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Kamloops Fire Rescue needs your Facebook love

They’re so close.

So close.

Kamloops Fire Rescue needs — at the time I hit Publish — just 33 Likes to hit 1,315 Likes on its Facebook page by New Year’s Eve.

What’s the big deal?

KFR is in a race to get 1,000 new Likes, meeting a challenge by the Kamloops McDonald’s franchises. In exchange, McDonald’s will hand over $1 for every new Like up to $1,000. It all goes toward KFR’s new inflatable safety house.

The story goes back a few years, says KFR’s fire safety educator, Capt. Shel Guertin. (Sidebar: his email says Sheldon but he called himself Shel in our Facebook message exchange, so that’s what I’m going with.)

KFR had this clunky old trailer they carted around from school to school, teaching the local kids about fire safety. But you know, Kamloops is all hilly and twisty and turny and stuff. The bloody thing became a right old pain in the ass to get places. KFR pulled it off the road in 2003.

“When I became Fire Safety Educator in 2009, I was asked to do something about it,” Shel says. “What could I do? I thought about putting the trailer on a permanent mount but then who would pay for the kids’ bus rides to the trailer? And what school is going to let them be out of class for four hours, including bus rides and the two hours of learning?

“We had to take the education to them.”

What else was there to do? Enter the internet.

Shel did a search and came up with an inflatable fire safety house. I don’t know if this the right one but it sounds an awful lot like the one Shel described:

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Cool, huh?

Shel says he went for the Binford model (insert Tim Allen grunt here) that’s about 7,000 square feet and has a second floor with a slide. Throughout the house are fire safety messages about candle safety, cooking safety and more. The kids get to the top floor and slide out. If they want to go back in and learn more, they have to tell Shel one thing they learned while they were inside.

“It’s fun, it’s safe and it’s interactive,” he says. “It’s a great place for the kids to learn how to stop, drop and roll, or how to crawl under the smoke. It’s one thing to have a truck and talk to kids about fire safety, but who wants to stand around and listen to me the whole time.”

Now he just had to figure out how to come up with the $33,000 to get it — that includes the dolly, a generator, some tables and some other stuff.

It’s Kamloops. People are naturally generous. Interior Savings Centre came up with $10,000. Other organizations dropped off amounts of $5,000 and $2,000. Along with the impending McDonald’s donation, KFR has enough money pledged and they’ve ordered the house. It will be here the first week of January.

The idea for the Facebook challenge came from Aleece Laird of Fresh Ink Marketing. She’s done work with Shel before and she proposed the  idea.

Shel had already recognized the power of social media — we’ll get to that in a minute — but, boy, is he having fun with it now.

Especially as he watches the Facebook Likes climb towards the 1,315 milestone for the full McDonald’s donation.

“You know, I took all these courses about social media and the two big rules I learned was ‘never self-promote’ and ‘never hijack other brand pages,” Shel says. “I break both those rules all the time.”

Whaaaaaat? Breaking rules? Perish the thought, I says!

Negative. Rules are made to be broken. In fact, I’ve long believed there are few — if any — rules to using social media.

Shel agrees.

“I’m all about shameless promotion and I’ve gone on the Blazers page, TRU and others asking for support,” he says. “Our Likes go up every time.”

Oh, the power

Yep, we owe Tim Taylor a prop here.

Shel didn’t just go for the Binford model of the fire safety house. He knows there’s power (if I knew how to type out a Tim-esque grunt here, I would) in online networking.

He uses Facebook and Twitter to talk about fire safety.

“Facebook is a great way to reach people and promote our safety programs,” he says. “We get people thinking about fire safety.”

And more power?

The numbers.

“Oh, I love tracking the stats … male vs. female, age groups … the insight is incredible,” Shel says. “It tells me what posts people like and any negative feedback seems to come from our popularity and showing up on everyone’s walls as a Like or a comment.”

His audience skews heavily female (63%) and young adult (25 to 34). Since his programs typically reach young kids and senior citizens, Facebook is letting him hit one of the ‘holes in the middle,’ he calls the demographic.

The analytics also let him prove the value to a once-reluctant management level. (Don’t worry, Shel. We’ve all been there.)

And then there’s Twitter. The KFR account, @KamFire, 756 followers.

Shel uses it to post quick, newsy messages. He likes that the media can follow him, so he’s not constantly answering phone calls when there’s a fire. The reporters can just check his feed — he even posts pictures and videos — and give him a shout when it’s out.

And, since he’s right on the scene, we’re guaranteed to get the most accurate news.

“It allows me to correct a lot of misinformation that gets out there,” he says. “Some people Tweet from the (police) scanner, so they don’t really know what’s going on. That happened a lot for the Glenview fire.

“But I’m on the scene. You can get a picture of what’s really happening from me.”

More, please

The more Shel uses social media, the more he wants to use it.

It would be hard for me to disagree with him. Facebook and Twitter are addictive tools and, when you’re doing it for professional reasons, you get so driven by the numbers and the engagement, always wanting more.

“The more I use it, the more I wonder what I can do with it,” he says. “It’s great that if I’m at home at night watching Duck Dynasty, my phone will buzz and I know that someone is asking a question that needs answering … like your Facebook message for this interview.

“It’s just a fun way to do my job.”

Now, since Shel only needs 33 more Likes to get to the goal, I’m wondering what you’re still doing here. Go click a button, eh? Let’s get them there. Today.

And … if you’re in the Kamloops and B.C. Interior area and want to promote your social media campaign, hit me up with an email.