04/04/12 396 W - + 4 - 6 What They See

Dave Statter posted this nifty video this week of an apartment fire in Indianapolis. The thirteen-minute clip is citizen footage, probably shot by a neighbor, and depicting what looks like a fire in the attic space. This is what they saw as they watched and moved around (and in fairly close proximity) to the burning building. It's also a good example of what people see when there's a "contained fire" where they live. Some flames sprouting, some smoke showing, but most of what's happening is inside and thus outside their view. There's audio as well, and you can listen to their reactions (though they're speaking Spanish).

This clip gets me thinking about public education and particularly fire service marketing. What's the difference, you ask? Public education is the broad label. It encompasses everything from teaching children how to "stop, drop, and roll" to the detailed station tours given to community groups. But let's look at a hierarchy of needs. The greatest priority is certainly citizen safety. Teaching the basics, such as (a.) how to react in a fire, (b.) how to escape a fire, and (c.) how to contact the fire department. The next level is probably contextual. What the fire department does, where the fire stations are located, why they send a fire truck when you call for an ambulance, etc. And from there, we start sliding into marketing.

What is marketing? We'll define the "M" as "communicating the value of something for someone else." But if everyone already knows that a fire department is necessary to extinguish fires when they happen, why is marketing needed? That's where this video gets me thinking. Communicating / explaining / teaching some of the basics of how fire departments do their work. Why do they take their hoses inside, for example, instead of spraying water from the outside (and from the moment they arrive)? 

From there, the questions come rapidly. Logistics. How the heck do you communicate to such a large and diverse (including non-English speaking) audience? Resources. If you're already taxed performing core public education, where's the time or talent for more comprehensive marketing? Value. And what are your measurements? How do you quantity or qualify that marketing worked? Good questions, and maybe a good discussion starter this morning. Either here or where you are.

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