First Line: November 2016
By Samantha Hoffmann
By Samantha Hoffmann
While the heat and humidity of summer seem distant during the dreary days of November, now is a great time to plan for seasonal activities that showcase your department’s staff and fire-safety initiatives.
Every July and August, Barrie Fire and Emergency Service (BFSE) hosts a summertime tradition at a different park on Thursdays from 6 until 8 p.m.
Residents have the chance to go over some lifesaving tips and reminders while getting acquainted with BFES staff. Kids can check out the fire trucks, participate in hand-on activities, and ask any fire-safety questions. Domino’s Pizza sells pizza for $1 a slice, with proceeds going to our Community Projects charity.
Events such as Hot Summer Nights reflect BFSE’s vision of gaining respect and recognition as a leading service provider in the community, protecting precious lives, property and environment. The focus is on prevention, detection and escape.
Most often, the public sees fire crews when they are busy at an emergency scene; thus they are unapproachable. This program allows the public to see its local fire department in a different light and interact with the firefighters. People are able to:
- ask the crew questions; seek advice on summer safety and fire safety in general
- check out the fire trucks and equipment
- try some hands-on activities
- promote our public image and encourage neighbourhood camaraderie
- have some fun
- learn something!
We have been hosting Hot Summer Nights since 2012 and each year it continues to grow. Part of the overall public fire and life safety strategy is to establish and maintain high visibility within the community. Our Hot Summer Nights program allows us to do this by working with organizations and groups within our community. We have created effective working relationships that help us enhance the awareness of fire- and life-safety issues.
Fire departments generally rely upon mutual aid for fire suppression efforts; apply this same strategy to community fire-safety education programs. You need to know how to establish, nurture and expand partnerships to develop the community based fire- and life-safety programs. Successful partnership development requires promotional, public relations and marketing skills. While financial funding is important, money will not accomplish everything.
We have had great success for staffing by utilizing on-duty fire crews and fire prevention staff and partnering with our local school board and community college pre-service fire students. All Ontario high school students are required to obtain 40 community-service hours. With some training and supervision, students make great fire-safety ambassadors. The pre-service fire students from Georgian College participate in our event and run our mini-combat challenge. The mini-combat challenge incorporates some of the traditional firefighting skills, however it has an educational focus. College students are trained on the mini-combat challenge evolutions and it is their responsibility to educate the children as they participate. The students wear their school fatigues and while they are representing their firefighting program, they are learning first-hand how their chosen career is about community first, and giving back.
To promote our event, we partnered with two local radio stations; they provide free on-air advertisements weekly, and hourly on the day of the event. In addition, the stations broadcast live from our location; this helps to create a fun ambiance and gets the radio stations out in the public eye as well.
There is no better way to gather a crowd than food, so another partnership was formed with Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s provides pizza at all of our events at no cost but asks for donations. All money raised is given to Barrie Fire Community Projects and used throughout the year to assist struggling families and not-for-profit organizations. As part of this partnership, Domino’s hands out fire-safety tip cards with Hot Summer Night dates and locations with all take out and delivery orders. More than 5,000 advertisements and fire tips are distributed in June, July and August at no cost to Barrie Fire.
When planning a community event, think outside the box: who else needs to reach your audience and can you work together?
Samantha Hoffmann has been in the fire safety field for more than 25 years; she is the public fire and life-safety officer for Barrie Fire & Emergency Service in Ontario. Email Samantha at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @shoffmannpflso