FIRE PREVENTION & FIRE SAFETY IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY
Psst: Pass it on; correctly!
Over the past several months, I have traveled extensively and spoke with firefighters throughout the United States and of course locally.
What I discovered were several outstanding issues. First, we (the fire service people) have a ‘handle’ on fire safety. We partially understand the concepts of fire prevention, fire education, fire origin and cause analysis and of course fighting and extinguishing fires. Second, the media, whether print or verbal (radio) or visual (TV/live speaking engagements) has the need to be educated; and they want to be educated by us, the fire community. Their terminology and presentations needs tweaking. Third, but by no means the last, is how we as the “Public Information Officer” (and any of us can become one at any time at any place without forewarning), present need-to-know and right-to-know information to them. What we must do is a better job of passing it on to the folks who require it.
IFSTA (International Fire Service Training Institute) offers a publication titled “Public Information Officer” which should be in all firehouse/chief officers’ libraries. This document, which is available through the PA Fireman @ 1-800-456-6932 systematically “walks” you thru the process of media relations, on camera, live and recorded interview as well as print (newspaper).
Our job has only begun with the reporting of the incident and releasing the immediately available factual details. The issues may not be what you believe or “think”; it is what you know for certain. Opinions do NOT count and must never be alluded to, by anyone. Stay off internet media with your remarks and opinions, they can and will be used against you in a court of law should you be subpoenaed to testify.
You should report the origin of the fire/incident “if known-for-certain”. Report the cause of the fire/incident “if known-for-certain”. No maybes or “it could be”. If unknown, the origin and cause of this fire must be reported as “undetermined” at this time, and that it is an ongoing investigation.
If the origin of the fire/incident is known for certain, state it, but remember “Based on What?” and by whom? Do you recall the definition of empirical data, “that which can be proven by scientific testing and positive documentation, and or eyewitness”?
Next, disseminating the cause of the fire/incident if known-for-certain (factual). Is this incident important to share with the public “immediately”? For example, unattended cooking (the #1 cause of home fires); improperly installed wood/coal stove; chimney failure, liners, spark arresters; Bar-B-Q [ing]; the improper disposal of fire-place, stove and other “hot ashes”, the misuse (improper use) of electric (devices)and their installations and more. Firefindings.com is an excellent resource website for product failure and other essential information to assist you in your fire/incident cause analysis.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.