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Commitment to prevention from the top saves lives and resources

August 7, 2017 • Peg Carson

Connie Forster, Community Risk Reduction Bureau Chief, Spring Lake Park, Blaine, Mounds View Fire Department
Spring Lake Park, Minnesota

The Fire Chief is committed to prevention. Prevention is a critical function of our organization. Having the support from leadership and finding people passionate about doing the job have been the two most important factors in our success. We have recruited people who want to work on prevention efforts. We have hired retired teachers, fire fighters, nurses-people who have witnessed the consequences of unsafe behaviors and are committed to preventing it from happening to more people. Prevention activities are part of probationary requirements for new fire fighters. Prevention has been incorporated into the fire academy for new recruits.

Setting goals and objectives for programing based on what is happening in our community has been critical in our success along with continual evaluation. Once we establish goals, we look for community partners that can help us accomplish our goals. We have partnered with businesses, church groups, other public safety organizations, schools, apartment managers, and public health to name a few. Working with partners has helped us develop relationships in the community and policy makers.

Everybody in the department-not just those hired to do prevention-is now involved in prevention is some way. It has become an organizational value. We average close to 700 public outreach events each year.


Public Health: provide radon kits for our home safety program, statistics
Police: partner with us to hold annual bike helmet fitting events, safety camps, CPR training partner with them for child passenger safety program, they provide training on crime prevention for our home safety program
Safe Kids Anoka County: staff for our Safety Camp for 4th graders, car seat clinics, training for staff, helmets, marketing
Park and Recreation Department: staff for Safety Camp, advertising/processing registrations for our CPR program
Local Businesses: coupons to give participants of our home safety program, support for our annual fire department open houses, safety camps, senior fair, discounts/grants for smoke alarms, CO alarms
Apartment Managers: advertise our home safety program, require all new residents to watch safety video when signing rental lease
Manufactured Home Community Managers: provide first month lot rental for residents participating in our home safety program
Schools: classroom visits, material distribution
Hospitals: support for annual senior fair and safety camps


Local grants, money in budget.


We targeted manufactured homes at the inception our home safety program due to high emergency call volume. We then shifted to single family homes in the older part of our community. We are now focusing on apartments and areas with high populations of seniors. The main risk factors we focus on are safe cooking practices, fire escape, falls, smoking, CO, smoke alarms, candles, and poisoning. We average 250 home safety surveys each year.

Our focus on children has been child passenger safety, fire prevention education in schools, youth fire setting intervention, bike helmets and all injury areas during safety camp.

What prompted this program?

It was based on a community risk assessment.


Our three communities have adopted 1306 requiring fire sprinklers. We have had several structure fires that have been extinguished or kept small and minimized damage due to the presence of fire sprinkler systems. One of the townhomes in our community had a fire in the garage that was extinguished by the fire sprinkler system. When crews arrived, they mopped up water. There was minimal damage to the home. A neighboring community had a fire in an identical townhome built by the same developer, started in the same area of the home without residential fire sprinklers and the home was a total loss.

Through our prevention efforts, our call volume has essentially remained the same while our communities have seen tremendous growth. The population of our communities has grown 11% but our call volume has remained the same over the last 10 years. The calls have gone from a fire in a manufactured home once a month to a fire in a manufactured home once a year. Our largest call volume is false alarms. In the past it was structure fires. We used to hold 2 classes for youth fire setters a month with 8 students in each class. We had one youth fire setter last year. We have had 18 documented saves for our home safety program. We have had a child come back to show us the helmet he had on when he crashed his bike. He had gotten a helmet a week earlier at the event.


How this project used Fire is Everyone’s Fight materials



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