Public and Media Relations for the Fire Service

Tim Birr
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Public and Media Relations for the Fire Service

By Tim Birr, Division Chief (Ret.), Tualatin Valley (OR) Fire and Rescue

Many fire chiefs have been overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of satellite trucks, news helicopters, and media personnel when an incident in their jurisdiction attracts the mediaŒëís attention. If reporters cannot get fast, accurate information from fire officials, they'Œll get it from whomever they can.

This book is intended to help fire departments master the basics of the game and begins with an overview of public relations and the role of reporters. The middle of the book provides insight into how to choose a PIO and the role of that person. This is followed by a brief discussion of skills and preparations as well as policies for providing information and statements and concludes with a listing of sources for additional training. Working with the media should be an ongoing process not just at fires or emergencies but throughout the year to help you get your message across to the community that you serve.

This book is not for public relations professional or advertising agencies, but is intended for fire service personnel and managers and those who want to know more about public and media relations. This is the first book of its kind dedicated to helping the fire service with media relations.


  • ŒPublic relations 101 Œ
  • Who are these reporters and what do they want, anyway?
  • Communicating with the communicators Œ
  • Who can we get to do this stuff? Choosing a PIO
  • Where does it say that? A primer on legal considerations Œ
  • The PIO at the incident scene Œ
  • Q&A: Basic skills for news interviews Œ
  • When the news hits the fan: Preparing for the inevitable
  • Connecting with the community
  • Model public information: Policy and procedure Œ
  • Model public information: Plan for major emergencies Œ
  • Oregon bar/press/broadcasters: joint statement of principles
  • Bibliography Œ
  • Selected sources for additional training
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