Public Safety Insights Newsletter: 3 “Secrets” to Successful Community Outreach

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March 23, 2016 VOLUME 4, ISSUE 4
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3 “Secrets” to Successful Community Outreach

Public Safety Insight: You already know the “secrets” to successful community outreach efforts. You just have to recognize and apply them in a different context.

If asked, how would the employees in your agency say they view community outreach? Would they describe it as a burden that takes time away from their real jobs? Or would they characterize it as essential to ensuring a safe, healthy, and economically viable community?

The success of your agency’s community outreach efforts depends in large part on the answer to the first question. The fact is, no fire and rescue agency can be fully successful without its community’s support. The sheer depth and breadth of your mission today, coupled with the ever-increasing demands of your stakeholders in a dynamic environment, means that you cannot do everything yourselves. Community outreach necessarily has become an integral element of every fire and rescue professional’s job. You already have the knowledge and skills to be successful in creating and maintaining a viable public safety partnership with your community; it’s just a matter of applying them in non-field contexts. Here are three “secrets” to achieving that outcome:

1. Identify and communicate clearly the “why” of successful community outreach
You don’t engage in community outreach because it’s the “right” thing to do; you do it because you have taken an oath to protect the lives, property, and environment of the people you serve, and it would be irresponsible not to use all available resources to help you live up to that promise.

Let’s say your “big picture” of public safety is creating a safe, healthy, economically viable community. Your agency cannot do this alone. To be fully successful, you must   educate your stakeholders about THEIR roles and responsibilities in this big picture. By keeping the “why” of community outreach front and center, you are able to inspire all stakeholders because they are able to “connect the dots” between the agency’s ability to achieve its mission and the need to create partners with a vested interest in their own safety, health, and economic viability.   

2. Conduct a public safety size-up
Just as preparation and training are critical to positive outcomes in the field, so are theyessential to a successful community outreach process. The latter is analogous to the size-up you conduct on scene: taking action comes AFTER you make a plan that is based on the priorities established as a result of assessing the facts you’ve gathered about the situation and available resources. Evaluating the consequences and changing tactics/strategy as necessary are just as applicable to your community outreach process as they are to your on-scene size-up process. What must YOU do to ensure your members are fully successful in their efforts to create and sustain viable partnerships within the community?

3. Maintain situational awareness
Maintaining situational awareness isn’t just critical to the positive resolution of the emergencies you face in the field. It helps determine whether your efforts to reach out to your stakeholders are a success or a failure. We live in a world of constant change that plays out in the public safety arena. Thus creating and maintaining viable partnerships in the community for the purpose of enhancing the level of public safety is an on-going process of education and relationship building in which ALL members must contribute.

The skills needed to create a viable public safety partnership with your community already are familiar to you: you learned them in your training academy and you practice them in the field every day. They keep you safe. By transferring them to the context of community outreach, you also enhance the level of public safety.

Imagine going to work each shift and thinking, “My staff/crew and I get to improve the safety, health, and economic viability of my community today by partnering with our stakeholders.” Now imagine the alternative: “My staff has to conduct two public education sessions today and I have to attend the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.” What mindset do you choose for yourself and for your agency?

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2016 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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