FIRE LESSON: 18 gems that fire and rescue comms can teach you


There are some fine communicators in the public sector but none are better than fire and rescue people.

They can switch from the day-to-day campaign to the drop-everything-now blaze.

Other blue light services can argue they face a similar challenge. They’d be right. But none are better than fire. Yet as a sector they are often overlooked. Ordered into a taxi by the Home Office and eyed-up by police and crime commissioners their skills are often unappreciated.

When Grenfell happened, many communicators would have frozen but fire and rescue people didn’t. I’ve worked with fire and rescue before and I’m always impressed. So, the two days of hosting the FirePRO conference in Birmingham was a real pleasure.

Here are things you can learn from fire and rescue comms:

  1. People have the same regard of firefighters as they do the NHS. They just don’t have the opportunity to show it.
  2. A drone brilliantly tells the story of a large unfolding incident.
  3. In a high-profile emergency you will be flooded with gifts of water, biscuits and other donations. Say ‘thank you’.
  4. Play the public messages of support back to the people in the frontline.
  5. Help the media tell your story by giving them good access.
  6. Don’t forget internal comms. Keep the rest of the organisation up to speed at least once a day in a rolling incident.
  7. A major incident doesn’t stop when the fire is out. The public enquiry can be demanding to your time.
  8. Good practice can work right across the public sector and beyond.
  9. Think on your feet.
  10. Back yourself.
  11. Heroes are great. But there are dangers posed by looking at volunteers and staff as almost untouchable.
  12. Don’t shelter from a negative social media storm. It may hoover-up your time, but go out and look to challenge each negative post. There are medium and long term benefits.
  13. As an organisation, look to do the right thing. Even when this causes a short-term headache.
  14. Listen to staff across your organisation.
  15. 89 per cent of men who die after a night out are found dead in water.
  16. Think of your audience and how to best reach them. Be bold if you have to.
  17. People respond well to bright yellow ducks in a campaign.
  18. Don’t do what you always do.

There are lessons to learn from across the field no matter what sector you work in.

Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr


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