Community Risk Reduction (CRR) Week is a grass-roots effort led by an informal group of fire safety professionals from across the nation to help promote the awareness of CRR within the fire service. This week, we will feature some of the fire and life safety professionals within the State of Maryland that are making CRR a priority in the communities they serve. First on our list is Michael Furman, also known as Flash Max, who has highlighted the heroic nature of fire safety by creating a compelling superhero for boys and girls to look up to.
1.How did your career get started in the fire service?
I joined LaPlata VFD in 1986 at age 16 as a junior member, (33-year life member now). Then I enlisted into the USAF out of high school in 1988 at age 18, assigned to Nellis AFB Fire Department in Las Vegas, Nevada as a Firefighter/Rescue Specialist. I later became a firefighter at the Naval District of Washington Fire Department until 2000 before serving the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department from 2000 to Present, where I am now a Master Technician (driver/operator assigned to Tower Ladder 424, Woodlawn Fire Station).
2. Where and when was your first introduction to CRR education?
I started CRR efforts by participating in the fire prevention committee at LaPlata VFD from 1987 to present, excluding the four years while I was enlisted in the USAF.
3. What event or experience in your life encouraged you down the CRR career path?
I was terrified of fire and being burned as a small child. I would seek comfort at night time in the superhero posters in my room and firefighters and the fire department always intrigued me. You have to "fight what you fear."
4. What do you feel is one of the most important CRR messages and/or goals you would like to see progress in?
In my opinion, the CRR messages that are the most important are: Practicing home fire escape plans together as a family; familiarize small children with smoke alarms, and emphasizing "Do not hide, go outside, get out and stay out."
5. What are some challenges those working in CRR face, particularly ones specific to the audience you are trying to reach?
Our main challenges are complacency and ignorance of the facts on the part of adult family members who children learn fire and life safety from.
6. How have you developed your own unique messaging when it comes to community outreach?
I developed the Flash Max fire safety superhero character, book, and program due to a perceived need for a boost to the nation's fire prevention and life safety outreach platform. I created the entire program from first putting pen to paper in 2014 to writing and illustrating two books thus far. I also do live character performances to enhance the messaging.
7. How do people working in CRR fields handle conflicting messages from multiple sources to the public?
I handle conflicting information by continuous counter-messaging, saturating media outlets with accurate information, including online and print via news releases. I also use the unique, attention-grabbing platform of Flash Max to attract attention to new information as it is released. A perfect example of this is smoke alarms and the continuously evolving technology and enormous amount of information, and MISinformation, surrounding them.
8. What does the future of community outreach look like?
Our message hasn't changed much, but as science and research evolves and new information comes out,
it must be relayed in a palatable way to citizens. We save more lives by outreach and prevention than by rescue, so this is paramount. I believe Flash Max is a solid answer and platform of engagement with our messaging to the public.
To learn more about Flash Max visit flashmax911.com.