By Tom Kiurski
Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue
There are a lot of companies that are willing to sell you products for your fire safety education efforts. Before you part with your department's scarce funds, consider a few points to make the process go smoothly. Here are the main things to consider when buying fire safety for children products.
1. Consider the audience(s) that you need materials for
You have to consider what your target audience is, how often you present to this group, and how many students you expect each year to be at this presentation before any purchase. There is a big difference in the materials that you would hand out to senior citizens and juvenile firesetters. You will also find differences in grade levels when you are talking about school children. Notice that you don't see teachers jumping at all-school assembly opportunities — it is too difficult to teach to an audience that has first and sixth grade students in it. Since they learn differently, materials have to reflect this.
2. Narrow down what you need — as opposed to what you want — to make the program work
While there are a variety of resources available that can make your department look good, budgets are as slim now as they have ever been. Decide on educational content first, which are those items that are going to make your target audience learn and apply what you teach them. Remember, the goal is for the students to apply what they have learned at your presentation, so relate this goal to your purchase.
3. Ask around
Network with others in different fire departments and see what they do for the type of program you are considering. They may have been down that road and learned lessons along the way. The best thing about the fire service is our willingness to share with other firefighters, so take advantage of it. You may find materials on the internet that will suit your needs. Ask yourself — and others — if it can be downloaded and adjusted to fit your needs.
4. Decide on your items
Once you make a decision, you can then begin shopping around. There are plenty of companies out there, so get prices from as many of them as you can. That just makes good sense and may be required prior to any purchase from your municipality.
5. Personalized or non-personalized
No doubt about it — the cheaper prices are for the non-personalized products. Some of us feel that the slight increase in cost is worth having our name, badge or patch on the items as a source of community pride. Ask other firefighters in your fire department what they think.
Before making your purchases, take a few minutes to consider these points. While there are plenty of items that can catch your attention at trade shows, your duty is to spend your resources wisely to get the most impact for your community.
Any other suggestions? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 250 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications.