Online fire safety education: Don’t “reinvent the wheel”

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to deepen across the U.S., one thing I’m hearing and reading much about is how fire departments are “scrambling” to get online solutions to their community outreach efforts. Perhaps scrambling is a bit hyperbolic, but the fact remains that fire safety educators and firefighters are not getting in front of groups of children or adults anytime soon to inform and educate them about fire prevention measures.

And yet, there’s never been a time when fire departments need to be actively involved in teaching children and adults how to avoid becoming a victim of a preventable fire. More people are spending more time at home. Children are not in school. Summer camps and other opportunities to engage with children and adults for fire and life safety education are being lost for 2020 daily.

Figure 1. Residential cooking fires are the most common PREVENTABLE fire for most communities, accounting for 30-40 percent of overall fires that fire departments respond to each year.

But before going on, in the words of the late comedienne Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?” Truth be known, most fire departments weren’t doing a bang-up job of delivering fire and life safety education to their communities before the appearance of COVID-19. The typical fire department was spending one percent or less of their total fire department budget on fire prevention; and that sum of money typically must fund fire inspections, fire investigations, and fire safety education (See Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. Using a sample budget figure of $10 million, one can see the “trickle down” funding that most fire departments provide for fire prevention activities

But before you and your fire department embark on the research and development of a means to deliver online community outreach and fire safety education, here’s a tip: It’s already been done.

The FireED Community is an online interactive platform with materials and concepts developed by professional fire safety educators from the fire service. But more importantly, it’s not just a one-way communications platform.

Blogs and forums are just two online tools that can give fire and life safety educators the capability to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues worldwide. Share best practices. Share resources. Share ideas.

So, before you exhaust your department’s limited resources to “reinvent the wheel” get in touch with FireED Community and see what the community can do for you…and what you can do for the community.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

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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 FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.