Depending on the number of employees or volunteers your agency has, you might believe that you are too busy to offer outreach programs — but if you don’t have enough people to meet your needs or if funding is so low that you worry about extra (possible) expenses, then maybe you do need to up your PR efforts and outreach is one of the most effective, positive PR programs you can engage in.
If you spend some time on “marketing” your organization you can see multiple benefits. Getting your name out there in front of your community can help you with fundraising, recruitment, local government support, grants, and even help increase your community’s well-being. We all know about sending press releases out to your local media and hopefully you make a practice of that with lots of positive news items; publicizing public outreach programs will go even further and bring your squad much needed recognition. Be sure to list upcoming events on your website and Facebook pages (you DO have these, don’t you?), as well as including them in your newspaper’s calendar section.
Some of the possible outreach programs you can offer your community include: CPR, First Aid and Babysitting training (the American Heart Association has said, “bystander CPR, appears to play a major role in the increase of survival to discharge rates in cardiac arrest.”); How to Survive an Emergency (escape plans, go-bags, survival tools); Preventing Falls for the Elderly; Blood Pressure screening; Car Seat Safety checks; How and When to Dial 911; Pet Resuscitation; and many more possibilities. Not all outreach programs need to be EMS related. Among the things other ambulance corps have done are: hosting a free Halloween Haunted House (with donation buckets); clothing drop-off for victims of house fires; Meet Santa (with donated toys from local merchants); Easter Bunny breakfast; and school/scout visits with the ambulance.
While you do need personnel to run your events you can also ask non-riding family members, your youth squad, or local Boy Scout/Girl Scout troops to help out, which would certainly reduce the burden on your busy personnel. Most programs could be supported with modest fees (such as covering the cost of the CPR book), neighborhood merchant donations, and donation buckets at the specific event. If you want to do something such as Pet Resuscitation, ask a local veterinarian (let him/her hand out business cards) to come in as a guest speaker. There are many resources (lists you can print out on your own copy machine) that can be found online; please make sure you have permission to print and distribute the literature (make sure you give credit to the original source).
Look at your communities and assess their immediate needs and demographics. If there are a lot of elderly, concentrate your efforts on senior citizen programming such as distributing “Vial of Life” packets, information on fall prevention, and resources such as local transportation to and from doctors’ offices. If your area has a lot of young families then children-oriented activities will certainly get you wonderful exposure. As stated above, list your coming events on your website and social media pages, as well as information on what your agency does, how you receive your funding, if you are looking for volunteers, and of course spotlight your best achievements and awards (agency or personnel). Make sure your neighbors know YOU.