Decide what you want to achieve at your open house, and who your audience is. You'll want to make sure your open house activities reinforce this year's Fire Prevention Week theme and provide useful information on how to prevent and survive a fire. Most likely, kids and parents will be visiting your open house, so messages and activities should be primarily tailored to these age groups.
Pick a date
Your open house can be held during the day or evening, but it must be a time that people in your community are available. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are often most convenient for families, and fewer events tend to take place on weekends. However, your fire department's public educator or coordinator should check the community calendar to make sure there are minimal conflicts.
Ensure adequate staffing and equipment
Emergencies can happen at any time, including during an open house. If your event is being held at a fire station, make sure enough firefighters are available so that even if a crew must leave, there is still staff available to meet with visitors. If the open house includes fire equipment displays, arrange for backup in case an engine or ambulance is needed off-site.
Dress for success
This is your chance to showcase your fire station(s) to your community. Assign someone to dress in the official Sparky the Fire Dog® costume. Make sure the station is clean and inviting, with good signage and theme-related decorations to draw attention.
Have handouts ready
Have handouts available for all age groups. Distribute printed materials that reinforce your Open House's fire safety messages. Pass out fun items to kids and show an NFPA video which will get them excited about the Open House and encourage them to participate in the campaign.
Keep it brief
Generally, the public won't attend an event that requires hours of their time. Visitors should be able to learn at least one positive fire safety action that will help them learn safety messages in 30 minutes or less. Download our free reproducible home escape planning grid (PDF, 632 KB).
Nothing draws a crowd like good food. Arrange for a local restaurant or fast food outlet to sponsor and provide refreshments. Have firefighters cook up their favorite specialty or solicit donations of baked goods from local chefs. Ask local distributors or bottling companies to donate cold soda.
Make it fun
Open houses should be fun! Hold activities that allow visitors to meet firefighters, move around the fire station, and learn about fire safety in the process. Human interaction creates a personal experience for people, and is key to an open house's success. Create hands-on learning opportunities to build participants' safety skills.
Get participation from the top
People like to know who their fire chief is, so make sure your bosses are available to meet with visitors. The presence of high-ranking fire and other community officials also will reinforce strong support of your open house.
Promote, promote, promote
No matter how great your open house plans are, it won't be a success if no one knows about it. Publicize your open house at each and every opportunity, and as far in advance as possible. Use the Fire Prevention Week "fill-in-the-blank" news release to promote your open house to local media outlets. You can also publicize your open house by developing and passing out flyers to local businesses and schools; sending letters to civic and religious groups that can announce the open house, printing information in the school calendars sent home to parents, etc. These are just a few suggestions - be creative, and use your resources to your full advantage.