The 2011 Jensen grant winner
NFPA Journal, July/August 2012
On a Friday afternoon last April, the College Station Fire Department in Texas responded to a blaze at Cripple Creek Condominiums, a housing complex that was home to several Texas A&M University students. High winds fed the rapidly moving fire, which took firefighters hours to get under control. Fourteen of the complex’s 16 units were badly damaged, with property damage in excess of $600,000. One person was cut by broken glass. Investigators traced the fire to discarded smoking materials.
The fire occurred just a month before the department was awarded the 2011 Rolf H. Jensen Memorial Public Education Grant, to support its Rental Housing Fire Reduction Education Program for the college community. Off-campus rentals provide housing to more than 40,000 students who attend Texas A&M University and Blinn College. The fire department teamed up with the Bryan-College Station Apartment Association, the Texas A&M Department of Student Life, and more than a dozen other project partners, including Cripple Creek Condominiums, to develop the program.
The $5,000 Jensen grant is presented each year by NFPA to a local fire department in the United States or Canada to support a community-wide fire and life safety education program or campaign. The College Station Fire Department used the grant to create fire safety education training for property managers, landlords, and building owners using NFPA website videos, DVDs, brochures, tip sheets, and talking points. Rental managers and off-campus leaders, such as sorority and fraternity house directors, took the training to students.
A public service announcement aired on local television. In the spot, a talking smoke alarm with a low battery encouraged renters to check him once a month and change his battery if needed. In addition, educational messages were posted on social networking sites. During “walks and talks” coordinated with the Texas A&M Department of Student Life, fire safety information was distributed in rental neighborhoods.
Cindy Giedraitis, public education officer for the College Station Fire Department, assembled giveaways for students that included fire department contact information and catchy fire safety messages. Emery boards and sticky-note pads read, “You check facebook. Do you check your smoke alarm?” Bandage dispensers stated, “We make house calls. Is your smoke alarm working?” Drink coasters with an illustration of a crossed-out lit cigarette read, “Just because you’re done smoking doesn’t mean it’s out.”
Through this multifaceted, cooperative campaign, the fire department’s PSA program has reached more than 2,500 students in person at student conferences, fire safety events, and fire drills, and more than 40,000 households. College Station Fire Department officials say they look forward to developing statistics indicating the long-term impact of the rental housing PSA program.
The application deadline for the next Jensen grant is February 8, 2013. For more information, visit nfpa.org/Jensen. To get a Campus Safety Tip Sheet (PDF, 1 MB) that covers both on- and off-campus housing, visit nfpa.org/education and click on “safety tip sheets.”
Lisa Braxton is project manager for NFPA's Public Education Divison.