By: Branden Husky
Editor’s Note: Captain Husky of the City of Goodyear (AZ) Fire Department commented on one of my recent posts, Fire Department in Danger After Levy Fails, in the LikedIn Group, International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services (iWomen). At my urging, he wrote the following Guest blog based on his comments.
Greater emphasis on prevention activities is a culture shift for many on-the-line personnel in the fire service, but is at the heart of the mission for most departments: Protect lives and property. The best emergency mitigation effort is to never have the emergency happen.
However, doesn’t fire prevention send a singular message? The fire service is a multi-hazard service, is it not? Fire is not the only thing killing firefighters or the customers they serve. The messaging needs to be aimed at multi-hazard awareness. This would not only educate firefighters and their customers on the multitude of hazards facing society, but it would also help fire departments to effectively market the services being provided and increase the public’s support for those services.
The fire service needs to market its service as an insurance company does. The fire service provides services to its community that one never wants to call on, like insurance, but can’t afford to be without when needed, also like insurance. This is not marketed enough. How many of people live without several insurance policies, e.g., life, health, auto, etc.? None. Yet fire departments in communities across the country are facing dire straits because of lack of citizen support in the voting booth or at fundraising time.
Life safety prevention education is a very “now” issue. A great head way could be made by employing the IQ of the insurance industry’s marketing experts on messaging. Our citizens continue increase their use of the Internet and social media platforms as they go about their daily lives. The get information, lobby their politicians and governmental officials, pay bills, buy goods and services, manage youth group activities, and much more using their computers, tablets and wireless phone.
Social networks are fast becoming the “one stop info shop” for most people. This technology is free and yet much underutilized by the fire service in general. Ask yourself this question: How easy is it for a citizen in my community to get in touch with their fire department for any reason (Beyond the obvious method of calling 911 when they have an emergency)?
We say that the prevention of deaths and injuries from fires and other hazards are part of our mission, but how “big” is that part? And what do our actions say? Once we have developed effective two-way communication through a variety of social media networks then we will have enhanced our ability to inform and educated our citizens on prevention efforts and have a positive influence on their behaviors. But first we’ve got to get better at increasing their level of participation in their individual safety.
About the Author
Branden Husky is a Captain serving with the City of Goodyear (AZ) Fire Department. Captain Husky first joined the department as a volunteer in 1992 and became a full-time career member in 1995. Captain Husky earned his Associates Degree in Fire Science and Firefighting from Phoenix College. He and his wife and their three children make their home in the Goodyear area.