Fully Engaged: August 2015
By Margo Tennant
My department’s philosophy for making everyone a public educator is to create partnerships within our own Brampton Fire and Emergency Services.
By Margo Tennant
We have a common goal: buy-in is needed from firefighters so we may spread fire-prevention and safety messages whenever possible. This buy-in has to start from the top. Together everyone needs to communicate, co-ordinate and co-operate.
As is the case in most fire departments, together administration, apparatus and maintenance, communications, fire and life-safety education, fire prevention and, of course, training, make up Brampton Fire and Emergency Services.
In Brampton, public educators are not the only ones out in the community delivering fire-safety messages; we work in partnership with the firefighters through various programs – going door to door asking occupants to test their smoke alarms, asking if they have a carbon monoxide alarm and where it is located.
Following a fire, while everyone’s interest is piqued, we go into the neighbourhood to distribute door hangers letting occupants know there was a fire and to remind people to test their smoke alarms and have an escape plan. Department contact information is provided, which gives occupants an opportunity to get in touch with the department if they have questions or concerns.
We call upon prevention when in need of technical answers regarding the fire code.
Fire-prevention officers enforce the laws and by-laws of the province and municipalities, investigate cause and origin and work in harmony with the education officers not only during Fire Prevention Week but throughout the year sharing fire safety messages.
Our messages need to be consistent. When firefighters respond to an emergency situation they deal with the immediate issue. For example, if firefighters on scene believe there is a child in need of The Arson Prevention Program for Children (TAPP-C), they contact an education officer to liaison with the family. At a medical call, if family members can no longer lift a fallen loved one and repeated lift assist-calls are made, firefighters can notify an education officer who can work with family members and inform them of available resources for care assistance. Sharing information not only lets the community know we care, it provides a bond among divisions. With Brampton being so diverse, we also need to reach out to external agencies.
What do you do when you are out in the community in your uniform and someone recognizes you as an ambassador for your department? It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, answer any questions or concerns and then graciously deliver your own message about the importance of staying in the kitchen while cooking, having working smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm, having a safe meeting place, and that children or those in need of assistance be escorted out of the home during an emergency. Choose any message and deliver it at every opportunity.
We are working with our apparatus and maintenance division and considering displaying fire-safety messages on the trucks. People like to check out the fire trucks so why not slip another fire-safety message out there for people to read while the trucks are at a red light or while people are standing at a bus stop. By engaging in internal partnerships we can deliver the best possible message every way we can.
We reach out to our communication division for municipal and provincial statistics; that information allows us to follow fire trends and gear our programs to meet the needs of the community.
Training keeps us current with our CPR and first aid.
Composite and volunteer departments could make time on training or duty nights to stop at a local soccer or baseball game and allow the children to explore the truck while members grab the ears of the parents and deliver fire-safety messages.
All divisions need to be aware of all resources available within their own departments. Direct the people in the community to the appropriate division if the answer or qualification goes further than your area of expertise.
No matter what role we have in the fire department we all have the same objective – to deliver fire-safety messages to save lives, protect property and break down barriers.
Margo Tennant is a fire and life-safety education officer with Brampton Fire and Emergency Services in Ontario. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org