All would agree that nobody should die from a preventable fire, yes? Especially children?
Good. Now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about fire and life safety education and those ongoing preventable fire deaths so far happening in 2017 (click here for current numbers) these and more fire-related injuries are continuing to rise in the U.S, Canada and worldwide.
My fire service colleagues across North America and globally would all agree, that preventing fires is not only about reducing fire-related deaths and injuries in the civilian population, fire prevention is the #1 way to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries as well!
Most of us active in the fire service, or retired from it, have heard an awful lot of the same “worn out songs” coming across the radio! I’m preaching to the choir when I share these familiar titles:
- “We’ve Got to Quit Paying Lip-service to Fire Prevention”
- “Fire Prevention Should be a Part of Every Firefighters Job”
- “Fire Prevention is Always the First Program that Gets Cut During Budget Reductions”
Continuing to sing the “same old song” is not going to change a thing…
We are not changing a thing singing the old song and neither is delivering it using the same “radio” going to work. We’ve got to change how we as a fire service AND we as a community work in order to have a positive influence on people and their behavior when it comes to fire prevention and education and saving lives. However, what we can get better at is outsourcing!
If current methodologies lack significant impact, change the paradigm! Start the paradigm shift by outsourcing (to programs such as Fire-ED)
To paraphrase a popular management mantra for change these days, “What got you here, won’t get you there. But first let’s admit, the current state of prevention education programs available has gone to lunch and for what we do have it’s mostly just “one-way” communication: We deliver a message with the expectation that the recipients of that message will act upon the information. How is that working for us!? Why are we stuck and not embracing innovation?
Currently most of the fire service delivers fire and life safety messaging via means such as:
- Static Displays in conjunction with other community events, e.g., art festivals, 5K races, and the like
- Public Service Announcements over television and radio
- School programs for children in grades K-5
- Open houses at the fire station
Here is some current fire-related data to help paint the picture
This is the only data that we can find that has been reported to the U.S. Fire Administration by fire departments through the National Fire Incident Reporting System, noted that approximately 40 percent of fire departments do not currently provide that data to the USFA.
This data indicates that our current fire and life safety education efforts are not being effective, so what can we do? Read on…
The only source of credible fire and life safety education programs comes from the local fire department. But too few of those “programs” have true educational value. Subject matter experts agree we can change that with programs that are readily available for us and can be outsourced.
So we see it is clearly evident that current programs are not meeting the critical need and are long on teaching reactive behaviors, not proactive behaviors. That’s a concern, why? Because….
MYTH #1: Talking to adults and children about the need for working smoke alarms in their home, and having a home fire escape plan, are both important, but assume that a fire cannot be prevented so you must be prepared.
MYTH #2: Teaching children “stop, drop, and roll” and how to call 911 to report a fire are likewise based on the assumption that a fire cannot be prevented.
MYTH #3: Conducting fire station tours and showing children and their parents fire trucks and equipment and handing out plastic fire helmets and Junior Fire Marshal stickers is not fire and life safety education. This myth is more aligned with marketing the fire department.
The average fire department spends less than one percent of its total operating budget on fire prevention
The paltry sum of only 1% or less devoted to fire prevention is typically divided amongst three fire prevention activities: fire code enforcement, fire investigations, and public fire education (the latter mostly targeted at children is close to obsolete). That’s not meant to be an indictment on those fire departments who spend meager sums on prevention. Some departments are doing the best they can with the people and dollars they have available. But there are also too many fire departments who do nothing in the sphere of public fire education, for children or adults. They either lack the resources or the will to teach people how to avoid becoming a victim of a preventable fire. But help is near….
A New Paradigm for Teaching Fire and Life Safety Education
What does any other company or organization do when it doesn’t have the people or resources to carry out part of its mission? They outsource it to a third party. There is now a readily available third party that fire departments can turn to and start delivering a fire and life safety education program that has educational value. It’s called Fire-ED Interactive.
The Fire-ED Interactive System is based upon the premise that the knowledge, skills, and abilities for people to avoid becoming a victim of a preventable fire can be taught by anyone. Anyone, that is, who has the desire, the motivation—and most importantly—an educational delivery system that’s been developed by professional fire and life safety educators for use by both fire service personnel and non-fire service folks.