CREATE A DEMAND FOR PREVENTION
A Comprehensive Advocacy Plan
Developing Advocates is Critical to Your Success
When do you need advocates who understand the value of prevention? Yesterday, today, and tomorrow! You need people on board with you at all times who understand the value of fire prevention. They will give you needed support for sustaining a comprehensive prevention program. You will also make specific programs more effective with additional support from community partners who have a connection to those program objectives and audience.
A Core Sustained Group
Maintain relationships with leaders and stakeholders who understand the value of prevention. They can support the value of a strong, sustained community prevention strategy.
It makes sense to maintain communication with the influencers in your community on a continued basis. Their understanding of programs and activities that protect the community by reducing risks and saving resources can be the support you need if prevention programs and personnel are threatened by budget cuts. Some ways to maintain this understanding and support might be to 1) include them in regular updates and reports of activities, 2) let them know about successes and include them in those celebrations, 3) invite them to be part of or observe prevention activities and events, and 4) involve them in discussions and program planning.
Image courtesy of Citizens for Fire Prevention
One impressive example of an active and effective core advocacy group is the Citizens for Fire Prevention Committee (CFPC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, CFPC unites citizens, business, industry, health care, schools, government and the fire service in a shared mission to reduce deaths, injuries, property and environmental damage caused by fire. CFPC’s focus is on high-risk populations and communities. Its interventions reach just about everyone in the city. “Our group is 100 percent volunteer,” says CFPC President Joe Flores. “They’re all dedicated to the same goal and that makes an important difference.”
When the Philadelphia Fire Department needs public education resources, CFPC steps in to help out when possible. “In these times of economic restraints, it’s great to have a partner,” Flores says. Fundraising to cover expenses for educational outreach is CFPC’s priority and the group seeks in-kind and financial contributions. “In-kind contributions are among the most valuable donations we receive,” he says, noting educational billboards and other public signage as effective examples that would be beyond the budget were they not donated.
One of the keys to CFPC’s successful fire prevention efforts, says Flores, is close involvement with the Philadelphia Fire Commissioner. “There is a direct line from the commissioner to the president, which works great in partnering. If other fire departments are going to replicate this type of advocacy group, it is important to have active communication and to work together.”
CFPC programs are informed by data, trends and concerns that are shared by the fire department. Once the volunteers know what the local challenges are, they can better respond with ideas, Flores explains. The fire data can often help motivate donations as well. “That type of collaboration helps in the development and implementation of outreach campaigns to address important issues, especially those that are affecting high-risk populations in the city’s communities.”
Keeping the CFPC volunteers informed and motivated on an ongoing basis is an organizational priority, says Flores. There is an annual dinner dance/award ceremony during Fire Prevention Month to thank the committee members. Twice yearly luncheons are also an opportunity to welcome new members, swear them in and help them get acquainted with the CFPC priorities.
In 49 states, fire and EMS personnel are increasing their nonemergency capacity through partnerships with nearly 20,000 Fire Corps volunteers. This diverse resource enriches communities, helping fire and emergency services expand their outreach efforts while still meeting their response and training goals. Fire Corps is a partner program under the Citizen Corps initiative funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Charlottesville Fire Corps Hosts Las Posada
The Charlottesville (Virginia) Fire Corps program teamed up with the fire department in a creative strategy to introduce the city’s growing Spanish-speaking resident population to the fire service and vice versa. By hosting the Latin American fiesta Las Posada at the fire department, residents learned about fire safety and met their local first responders. In return, the fire personnel got a chance to learn about Hispanic culture and meet their constituents. Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner says, “Fire Corps volunteers will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our firefighters. It is a great way for people to support our work and make a real difference in the community.” Read a summary of the Charlottesville Fire Corps program here.
Partners for specific programs
Add partners who have common interests and resources that are relevant to specific prevention efforts. A core advocate group can help you identify these individuals, organizations, and community groups. Additional partners can bring valuable resources that increase effectiveness of prevention efforts. Partners for specific programs might give you 1) access to target audiences because they are “trusted” friends, 2) language and cultural skills to increase communication and understanding with the target audience, 3) added personnel for delivering programs, and 4) opportunities to reach a broader audience through their venues.
Sometimes you can’t reach the people you need to unaided. High-fire-risk communities can be isolated by a variety of environmental and socioeconomic factors. To make your fire prevention outreach more effective, it makes sense to gain community advocates that can support and enhance your efforts.
A Tucson, Arizona, project demonstrates the great benefit of partnering with others in the community in order to access and gain the acceptance of the target audience. To reach homes that had a high concentration of minority residents and a high poverty rate, as well as 60 percent of the population including children and older adults, the Tucson Fire Department teamed up with the nonprofit Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc. (SERI). Using the “promotora” method of community outreach, SERI implemented the program in a culturally appropriate manner and language, providing fire safety education and smoke alarm installations for more than 2,000 families. The project was undertaken as part of SERI’s Department of Housing and Urban Development healthy homes production grant, allowing more homes to be reached. The SERI promotoras visited the homes to provide information as well as interventions that would improve the safety and well being of the residents. SERI utilized a home visit inspection checklist developed with the Tucson Fire Department. The program was evaluated and cost effectiveness and sustainability were documented. This program can be replicated by any fire department wanting to reach a high-risk target audience. The promotora model is widely used in the southwest, but SERI staff believe it can be modified for other communities as the key feature is to utilize well trained community members who have the target audience’s respect. You can read a complete summary of the program on the Vision 20/20 website, or you can watch a brief video about the program.