Prevention Programs: How to Find Your Audience
By Tom Kiurski
When I tell firefighters they are responsible for teaching their community fire safety education, they often ask me where exactly they are supposed to find the people to teach.
Let's start with the easy ones first — children. Children go to school fairly regularly, so the obvious answer is to try to set up time with their teachers to have firefighters teach the youngsters fire safety education. Be respectful of their time, show up when you say you will, and let them know to have a "Plan B" in case you have an emergency response that will not allow you to keep your appointment. Remember that some children are home schooled, so seek out those network groups and invite them to your fire station for a tour and class.
Adults can be found in a number of places if you know where to look. Make yourself available for speaking engagements with your local service clubs, which hold regular meetings. Homeowners associations also have regular meetings, and fire safety is a subject that should be on their agenda regularly, as people often move homes. You can also target businesses in your community; offering to speak at "Lunch and Learn" sessions at organizations will help get your fire safety messages out.
The best place to find groups of seniors is an obvious one — senior citizens centers. All you have to do is ask the right people, and they will be happy to schedule you as a guest speaker at one of their meetings.
We send information to our residents who subscribe to our local newspaper in the form of a newsletter aimed at adult audiences. We send them twice a year, and you can see some past issues here. We also have a children's activity newsletter that goes out once a year at the beginning of Fire Prevention Week in October.
In addition, use your local cable television department to help you get fire and life safety messages out. We have numerous short and longer PSAs (Public Service Announcements) that were produced by our local cable department that play regularly on our community access channel. We also have some of them on our city Web site on the fire department page.
Another good idea is to make contact with the editor of your local newspaper and try to build up a good working relationship. Let them know you will gladly comment on issues and incidents where possible. When they cover fires in your community and a reporter contacts you, you can deliver safety messages that are relevant to the incident that may be included in their article. Your local newspaper may even give you space to write a column on safety topics.
Hopefully I have given you some insight as to where you can find audiences for your fire and life safety messages. They are out there. Now go and teach them to be more fire safe.