Every time I hear someone use the term "fireproof", it makes me think of something my dad (a retired Fire Marshal) used to say: "Nothing is fireproof; a cinderblock at the bottom of the ocean will burn if you can get it to the right temperature."
When you hear people refer to SCBA as our "oxygen tanks", does it make you cringe? When you see multiple sprinkler head activations for a burning trash can on TV, do you just say, "Thanks, Hollywood"?
It all brings me to the question, is our education of the public sufficiently adequate to convey our message? If they don't even understand the basic issues of a sprinkler head activation, how can we get them to grasp the necessity of sprinkler system installations?
When you have teachable moments in your community, it is imperative that you capitalize on them, while of course, being tactful. Although I think most communities would squirm if we led a group of gawking civilians through a fire fatality scene, this is still the best time to point out the importance of smoke detectors, of having a home exit plan, and of residential sprinklers. Strike while the iron is hot, right?
If your department doesn't have a good connection with the media, it is very important to establish one. This person should be good about getting the media out to scenes and taking that opportunity to point out the things that could save the lives and property of others. Reporters have a lot on their plate as it is, with having to cover multiple stories, and serving up a good story to them is like offering a picnic basket to a hungry bear. If it's a public service announcement on detector maintenance, that's one thing, but if you can tie it to that teachable moment, THAT is a story.
Make your job easier by making the people you serve a little more smart about the things you do. You'll find that they appreciate your efforts more in the long run, and who knows, they might even be inclined to take up your cause for you when you need a little helping hand (like at budget time). It's always hard to say "no" to someone you are on a first name basis with. When you are out there educating them, you are exactly that person.