The Top Five Public Safety Messages Your Community MUST Know

GOAL: Increase overall life safety in your community through the use of priority safety messages and programs.


It doesn’t matter at what level you work or in which branch of emergency services; it takes time, trouble and more often than not, money to put together a life safety education campaign. You’ve got to focus your energy. What messages matter most? “You have to perform a community risk assessment!” you say?


Unless you’ve already ensured that the members of your community know these messages so well that they could act as advocates in OTHER communities, here’s your list of the top five public safety messages appropriate for EVERY community, in countdown order, just to make it more dramatic. (Don’t skip ahead now, that would be cheating).


5) Call 911: Sure, everyone knows the number, but does everyone really know that you’re there to help? Do they know HOW you can help them? Do they understand what you can do? I’m not talking about flogging 911 to bump up your call volume, I’m talking about making sure that Grandma understands that she’s not bothering you calling 911, little Timmy knows that he won’t get in trouble calling 911 since mom’s having trouble breathing and Sally-Mae knows that the guy who’s driven up and down her street six times should be reported.

4) Don’t call 911: Wait, WHAT? Didn’t I just say to CALL 911?!? Yes, but people should know when NOT to call 911 too. In fact, the best way to do this is to give them alternatives. Have problems with people calling 911 so the dispatchers can tell them when the fireman’s carnival is, or where they can get their blood pressure checked, or who can inspect a car seat for them? That’s a sign that this is information isn’t as widely available in the community as it should be.

3) Smoke detectors: They save lives, they’re cheap, and so are the batteries that power them. I don’t care if you’re not even involved in fire suppression; you should have a couple of them (and maybe a CO detector or two) in your ambulance, cruiser or yes, even fire engine. And if you’re afraid of stepping on the toes of your local fire department then, even better, partner with them to get detectors out there.

2) Seat Belts: Sure we should ALL profess AND PRACTICE all of these messages ourselves, but this is the one where we need to lead by example. What do pretty much all emergency services have in common? Vehicles. Why? Because the only thing worse than having to drive out to diseased criminals that are on fire* is to have THEM come to YOU. So since we have vehicles, everyone in those vehicles should be belted before those vehicles go into motion. Every time.

*I’m trying to give equal time to cops, medics and firefighters here. I’m kind of hoping that you don’t really have any diseased criminals that are on fire in your jurisdiction. If you do, let me know. I won’t go there.

And finally, the number one public safety message that every community must know:

1) Learn CPR: Yup. This is the other one where we have to truly practice what we preach. This isn’t just for the EMTs and Medics. They should know it, WE should know it and the PUBLIC should know it too. C’mon, now with hands-only CPR for the lay-public, do we have any excuse? Put a link to an online AHA Video on a QR code on the back of every business card in your department and send them out there (I saw this one at a conference recently).

So that’s the list.  What’s next? Well that, of course, is going to depend on who you are, who you work for and the community you serve. But just to keep you from thinking that RescueDigest is all about the unfunded mandate, at the bottom of this page you’ll find some great (FREE) resources that will help get you started. Go door to door. Have a presence at community events and share your message there. Put them on your department website. Promote them with your department Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare accounts. What? Don’t have those working yet? Stay tuned. We can help with that too.

APPLICATION: You may not be able to do them all at once, or even in this order, but pick one and use some of the resources below to help make the change for your community.

Call 911


Don’t call 911



Smoke Detectors



Seat Belts




About The Author

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Editorial Director of RescueDigest, Rom Duckworth is an internationally recognized writer, speaker, and educator. Co-founder of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine and an emergency service provider for more than twenty years in fire / rescue services, public and private emergency medical services and hospital based healthcare Rom can be found at and on Twitter @romduck 

 @romduck [/author_info]

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