On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Lt. Debra Thorson of the Denver Fire Department was honored by the City and County of Denver with a 5281 STARS Safety Award.

Lt. Debra Thorson, Denver Fire Department’s only full-time public educator, truly exemplifies the 5281 STARS Safety Award description of a city employee who, “creates and maintains a safe work environment by taking action which prevents injury or harm to self, others, equipment and/or property to protect our residents and employees.” A few examples of Lt. Thorson’s work are highlighted below:

ThorsonExtinguisherTraining1. In recent years, the Denver Fire Department did not provide fire extinguisher training classes for because buying and recharging fire extinguishers was costly and required outdoor space to demonstrate. Lt. Thorson found a solution: A BullEx laser-driven extinguisher training system. It simulates dry chemical or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers to allow people to learn in any indoor location. The BullEx training system is a cost-effective way to train more people in less time using modern, video-game-like technology and engaging hands-on activity. Lt. Thorson now takes the BullEx training system to the Mayor’s Cabinet in the Community and other public events to train residents of all ages on the fire extinguisher technique of “PASS: pull, aim, squeeze, sweep.”

ThorsonProductionBoard2. Looking for advice on time management, Lt. Thorson completed Denver Peak Academy Black Belt training in March 2016 as a member of Cohort 47 – Harvard Peak. A quick look at her office wall demonstrates how she embraced the tools she learned: An impact/effort matrix helps her decide which project ideas to pursue. A production board shows her progress on tasks to do, tasks in process, and tasks completed. A list of questions helps her and her fellow officers determine if a business whose fire protection systems (such as sprinklers or alarms) are out of service will require a firefighter or other person to monitor the space on “fire watch.” These questions support a consistent method of evaluation. Lt. Thorson models thoughtful, strategic decision making with an eye on safety for the public, firefighters, and property.

3. Lt. Thorson is a lifelong learner. She applied and was accepted to the very competitive FBI Citizens Academy, “an engaging six-to-eight-week program that gives business, religious, civic, and community leaders an inside look at the FBI.” Deb attended these classes in the evenings on her own time at the FBI Denver field office and created relationships with other leaders in our community.

4. Lt. Thorson thinks big and understands the possibilities of partnerships in public safety. She is currently working with the nonprofit Colorado Emergency Preparedness Project to create a Facility Safety Administrator training and certification program. There are nearly 14,000 buildings eligible for this program, but there is no way for Lt. Thorson to personally train each building manager on emergency preparedness and evacuation procedures. She and her teammates are creating a comprehensive training program to provide building managers with the training and tools they need to protect themselves and building occupants in the event of an emergency.

5. Our residents and business leaders can also testify to Lt. Thorson’s commitment. Denver Fire Department routinely receives notes complimenting Lt. Thorson and her work.


For these reasons, and many more, Lt. Debra Thorson is a STAR in promoting safety for our residents and employees in Denver. She deserves the honor of a 5281 Award for consistently going a step above a mile high.

Congratulations Lt. Thorson!

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