- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin has begun a customer service initiative that uses firefighters to connect victims with information about city assistance and recovery programs.

“I think it’s just the next logical step forward in our services delivery model,” Chief Rubin said. “We want to handle the emergency quickly but also remember there are people behind it.”

The initiative is just one of a series of outreach efforts the new chief is hoping will connect the fire department with the residents it serves.

Two three-alarm fires on April 30 provided early examples of Chief Rubin’s plans.

The weekend after one fire destroyed much of the historic Eastern Market building in Southeast, Chief Rubin had an observation platform built in front of the building so the public could view the damage firsthand.

He said the gesture elicited positive feedback from the community.

“It put no people in danger and it didn’t cost anything,” Chief Rubin said. “We have always got to be looking for ways to add care at no additional cost to the taxpayer.”

After a fire at the Georgetown Public Library, Chief Rubin opened Engine 20 in Northwest for librarians to use for the children”s reading program.

This week, Chief Rubin called on Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini to talk about customer services with about 20 senior fire officers in the District.

Chief Brunacini, who has written several firefighting textbooks — including a book on how fire officials can employ customer service techniques — said customer service is inherent to firefighting and goes beyond responding to emergencies.

“If we can connect to the customer it helps us improve delivery of services,” Chief Brunacini said. “I think when it’s implemented effectively, it integrates better into the department.”

Currently the fire department offers several programs, including free home fire safety inspections, CPR training and an intervention program for juveniles who set fires.

D.C. Firefighter’s Association President Lt. Dan Dugan said the push to serve the community should give citizens a better idea of who their firefighters are and what they do.

“We’re pretty good at putting out fires, but we’ve never really let the people know what it is we do,” Lt. Dugan said. “Instead of just hearing a fire truck going by, they’re going to be able to put a face on it.”