like Fire-ED is offering to administer, track, manage, and report on Interactive Learning Events and more.

Change your attitude, change your altitude

It’s often been said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for a different outcome. So, how are your fire department’s public fire and life safety education efforts going?

  • How many children and adults are you reaching each year?
  • How many times each year are you reaching them?
  • How many people in your department are involved in fire and life safety education?

Now what if you could have the answers to those questions? And what if you could add these features to your farm life safety education efforts:

  • State of the art professionally developed teaching materials;
  • 24/7 on-line access to those teaching materials for children and their parents; and
  • Real-time analytics for student participation and how they’re meeting course learning objectives.

But wait, there’s more! How would you like to increase your cadre of informed and educated teenagers and adults who can do informative and educational and effective fire and life safety programs in your community while your departmental personnel focus on operational readiness? Anybody like this in your community, who might have available time and is looking to contribute to the quality of life in the community?

  • Stay at home moms and dads;
  • Retirees; and
  • College students.

Making a Dollar and a Difference

What if more people could become social entrepreneurs and start their own small business learning about fire safety while teaching fire and life safety skills for children and parents in the community? (Where is it “written in stone” that fire and life safety education must be done by a fire department and that it must be free?).

Why aren’t more fire departments looking into outsourcing fire and life safety education in their communities so that they can marshal their—in most cases diminishing—resources (e.g., people and money) to provide the best emergency response services possible?

This is not some “pipe dream” of mine. There is such a system and it’s been available for the better part of the last five years. It’s the Fire-ED Interactive System developed by my colleague Tracy Last. And if you don’t know Tracy and the Fire-ED Interactive System, then you don’t know fire and life safety education for the 21st century.

Hope is not a plan

This year try something different for National Fire Prevention Week. Don’t cancel what you already have planned but do this as well. Hook up a computer to a large screen TV and play this video for those folks who attend your department’s Open House. Post this video on your department’s website and Facebook page.

Promote and amplify the video to build awareness and support for your new fire and life safety education initiative:

Forming a coalition of public and private organizations and individuals in your community to figure out how to bring the Fire-ED Interactive System to your community. Get ‘em “pumped up” with this video:

The Fire-ED Interactive System is way more than just what comes out of the box! As a member of the Fire-ED Social network (FSN) you will get to see the total package and slowly integrate the wide array of resources into your community. And anyone can do this! Become a member of the Fire-ED Interactive Community and learn and share with like-minded fire and life safety educators, firefighters, chiefs, teachers, students, parents and other social entrepreneurs around the world (Yes, Fire-ED Interactive is global).

So, what are you waiting for? Let change start to happen now, like for this National Fire Prevention Week 2018 which is October 7-13.

Edd Ulushack fire safety cartoonist

Oh The Stuff We Were Never Taught in Fire Safety

Fire Safety – What Do You Know?

At community events that some of us have attended (you have right!?) well the fire prevention teams capture our attention with a lot of interesting life safety topics and demonstrate skills firefighters know on how to fight fires and rescue people. Does this get us thinking how these skills may save our life one day. Or is there more?

Most of the common fire safety messages in public education presentations are facts we should know so that we don’t:

  • Don’t leave the stove unattended.
  • Don’t fall asleep without snuffing out the candle.
  • Don’t plug in lamps with frayed cords.
  • Don’t use an electrical device if liquid’s been spilled on it.
  • Don’t dump cigarette ash into the trash.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes in the first place.
  • Don’t run around if our clothes catch on fire.
  • And stuff.

If lucky we can participate in more advanced fire safety talks with OTHER items that enhance our knowledge, like:

  • Did you know that fire makes water? Crazy, right? If you put a cold spoon over a flame, water vapor will condense on the metal. Hence Fire makes water but not enough to put out the flames.
  • The deadliest fire in American history took place April 27, 1865. It occurred on the steamship “Sultana.” The boilers exploded and the ship was 6 times over capacity, which is not a good combination. The death toll? 1,547
  • The color of a flame is influenced by the oxygen supply. Low-oxygen flames give off a yellow glow while high-oxygen flames burn blue.
  • The more oxygen, the hotter the flame. An oxyacetylene welding torch, which is pure oxygen plus acetylene, burns at over 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit. You can’t get much hotter than that.
  • A house fire will double in size every minute.
  • Spontaneous combustion CAN happen. There are some fuel sources that generate their own heat, sometimes by rotting. This can cause spontaneous combustion to occur, so be careful.
  • The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed 80 percent of the city, subsequently ending an outbreak of the bubonic plague.

Anyone, who gets hired on at the fire department, learns about fire chemistry! All firefighters know the fire triangle, fire gases, heat, thermal layer, smoke etc. They know how homes are built air-tight, that today’s plastics and materials quickly produce more deadly gases.This is common knowledge that anyone working in the fire service knows and that every other person in the public needs to know. ~Rita Paine, Fire Service Instructor

Have you ever been involved in fire safety lessons where they present topics that really spark the imagination, like say:

Dust collection

Dust builds up quickly and can make the perfect kindling — especially clumps that accumulate near electrical sockets and appliances. All it takes is one errant spark to light up a dust bunny before it spreads to nearby curtains or upholstery.

Whenever you sweep floors or dust furniture, pay special attention to vulnerable areas, like around electronics, the washing machine and dryer, and the refrigerator. In addition, don’t ignore hard-to-reach places where dust has likely collected for some time, including behind shelves, atop ceiling fans, underneath the bed, and behind dressers.

Dead, decaying flowers

Although rare, dead flowers can set off a blaze … and do. Back in 2010, such a case occurred at a home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dead flowers left in a plastic pot on a sunny porch erupted in a fire that caused $20,000 in damages. Similarly, investigators of a 2012 house fire in Des Moines determined the ignition source to be a wooden pot of dried-up dead flowers and mulch on a hot day. As a matter of fact, all it takes is some parched organic material (such as flowers, plants, or even compost) plus soaring temperatures to create the right conditions for spontaneous combustion. Additionally, chemicals and nitrates make an inferno all the more plausible. (Personal anecdote: a friend of mine once came home to firefighters putting out a fence blaze ignited by a compost bin.

Piles of old newspapers

Believe it or not, stacks of old newspapers left near gas and propane containers are the culprit of many fire damage claims. A clutter of paper near a vent, space heater, or electrical socket also runs a major risk of starting a fire.

Glass fixtures

You know how magnifying glasses can focus sunlight to burn holes through paper or help start a campfire? Well, household glassware can have the same effect. Between 2010 and 2015, the London Fire Brigade recorded 125 fires caused by glass fixtures (7 of which happened in the winter). And since London isn’t a sun-clad destination to begin with, those numbers are remarkable. Be mindful of where you keep your fish tank, mirror, glass high heels, or crystal ball — they may not bode well near a window or skylight.

Oil-stained linens and clothes

Clothes, sheets, or cleaning rags that are stained with cooking oil, grease, gasoline, or cleaning agents can run the risk of causing a fire when run through the dryer. What’s more, oil-stained towels have been known to spontaneously combust after they’ve been taken out and folded. Anything that’s suffered stains like these may need to be cycled through the wash a few times to ensure there are no flammable remnants. Consumer Reports recommends not using liquid fabric softener, since combustibility tests show they actually expedite the burning process. As a safe alternative, they suggest using dryer sheets.

  • Fire is an event, not a thing. Heating wood or other fuel releases volatile vapors that can rapidly combust with oxygen in the air; the resulting incandescent bloom of gas further heats the fuel, releasing more vapors and perpetuating the cycle.
  • Most of the fuels we use derive their energy from trapped solar rays. In photosynthesis, sunlight and heat make chemical energy (in the form of wood or fossil fuel); fire uses chemical energy to produce light and heat.
  • Earth is the only known planet where fire can burn. Everywhere else: Not enough oxygen.
  • Conversely, the more oxygen, the hotter the fire. Air is 21 percent oxygen; combine pure oxygen with acetylene, a chemical relative of methane, and you get an oxyacetylene welding torch that burns at over 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit—the hottest fire you are likely to encounter.
  • So candle flames are blue at the bottom because that’s where they take up fresh air, and yellow at the top because the rising fumes from below partly suffocate the upper part of the flame.
  • Because wax—like most organic materials, including wood and gasoline—contains hydrogen, which bonds with oxygen to make H2O when it burns. Water comes out your car’s tailpipe, too.
  • The Black Dragon Fire of 1987, the largest wildfire in modern times, burned some 20 million acres across China and the Soviet Union, an area about the size of South Carolina.
  • Haystacks, compost heaps, and even piles of old newspapers and magazines can also burst into flame. A good reason to recycle DISCOVER when you are done.

What seems to be missing in most public education lessons is the very basic fire science facts that every citizen deserves to know. Considering that people are on their own until the fire department arrives wouldn’t it be great if they understood basic fire science so they don’t waste time looking for the cause of the fire or gathering all their belongings etc (thinking they have time). Simple, basic fire science knowledge would give people the understanding as to WHY smoke alarms, home escape plans, home escape ladders, and why taking fire prevention measures is imperative in their lives. The first 5 minutes of a fire event is critical for life safety! People have to know how to take care of themselves, and know what to expect from a fire and its by-products. ~Rita Paine, Fire Service Instructor

Be in the know. Even the items we didn’t learn about smoke detectors can be interesting;

  • Ionization or Photoelectric. Ionization alarms may respond slightly faster to flaming-type fires, while photo-electric alarms may be quicker at detecting slow, smoldering fires. Because the two types operate differently and are better at detecting different kinds of fires, it’s suggested you either install both types or buy detectors that feature both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms.
  • Composition.  All smoke detectors consist of two basic parts: a sensor to sense the smoke and a very loud electronic horn to wake people up.   There are even special alarms that have strobe lights for those with hearing impairments.
  • Tampering. Homeowners or tenants can be fined for tampering with or disabling a smoke alarm, this even includes removing the battery.
  • All smoke alarms, whether battery operated or electrically wired should be replaced if they are more than 10 years old because they lose their sensitivity over time.  And it’s recommended batteries be replaced once a year
  • Location.  Install smoke alarms on your ceilings rather than walls, because smoke rises, and that gives you the earliest possible warning. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for optimum placement.

Of course everyone reading this have gone through our homes, room by room, being sure to reduce fire hazards (you have right!?):

  • Electrical cords and outlets: Don’t overload outlets. Replace frayed or damaged cords. Don’t run cords under the carpet as they can overheat and catch fire.
  • Oven/Stove: Clean grease from the oven to prevent grease fires. Potholders, curtains and towels can catch fire, so keep them away from burners. Never leave cooking food unattended.
  • Matches, lighters and candles: These are a major cause of children’s deaths. Keep them out of reach and out of sight of children, preferably locked up. Always blow out a candle before you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Fireplace: Use a metal screen or glass door in front of the fireplace. Have fireplaces and chimneys inspected and cleaned once a year.
  • Space heaters: Avoid using electric and kerosene heaters. If they must be used, keep them away from clothing, bedding, curtains and furniture. Always turn them off and unplug them when you leave the room or go to bed. Make sure kerosene heaters are well ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Furnace: Have it inspected once a year. Do not store anything near it that could catch fire.
  • Dryer: Lint can catch fire, so clean it from the dryer’s filter after every load.
  • Paint, paint thinner, gasoline, propane, kerosene and ammonia: Store flammable liquids in their original containers, with tight-fitting lids. Store them away from heaters and out of children’s reach, ideally locked up in a shed outside the home. Never use gasoline as a cleaning agent.
  • Children’s pajamas: Make sure children’s sleepwear is flame-retardant or close fitting.
  • Doors and windows: Keep them clear of furniture and stored boxes. Make sure they can open easily in the event of fire.

And OOOOOOOH yes I’ve been there as an educator and is it ever hard to keep an audience’s attention, especially if they have heard nothing else but the common don’ts before in the public safety messaging. What we are being taught or not tends to be dependent upon several factors, like; whether the fire department has the time, funding, resources, and human capital to be out teaching all ages and walks of life, and not just at Fire Prevention Week but solid programs all year long! For public education to have a lasting impact it involves more than information sharing or telling people what to do like get smoke alarms, have a home escape plan, stop drop and roll, and prevent fires. Of course this is good information but the public needs to understand fire and the dangers attached to it.

What has this article taught you? Would you like to test your knowledge now?

Do we — or Should we Teach Preschoolers Fire Safety

If we are not teaching preschoolers fire safety then sadly we are failing in the world of starting them young to prevent!

Young children can understand “Stop” or “No”, but they cannot understand “Do not run onto the street because you will get hit by a car”. They are too busy concentrating on running without falling over, and anyway, they did not get hit by a car last time they ran on the road.

Are fire services teaching preschoolers fire safety and if so is the message sticking with the little ones who need it the most? How do we even know what the learning outcomes are using the materials we have available to us as educators? In my experience as a fire chief (retired now), usually these materials are in short supply or very limited, like don’t touch we don’t have enough.

When we say we are teaching them young, mostly the preschool fire education items we use anyways are handouts left in the hands of parents or the caregivers to reinforce the message back at home. So this is prime-time to educate kids together with the adults in their lives. And when we do present to preschoolers, especially with adults in tow, the glazed over look on those faces can be very intimidating to an ill-equipped firefighter or educator. So a critical item to also know is teaching tools can make or break us as fire and life safety educators.

Young children need to have a safe environment at home, why?

• Because they are too young to take care of their own safety;
• Because they cannot understand danger, and;
• Because a parent just telling them about danger, while important, does not always keep them safe.

Keeping young children safe is an adults responsibility so as educators we want to see parents and caregivers staying with their preschoolers for their fire safety lessons. When in fact most fire and life safety education programs are geared towards the school age kids, its the kids under the age of five who have a much higher risk of dying in a residential fire compared to children in other age groups.

Most injuries to young children happen at home, so as parents it is very important to make your home as safe as possible. Understand the hazards that exist around you.

  1. Young children cannot understand danger. They cannot understand that they might get hurt or even killed even when you have told them about the danger.
  2. Young children can understand “Stop” or “No”, but they cannot understand “Do not run onto the street because you will get hit by a car”. They are too busy concentrating on running without falling over, and anyway, they did not get hit by a car last time they ran on the road.
  3. Toddlers may understand “no” but they may not have learned to obey it yet.
  4. Young children only look at where they are going to (chasing a ball, running to a friend) – they have ‘tunnel vision’.
  5. They cannot judge whether something, such as a car, is moving, or how fast it is moving.

Victims of Nova Scotia house fire were all children under the age of 8, relative says. Jan 8, 2018, The Star

It is a fact that young kids aren’t as capable of exiting a home on their own or understanding the dangers of fire risks.

Parents must take extra precautions to reduce fire risk in the home, including installing fire safety equipment and preparing comprehensive safety and evacuation plans to ensure children escape safely. Children of between the ages of 3-5 generally lack the mental faculties to understand the need and the means of quickly escaping from a burning structure. Even in their own homes, very young children lack an understanding of how to escape.

Physiologically, young children are susceptible to severe injury or death from fire.

A young child’s skin is quite thin and delicate compared to that of adults and older children. As a result, young children suffer burns more quickly and easily than adults. In addition, smoke inhalation from the toxic gases released by fires (and often in conjunction with burns suffered in the fires.

For parents, the dangers of fire are so apparent that the sight of a child anywhere near a flame is enough to send them scrambling. And fortunately, most kids are wary of fire and understand that it can hurt them and others. But it’s not unusual for kids to be curious about fire, too. After all, we enjoy campfires and singing over birthday candles. That’s why it’s so important to educate kids about the dangers of fire and to keep them away from matches, lighters, and other fire-starting tools.

Even with the best efforts from parents, kids might play with fire. Most of the time this can be handled by explaining the dangers and setting clear ground rules and consequences for not following them.

For most adults, knowing to get out of a house on fire comes as second nature. But children respond in just the opposite way. To escape fire, they often try to hide under a bed, in a closet, or behind furniture. They even hide from the firefighters trying to save them. When you look at things from a child’s point of view, it’s easier to understand their actions. Appropriate supervision and visual guidance ( like show and tell) of children, especially the youngest, is one of the most effective means of preventing injury or death from all sources.

Give the Gift of Fire-ED to the Kids in Your Community

Most home fires start at night when everyone is sleeping. When awakened, kids are groggy and confused. Smoke fogs their vision, which is made even worse by coughing and watering eyes. Plus, fire is loud, blindingly bright, swift moving, and frightening.

When firefighters enter into a burning home, they’re in full protective gear, including face masks and oxygen tanks. They may have an ax or fire hose. Firefighters breathing into masks sound frightening, not all that different from Darth Vadar of the movie “Star Wars.”

To further complicate matters, a young child’s logical thinking hasn’t matured. To them, out of sight means out of harm’s reach. They falsely believe that not seeing fire means it can’t find them. Those factors combine to put kids at greater risk of dying in a house fire than an adult.

Hundreds, if not Thousands, of People Die or Become Badly Injured in Preventable Fires Each Year. Don’t Become One of These Statistics! Fire-ED Fire News Tracker 

Get the tools and training to parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers so they can fight against the odds.

Start teaching kids young, even as young as the age of 2-5 because with the support of parents, daycare and preschool teachers, they will retain fire safety and survival skills just like they are learning when they are read a story or how to use a new toy.


  1. When a house fire starts, children can become very afraid and confused. They may not understand what is happening or how they should react.
  2. With as little as two minutes to escape unharmed they must know how to crawl low to the ground with their mouths covered if there is smoke and to feel for a hot door before exiting a room.
  3. Teach children never to hide from firefighters.
  4. Teach children to NEVER return to a burning building.
  5. Children’s sleepwear is required to be flame-resistant or snug fitting. Only allow your children to sleep in pajamas, not “day wear,” such as T-shirts or sweatpants.
  6. Teach children to STOP, DROP, COVER THEIR FACE and ROLL if their clothing catches on fire.

There are certain life safety skills to develop as adults who are dealing with young children. Make the learning active and participatory; keep the lessons short, but repeat them to reinforce the key concepts; and check on how well the children remember what they learned. This is particularly important if you are teaching two different behaviors in combination, such as “get low and go” or “stop, drop, and roll.”

Preschool-age children are at greater risk for home fire deaths and burns. Yes their developmental capabilities make learning about fire safety particularly challenging. Fire safety education is always done with the best intentions, but if we do not understand how preschoolers learn, we might be doing them more harm than good.

The stove is HOT – the fire place and fire pit is HOT = We don’t touch hot things – out of the kitchen when mom is carrying something to the sink – the water is HOT.

As parents, caregivers, daycare and preschool teachers we all should learn how to teach our child to respect fire or heat when they are very young at home. In a two story window we can get purchase escape ladders that attach to the window sill on the outside and can be opened easily.

Being able to identify basic learning characteristics and having knowledge of how preschooler learns is critical so here are more things to ask your local fire department about so you know:

1. The learning characteristics of 3-5 year olds:

a) They learn by seeing and doing.
b) They model parents and adults in their life.
c) They have predictable fears.
d) They cannot distinguish fantasy from reality (that’s why Sparky is so successful in helping teach fire safety.)

2. Instructional methods to use when working with 3-5 year olds:

a) Get down on their level (sit on floor or in chair.)
b) Use only positive behaviors (do not use fear.)
c) Active repetition.
d) Teach 1 behavior and NO MORE than 20 minutes.
e) Use words that are on the child’s level. Example: hot, hurt, burn, not words like apparatus, gear and dispatch.

3. Examples of appropriate activities for preschoolers:

a) Flannel board activity for exit drills at the school.
b) Puppet or clown show about fire safety.
c) A “Follow the Leader” game that teaches crawling low in smoke.
d) Using a picture game to identify burn hazards.
e) Using toys and objects to represent potential burn hazards.
f) Using music and songs to convey a burn safety message.
g) Demonstrate “Stop, drop, and roll” and have kids repeat.

Get the Fire-ED Interactive System – Learn More

Engaging Firefighters in Community Risk Reduction

The general goal of any fire prevention organization is to prevent the loss of life and property damage due to fire.

Engaging firefighters in community risk reduction efforts is an effective measure to take towards continuing the cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation of fire and life safety education programs. Measuring the effectiveness of programs and proving the activities are tracked and demonstrated, will bring in community support for the department to keep public education programs ongoing, and current.
The fire service does many things by themselves. Community Risk Reduction should not be one of them. The first word, “Community”, should let us know this. Without Community Risk Reduction Partnerships, our greatest efforts in Community Risk Reduction will fall short. There are many existing organizations that can and will push our CRR programs much farther than if we attempt to do them on our own. Brent Faulkner,

Read: Firefighters Pave The Pub Ed Highway

The way forward for firefighters.

Community involvement is critical for firefighters to ensure the public is informed and properly educated. Plan on conducting home visits and having discussion with community members and groups who can provide feedback on your current programs, and:
  • Dress professionally in a uniform that clearly identifies you with your department.
  • Ensure a full supply of resources and handouts are available.
  • Work only in teams, of at least two people.
  • Remember the primary goal of the CRR “mission” is to eliminate hazards to life and property. Be able to clearly articulate this to your community.

Try the MBIntel Virtual CRR on How to Engage Community Risk Reduction Partnerships to put the “Community” in CRR. READ MORE


The Guide for Training Fire Service Personnel to Conduct Community Risk Reduction, provides direction for fire departments to design and implement the community risk reduction plan.  A key component for effective risk reduction is face-to-face interaction with community members.  This can be achieved through public events, fire station visits, and, most effectively, home visits. Community risk reduction programs, and fire crews involvement in them, produces three distinct benefits.

Material distribution.

Home visits, interaction, and direct contact with the public can provide an excellent opportunity to distribute and discuss fire prevention, life safety, and emergency preparedness literature. With the abundance of documents and materials available, make sure that the selected items and literature are directly tied with the communities risk reduction plan and goals.  Fire department personnel should take advantage of these opportunities to to answer questions and create conversations that promote risk reduction initiatives.

Supports other programs.

Personal interactions and home visits improve the public perception of the fire department, and allow the promotion of additional fire protection and life safety programs. Based on the conditions or personnel observed, some programs that may be promoted include:
  • smoke alarm installation
  • CO detection and alarm installation
  • radon dangers and awareness
  • residential fire sprinklers
  • fire escape planning
  • Drowning prevention
  • senior citizen risks and fall prevention
  • Fire safety for children

Continuity of CRR programs.

Effective community risk reduction is an endless cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Home visits and discussion with community members and groups can provide feedback on current programs, and data for future community needs.  As these programs gain traction and their effectiveness is tracked and demonstrated, community support for the department and CRR will be enhanced.

Are Current Fire Prevention and Education Models Failing Us?

Fire prevention is not a rocket science. The challenge the fire service faces is its implementation.

Fire prevention implementation failure, and the lack of sustainable solutions, could be a leading cause of the increased number of deadly fires we are seeing worldwide. Despite all knowledge we have in the fire service,  there are only a few countries in the world where residential sprinklers are mandatory. And there are just a few countries in the world where kids are systematically and permanently educated about fire prevention. Collectively and including members of the community (not just the fire service members) we must do better at saving lives and reducing alarming statistics and even poverty as a result of far too many fires ongoing.

The Fire Problem. Perhaps sustainable solutions are within reach.

This past year has proven difficult from fire safety perspectives. We were faced with devastating and fatal fires such as Grenfell Tower fire in London (UK), with deaths of 79 residents, December 29th a residential building fire in the Bronx (USA) with 12 casualties, and the recent Liverpool car park fire (UK) which destroyed about 1,400 cars. Although the consequences of these fires are alarming, it is even more questionable of how this happen in the 21st century when we know almost everything about fire prevention, fire protection, and fire risks. Though is it entirely true that we know it all? Maybe there is more to learn. Perhaps sustainable solutions are within reach if only more attention was paid to the critical need for fire and life safety education.

Criminal charges possible in Grenfell Tower fire in London

We all will have to find a systematic and sustainable approach.

Notably, risk factors associated with unintentional house fire incidents, injuries, and deaths in high-income countries have increased in the past five years. Recently we have seen an increased number of fires in the UK, U.S., and some European countries. New materials, rapid fire spread, new dynamic lifestyles, community/fire brigade budget cuts and poverty increase fire fatality risk. It seems that existing fire prevention models have failed and that fire safety is more and more a social problem.

Public Sector Lacks Critical Competencies — Turns to Social Business Models

For fire dynamics a great deal of research has been conducted concerning the predictors of fire development and material burning. Though there is an unusual shortcoming concerning sustainable fire prevention measures. With fire prevention, we are trying to prevent and stop fires from happening. Fire prevention is a proactive method of reducing preventable fires and the damage caused by them.

Fire prevention has four important goals:

  1. The first goal is Life Safety, which is to prevent injury and loss of life. Human life and health always take top priority in an emergency.
  2. The second goal of fire prevention is to Prevent Property Damage and negative impact on the environment.
  3. The third goal of fire prevention is Protection of Operations. By preventing fires and limiting damage, we can assure that work operations will continue without interruption.
  4. The fourth and the final goal of fire prevention is to educate the public to take precautions to prevent potentially harmful fires and be educated about surviving them. It is a constant push to promote and implement active and passive protection measures. It has been said that fire department spend only 1% to 4% of its operating budget on public education.

Fire prevention is not a rocket science. The hardest part is its implementation. In fact, fire prevention implementation failure and the lack of sustainable solutions can be the cause of an increased number of fires worldwide.

Fire prevention implementation is the tough part of an ongoing fire risk reduction process. It is also very difficult to collect data and measure fire prevention effects. Unfortunately, fire prevention can be very costly and time consuming, although that can be solved with public/private partnerships and social entrepreneurship.

Sharing Safety Education with Media — Why is it so crucial?

As an owner of a public relations firm, I’ve made a career as a storyteller. I know that being remembered for your story is a very important goal to achieve, particularly for anyone with education that benefits the media, and fellow members of our community. First responders are often public safety educators; the general public looks up to them day in and out, and as a society, we want to know your story.

With no shortage of safety related incidents, wildfires, and preventable home fires reported in the news today, I know that life safety education is becoming increasingly important. But the regular citizen only knows what we know until we are taught differently! Sure, first responders still visit schools to educate children, and hopefully the daily drill gets passed along to parents when kids come home from school.

A firefighter came to my 2nd grade class to talk about fire safety. I remember asking what to do if there was a fire in my home because I didn’t have a window to escape through. “Get more smoke alarms” was the message I recall. I am not sure whether children today pass the answers to the questions they ask along to their parents.

All parents and caregivers, renters, home owners, or anyone with a roof over their head should know what to do in an emergency. But what if we forget the drill we got taught at school, and isn’t there more for adults to know than what we were taught in 2nd grade?

Here’s a question that stands out in my mind when I see the constant stream of tragedies around us. What are most of us adults, young and old, including those without children, being taught about safety measures? From where are we gathering this information that we should be constantly reminded of and trained for? We read about endless tragedies in the news. For most of us I am sure it makes us think of how we can best prepare ourselves and families in the unfortunate event of a carbon monoxide leak, house fire, or any other disaster like a wildfire.

Safety educators MUST hit those life saving messages home. One of the most crucial and underestimated ways for getting life saving information to the public is through our friends in the media: Newspapers, TV, radio, and online outlets.

Public and private partnerships, including business owners, service clubs, and all community stakeholders, should team up for safety’s sake! So for the first responders, tasked with promoting awareness and life safety education initiatives, what are you doing to ensure your important message is constantly in front of the public? Exactly how would a fire or police officer know how to go about sharing their education with the media and leverage that partnership to drive life saving messages home? Keep reading.

First responders have a responsibility, even more than the average adult or business owner, to share their knowledge and expertise with the general public. After all, the most dramatic or impactful stories in the news often involve life or death situations! Give us some more, what can we do to make sure that bad news does not happen to us?!

People tend think that appearing in the news requires a special skill or the right connections, but anyone can learn how to be a media expert.

In the spring of 2017, I was very lucky to meet fellow social entrepreneur Tracy Last, Chief Inspiration Officer at Fire-ED. We crossed paths at the B Corp Leadership Development Conference for social entrepreneurs. She approached me and we did some brainstorming and created a spin off to our “Be Your Own Public Relations (PR) Star in 90 Days” online course. It was without hesitation for me to team up with Tracy in an endeavor to help our first responders, and Fire-ED Community Safety Facilitators, with the opportunity to enroll in our “Be A Fire Safety PR Star” online course.

It’s one thing for educators to teach life safety, but another to know how to use the media to share this precious knowledge.

Hearing about Tracy’s impact business for eliminating preventable fires through innovative educational approaches really stood out for me. Tracy realizes that public relations is critical component for any successful community outreach program. We discussed the licensing of my course specifically for the fire and life safety and education professionals with whom she does business.

Be a Fire Safety PR Star at Fire-ED Interactive

Safety stories can save lives if you know where and how to tell them. In the Be a Fire Safety PR Star online course you’ll learn about how to:

  • Contact the media and find the ideal time to tell them your story
  • Build a media list and nurture relationships
  • Create a plan and budget
  • Communicate and follow up with media
  • Leverage your media coverage
  • Measure your success
  • And most importantly, how to do it all in a way that’s authentic to you, not how other PR firms might tell you to.

Since I was a child in school I’ve personally gained an immense respect for first responders who came to visit our classrooms. Whether it be fire, ambulance, or police officers, or any community safety educators, I believe that our interactions are ones we don’t easily forget. Those in the role of educating children and the public on safety precautions can easily demand media attention. It’s my business’s mission to ensure all important societal issues get noticed and shared.

Thank you for allowing me to share my knowledge with you, and I wish you the best in your journey as a Fire Safety Public Relations Star! ~ Sandra

Be a Fire Safety PR Star course registration links to be posted soon. Contact us to find out more.

Social Entrepreneurship to solve the Fire Problem

Public Sector Lacks Critical Competencies — Turns to Social Business Models

Social Entrepreneurship to solve the Fire Problem

Social Entrepreneurs partner with fire services to propose sustainable social business models to solve rapidly increasing fire safety problems.

Fire is crucial to the development of human society, and it has become an important part of human civilization. Among different types of disasters, fire constitutes a significant threat to life and property in urban and rural areas. Fires are the accidents which occur most frequently, whose causes are the most diverse and which require intervention methods and techniques adapted to the conditions and needs of each incident. There is a better way forward with social business models.

With adequate fire prevention, most of the fires nowadays are preventable. Fire prevention, and life safety education, can be defined as a system for reducing poverty and providing citizens with activities that raise awareness of fire risks by analyzing patterns of fire causal factors to achieve a reduction in fire incidence within the constraints of budgeted resources.


Poverty, new dynamic lifestyles, new materials, community, and fire brigade budget costs increase fire risk to communities. Lower income families are more likely to live in older, wood frame housing; less likely to have working smoke alarms; less likely to have a family escape plan and to practice it; more likely to use less safe alternative heating sources; more likely to have malfunctioning wiring or appliances, and more likely to have barriers to escape or rescue.

Traditional Approaches Failing

It seems that as the number of fires, fire deaths and casualties is increasing on the global scale, fires are an alarming global concern and a potential social problem. It seems that all existing methods have failed. From the broad perspective, we have three sectors potentially dealing with fire safety problems: private sector, public sector, and the non-profit sector. Traditionally, each of the three sectors has maintained the distinct roles and approaches —with the private sector focused on profitable markets, the public sector solving market failures, and the non-profit sector engaging citizens in meeting societal needs.

Shrinking Resources

Since the 1990s, several trends have reduced these distinctions, increasingly blurring the social and economic roles that businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits are playing. Governments are stepping out and deregulating the codes, closing fire departments. The private sector is shrinking resources and is forgetting on the important role of fire prevention when seeking for competitiveness. And the nonprofit sector is constantly facing with funding problems and increased social problems such as crime and opioid crisis, poor access to healthcare facilities and nevertheless poverty.

New unavoidable trends are increasingly blurring the social and economic roles that businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits are traditionally playing. The above-mentioned trends have expanded the overlapping space between the sectors and created ample opportunity for social entrepreneurship to emerge and grow. Solving social problems like fire safety requires holistic approaches with the participation of several actors or stakeholders (Masri, Mohd, & Sh, 2015).


Stakeholders in the public or private sector and non-governmental or non-profit organizations often seek to collaborate because they lack critical competencies that cannot be developed on their own or in a timely fashion (Child & Faulkner, 1998) and because their environments are more uncertain. Within the collaboration, two or more organizations from different sectors link or share information, resources, activities, and capabilities to jointly achieve an outcome that could not be achieved by a single organization or by organizations collaborating within one sector (Das 2000; Bryson et al. 2006). They form so-called cross sector collaboration (“CSC”).

Social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship seems to exhibit characteristics of all three sectors. It seems that social entrepreneurs can find and propose sustainable solutions to rapidly increasing fire safety problems. Social entrepreneurs might be capable of building financially sustainable models with gaining efficiency by relying on volunteers. They combine social problems with private sector funding sources and identify products and services, customers are willing to ‘hire.’ It seems that in the future we will see fire risk reductions through social entrepreneurial opportunity recognitions which can inspire us to bring fire safety to a higher level and this is yet to be explored in any detail.

Interest in, and activity around, social entrepreneurship is growing as influential individuals and organizations work to fill the gaps left by government and business in addressing social needs (Bielefeld 2008; Dacin et al. 2011). Leading foundations in the field like Ashoka, the Skoll Foundation, and the Schwab Foundation actively promote social entrepreneurship by highlighting the achievements of individual social entrepreneurs (Seelos, Mair, Battilana, Dacin, & Dacin, 2010). Also, governments have started supporting social entrepreneurship by establishing new organizational frameworks in order to encourage the formation of new social entrepreneurial initiatives and by providing funding to these initiatives.

Correspondingly, the management and nonprofit literatures are increasingly focused on entrepreneurial activities that are motivated by social concerns, such as sustainability, poverty, and social equity (Dacin et al. 2011; Murphy and Coombes 2009). Unlike conventional (or commercial) entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs “neither anticipate nor organize to create substantial financial profit”; instead, they aim for value in the form of societal benefit (Martin and Osberg 2007, 34) by developing innovative solutions to social problems. This mission may be addressed through creating new ventures or innovating within existing organizations (Zahra et al. 2009).

Dees (1998) defines social entrepreneurs as people who play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning,
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

The central driver for social entrepreneurship is the social problem being addressed, and the particular organizational form a social enterprise (SE) takes should be a decision based on which format would most effectively mobilize the resources needed to address that problem (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006). Thus, social entrepreneurship is not defined by legal form, as it can be pursued through various vehicles. Indeed, examples of social entrepreneurship can be found within or can span the nonprofit, business, or governmental sectors (Austin et al., 2006).

Social entrepreneurs have gained attention due to their promise to alleviate social problems (Estrin, Mickiewicz, & Stephan, 2013). The desire to make positive social change motivates social entrepreneurship (Shane, Locke, & Collins, 2003).  Social enterprises have emerged as significant organizational players in market economies (Di Domenico, Haugh, & Tracey, 2010).  The number of SEs have proliferated to address a growing number of social problems, like increased fire risks. An increased demand for their services  seems to be an important factor that motivates collaboration amongst stakeholders and SEs (Sakarya, Bodur, Yildirim-Öktem, & Selekler-Göksen, 2012).

Stakeholders in the public or private sector and non-governmental or non-profit organizations often seek to collaborate as they lack critical competencies that cannot be developed on their own or in a timely fashion (Child & Faulkner, 1998) and their environments are more uncertain.

Collaborations for social business models enable organizations to assemble, mobilize, and deploy resources necessary for social entrepreneurship—including financial assistance, expertise, and cultural and institutional resources (Mair and Marti 2006; Tracey, Phillips, and Jarvis 2011). By tapping into social networks and linking across sectors, social entrepreneurs can collectively expand capabilities and reach and significantly advance solutions to social problems (Dees and Economy 2001; Drayton 2010; Guclu, Dees, and Anderson 2002).

The question is: How do local social entrepreneurs foster and sustain valuable collaborations? Notably, the establishment and maintenance of collaborations is difficult, and partnerships vary in the extent of partner engagement, resources involved, scope, complexity, and strategic value (Bielefeld 2008).

Firefighters Take The “Fully Involved” Teaching Tool For A Burn

Firefighters make good public fire and life safety educators

Firefighters Fire-ED Kids WorkshopPublic education is a job made easy with teaching tools kids love and respond well to. Firefighters do make good public fire life safety educators when they have good resources and the “Fully Involved” Fire-ED Teaching Tool has been on the wish list in this Vancouver lower mainland community since the day the firefighters trialed it.

The presentation impressed everyone in the room that day, including the Fire Chief of this department. The Chief said this teaching tool was very convenient and his firefighters agreed. They said they’ve never seen such a great resource as this before. It is now their hope to soon purchase one for the department and the mission to raise the funding has begun.

Community Direct Teaching Model Reaches More People

Teaching kids at a young age increases the likelihood of developing life long skills needed to become responsible teens and adults. The beauty of this particular program is it is designed for all ages to participate. It is a Direct Teaching Model for educating more people, more often, for less money than traditional systems. What we mean by this is junior high school and senior high school students can become involved as helpers to the firefighters and learn safety skills themselves. This is very appealing as these age groups are very hard to reach otherwise. And once they are cooking at home, gone off to college or moving out on their own this becomes a missed demographic.

TESTIMONIAL “Teaching tools should be engaging, interactive, educational, easy to use, and easy to maintain. It’s a bonus for a program to be applicable to all ages, can be used in a variety of settings and easily presented by firefighters, prevention personnel or teachers. When I find a tool that meets all this criteria, then price becomes secondary. The “Fully Involved” Fire-ED Teaching Tool certainly meets my expectations and can be used by firefighters to take to the schools and use as part of their teaching practicums. Justifying the purchase of this resource is easy, whether it’s to your Fire Chief, community partners, or private funding agencies.” Rita Paine

A Key to Community

This is far more than just a kit of well designed colorful teaching aids. The key to community is the “Direct Teaching Model” that any service group, school, scouting or girl guide club, library, or recreation center can use. This proprietary teaching model allows the fire service to offer support on an “as needed” basis. When the fire department buys this resource they can expand their public educator “teaching cadre” by allowing trained “Community Safety Facilitators” to access the resource and teach it in after school programs and day camps etc. This tool could and should be out in the community 24/7/365.

More Prevention, to More People, For Less Money?

It is a requirement of the fire service, to bring prevention education to community but in far too many Canadian and USA communities the public is not receiving the education. Fire-ED meets and exceeds the critical need as stressed in the recent BC and Ontario Coroner’s Recommendations to improve such programming. Fire-ED is more than a resource, it is a complete community involvement strategy, one that is fully capable of being set up as completely stand alone to the fire service programs.

Modern Day Solutions for Today’s Public Educators

Firefights Fire-ED Kids WorkshopThis Fully Involved Fire-ED Teaching Tool presentation successfully demonstrated to firefighters how the visual aids in the kit help make the station tours more engaging and rewarding for children. Most importantly, all of the young participants leave with newly developed fire and life safety skills to share with the family. Furthermore, what’s yet to be revealed, is the program’s technology capability that enables facilitators to provide testing and track and submit the results (stats) to provincial and national databases.

Traditionally fire station tours consist of equipment and turnout gear demonstrations alongside children being to sit in the fire trucks. Often times props are used, like a sign with a graphic of matches and lighters and if time permits children might be shown a video or be read a story book. Occasional open houses are hosted to attract large crowds. You will find face painting stations, mascots walking about, and other fun, but not necessarily educational, “measurable” activities. Fire-ED is the scaleable solution that is still entertaining but with a lasting impact proven by the testing component that measures comprehension of the safety lessons delivered through this incredible resource. 

Read More Fire-ED Interactive Testimonials

Created by Katemangostar -

We Need Real-Time Public Education

Fire and life safety education saved this family – knowledge not technology.

There was a fire on January 18, 2016 in Blue Mountains, Ontario, it was in an 80-year old farmhouse. Thirteen people (4 adults and 9 children under 16 years of age) were asleep. All thirteen people escaped the fire, since they responded correctly when the smoke alarms sounded. Arriving firefighters found the house fully engulfed in flames; no injuries to occupants.

The fire prevention and education programs enforced by the fire dept. is what saved these people – knowledge instead of technology.

Since legislators seem to be reluctant to develop a law mandating fire sprinklers, perhaps a more aggressive approach to educating and training everyone – developing resilience – would work better, faster. We cannot win them all, even with the best technology, as long as human unpredictability is a factor. Situational awareness for citizens has a greater chance of saving lives.

The above statement was made to an article that I wrote and posted in one of the LinkedIn Groups and it comes from Michael Dube, a Certified Organizational Resilience Specialist (CORS), in Ontario, Canada. My theme in the article was that we–the fire service in particular–have to become more active in advocating, and yes demanding, that residential fire sprinklers be a requirement for all new residential housing regardless of its size.

Fire and Life Safety Educator, Samantha Hoffmann, of Barrie Fire and Emergency Services, posted this comment and I could not agree more:

Get media reporting on why people are not dying in fires instead of those who are. What steps are they taking to survive?

Mainstream media is great but don’t forget we have more communication channels than ever in the history of the human race…..

We have to get better at capturing the success story when it happens with our own “on-scene” interviews with fire survivors telling their story in real time. When the fear and thankfulness are still in their eyes and their voices. And when they are the ones saying:

“When I heard the smoke alarm going off…”

“Honey (Mom looking at her child), you were so brave! You got you and your sister out of the house just like we practiced.”

“When we couldn’t get down the hallway to the boys’ bedroom [on second floor] we hoped and prayed they remembered how to get out. Our hearts burst with relief and joy when we saw the escape ladder hanging from the window and our two boys standing by the big oak tree.”

Those messages would be much more powerful than the same story told days, weeks, or even months later with Mom, Dad, and their four children sitting in the [Insert any sterile location that has no connection to the fire, e.g., TV studio or relative’s living room].

And delivering that message via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., would be getting that story to more people via their primary means of getting information today: their smartphones and tablets, not the 6:00 pm local news broadcast.

Radical idea you might say? Not so…………. Consider this:

People don’t wear their seatbelts nor do they drink and drive because we told them “warm & fuzzy” stories of why they should adopt those behaviors, do they? No, people buckle up in their cars and they don’t drink and drive because of news coverage and public safety announcements (PSAs) that emphasized the terrible outcomes–with powerful graphics and images and words–that drove home the message. Like today’s campaigns to stop drivers from texting while driving.

Feature image created by Katemangostar –

Since when is leadership just about a title, or a designation, what about the rest?

There are certain beliefs I see as “pillars of understanding” such as fundamentals we all act upon based on our own experiences.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers”. ~Robin S. Sharma

There’s a significant amount of truth to this quote by Robin S. Sharma. After spending over 20 years in the training industry, there are certain beliefs that I have come to see as “pillars of understanding”.

These pillars of understanding I often times refer to are fundamentals we all act upon based on our own experience and values. I’ve watched many people over the years display their core beliefs while in the vulnerability of the training classroom. When we open ourselves up for new ideas, it’s amazing what traits and beliefs surface.

One such belief is that because we may hold a certain position in our community, or in our organization, then we are already leaders. Just because of the position! Now many of us would probably say, “of course not!!!” But it is amazing how at a deeply rooted level, this belief does come out in behaviors. And as we know our behaviors are tell tale signs of what we truly value. We should not act in ways that contradicts our thoughts.

Once while I was coaching a group of managers, we discussed how as managers we sometimes ask people to do things that are against their personal values. I shared an example of one student of mine, a manager, who would ask their assistant to tell “little white lies” on their behalf.

Little white lies say for example, when a staff member would want to speak with the boss and the boss would get their assistant to tell the employee they are tied up “in a meeting”, when they weren’t. They just wanted to avoid the conversation. The assistant over time grew very uncomfortable with having to comply with their superior’s request. When they approached their manager to discuss how this undermined their values, the manager replied “I’m your boss, you do as I ask”. Needless to say the employee didn’t take long to move on to a new position with a new leader.

When I was having this discussion with the group of managers I was coaching, it was interesting to see how many aligned with the boss. Their thoughts were that this was silly on the part of the employee, everyone does it and yes, as the boss you get to ask people to do things, and they must comply. These individuals believed it was the position (of being a boss) that dictates the right to “lead” by this example. Entitlement is what this is, and every good leader knows, living this way is not a great existence.


Todays's Friday challenge word is: Entitlement. People with a sense of entitlement do not learn, earn, or return.

Posted by John C. Maxwell on Friday, December 11, 2015

The influences that a leader has on his/her organization are felt at all levels. People don’t follow because they feel they need to do so, they follow because the leader demonstrates integrity and values that they themselves connect to. When a leader shows that ignoring the values of others on behalf of furthering their own agenda, the majority of the people will see the organization as an environment that doesn’t foster trust.

When there is a low level of trust or none at all, companies start to fall apart. Relationships break down and people go to where they feel valued and honored.

In many organizations, real leaders are often found within the departments at the level of general staff. The ground floor of the organization. These are the kinds of folks I find to be the best at getting things done, the individual of whom when directives are given have the greatest influence on how these initiatives are handled. These are the individuals everyone seems to gravitate to. So why is that? Why aren’t they managers or department heads?  They clearly have influence. People would follow them just because they are the boss right?

Not true. People follow them because of how they make others feel. They are inspiring by living in according to their beliefs and values. They set the example for all others to follow. They have you believing you can do anything, and this is so because they themselves believe it. Their position in the company doesn’t determine this influence. Their behaviors do.

Watch for these folks who have impact, they influence others and they inspire many to be better than we thought we could be. These are true leaders.

Now let’s go out and leave a positive impact on the world!