Make 2019 the year you change your department’s fire safety education paradigm

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

So, another National Fire Prevention Week is coming up next month. What does your fire department have planned for that week?

  • 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 that plan? Check.
  • Social media postings on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with the same messages? Check.

Sounds like last year’s plan, no? OK, so maybe your department has added the social media piece for this year, 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 Tonya, you don’t know how to be more effective in your fire and life safety communications with your community.

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 quality teaching materials and the resources (people and money) to make things better;
  • 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.

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

A winner in the 2017 Fire Prevention Week Poster Contest. Photo by the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

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.

What if those people could become social entrepreneurs and start their own small business 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 FireEDCommunity developed by my colleague Tracy Last. And if you don’t know Tracy and the FireEDCommunity, 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 start a FireEDCommunity in your community. Get ‘em “pumped up” with this video:

But the Fire-ED Interactive System is way more than just what comes out of the box! Visit FireEDCommunity on-line to see the total package. Become a member of the FireEDCommunity and learn and share with like-minded fire and life safety educators, firefighters, and other social entrepreneurs around the world (Yes, the FireEdCommunity is a global community).

So, what are you waiting for? National Fire Prevention Week 2019 is October 6-12.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,