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Coffee break Bulletin

Reaching target populations with fire and life safety messages

Posted: Oct. 31, 2017

Have you ever been asked to create a fire and life safety program for a group of people who you know very little about? Designing intervention strategies without knowledge of your target population — the group of people you’re trying to reach with important safety messages — is not the best course of action. If you want your program to succeed, it’s critical that you get feedback from target populations when creating the program to better understand their needs.

There are several ways to reach a target population.

Let’s say that in Anytown, USA, through a risk assessment, it’s determined a large share of fires and related losses involve gas wall heaters in homes built before 1980. You know that older adults live in these homes and often do not have working smoke alarms. You also know that home health-care workers frequently visit older adults in their homes.

In the Anytown, USA example, you have an opportunity to target two groups with fire and life safety messages.

Target populationMessages
Older adults

Keep things that can catch fire away from wall heaters.

Have working smoke alarms.

Home health-care workersWatch for gas wall heaters that pose a fire risk or are in need of service.

Understanding the needs and characteristics of your target populations by speaking with them will help you with the design and conduct of your fire safety education efforts. Consider the home health-care workers. By visiting with them, you will find out:

  • How often they visit older adults in their homes.
  • What they do while in the home.
  • Their ability to check the wall heaters.
  • Their willingness to share important fire safety information with older adults.

In turn, they may have some advice for you.

Successful fire safety education programs have target populations whose members:

  • Are aware of the fire problem.
  • Understand the fire problem and what contributes to it.
  • Believe that they, or their loved ones, are personally at risk.
  • Believe that the fire problem is unacceptable and serious.
  • Understand that a solution exists.
  • Believe they can reduce the fire problem.
  • Are involved with the planning process from the beginning.
  • Have an opportunity to provide input and suggestions.

Remember that the people who you ask about your programs will provide valuable information — what works, what does not. Listen to them! If you fail to consider their suggestions, it may result in creating a fire safety education program that your target group rejects.

Action step for reaching target populations

Apply for the National Fire Academy (NFA) on-campus course, Station-based Risk Reduction (R0673). This course will teach you how to develop an action plan with effective intervention strategies and activities targeting a specific risk.

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