John R. Kowalski Integrative Marketing Fusion

Volunteer Fire Service – Critical Condition

The volunteer fire service in the United States is in crisis. Small rural communities are struggling to keep pace with the growing demand for their services, while at the same time facing a decline in the number of people available to serve as volunteers.

Smoke on the Mountain

This past October The Lone Oak Volunteer Fire Department (my department) was invited to participate in Smoke on the Mountain, a fundraising event that included a BBQ competition, music, beverages, food, and more to benefit a neighboring civic league and our fire department.

Community Giving

Through the generosity of our community we were able to provide nearly 100 food boxes and over 50 boxes of toys to members of our community – touching the lives of over 150 people.

County Personnel, Please Consult Fire Professionals When Specifying Equipment

You Don’t Know How We Use It and What It Means to Our Safety

Attention County personnel,

We are grateful for your support of volunteer fire departments. As you know, volunteer departments make up 73-76% of all fire departments who operate primarily on donations. We are thankful for your support.

If, however, you are in the position to help fund departments in your county or region with equipment, I highly recommend consulting with your fire chiefs to help select appropriate equipment.

Recently with my department the County personnel took it upon themselves to write a specification for SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus – i.e., air packs and masks) and to put it out for bid. Issue one is that they specified the bare minimum equipment (NFPA 2019) not taking into the account of firefighter safety or ease of use. They received only one bid and went with it. I thought it was customary to gather three competitive quotes but maybe they work differently here in Tennessee. The word “kickbacks” seems to come to mind.

We recently had a training on the new equipment and unfortunately, in my opinion, they were a waste of county and taxpayer dollars. As an interior firefighter I will never touch one of these units on scene and more than likely even in training. They are sub-standard. They weigh approximately 10-15 lbs. more than what our department standardized on. This may not seem like much but when you’re wearing something on your back while working – crawling, climbing, etc. No quick connect for changing air tanks, the old-fashioned thread and screw design.

They also purchased turnout gear (pants, jacket, helmet, Nomex hood, boots, gloves) that again, in my opinion, is substandard and not the quality our department has standardized on for keeping us safe under terrible conditions. I have not received this gear yet, but I already know I will never wear this while fighting a fire. I may use the gloves as a backup pair and perhaps the boots for wildland fires where structure gear isn’t necessary, but in terms of the rest, it’ll go up in the supply closet and can be used for support personnel. That word “kickback” comes to mind again.

While I support the gesture from the County, it’s unfortunate that they didn’t as fire chiefs or professionals who really know equipment and needs for assistance.

How Firefighting Tactics Can Extinguish Your Next PR Crisis

I ran across this great article by Mike Marinella comparing firefighting with PR crisis management.

His opening:

Every organization will have to put out a fire, whether it’s managing a leadership scandal or a global pandemic. Either way, when extinguishing a fire, you must train your crisis response team to think like those who do it daily—firefighters. They are crisis experts, and their best practices are tried and tested over a long period.

Firefighters experience crises of all kinds, and, as in PR, not every one is a full-blown crisis. From house fires to car accidents, firefighters control situations promptly, but not recklessly, and formulate effective responses.

Similarly, communicators can prepare for crisis and less-threatening issues. The firefighting tactics below can help your team quell even the most formidable media firestorm.

Definitely read his full article and let me know if you have any questions or I can help in any way.

Personal note, I’m a volunteer (and certified) firefighter and a marketing professional for 20+ years.