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Coffee Break Bulletin

Using Multimedia to Inform and Inspire People to Embrace Fire Safety

Posted: Nov. 4, 2021

Information on multimedia presentations and how you can create them for your organization.

To help your community better understand the risk factors that contribute to fires in your area, consider using multimedia in your online presentations to engage residents and encourage their participation.

Tell a fire safety story that encourages participation

Multimedia tools can bring to life stories about fire safety improvements and your organization's successes in responding to fires and supporting fire safety initiatives, such as using adopted codes to require residential fire sprinklers, sponsoring a wildfire safety project to remove debris around homes, or offering to install home smoke alarms for residents in need. Use these stories to emphasize the importance of everyone's role — individually or as a group — to help your community become more fire adapted and to improve responder safety.

As you read this article, you'll find information on multimedia presentations and how you can create them for your organization.

Multimedia stories can help improve communication, partnerships and overall community fire safety

Learning new ways to tell your stories about past, present and future fire prevention and response via multimedia presentations can inspire others to support your efforts. With engaging presentations, you can help your constituents better visualize risks and actions to prioritize and implement successful projects and build more resilient communities.

These presentations can also help partners understand how the work they are doing can complement or better integrate into the work completed by other residents, non-profits and agency partners.

What is a multimedia presentation?

Multimedia is a combined use of several media such as video, text, music, photos, audio, etc. This diversity adds a level of interest and interaction, making informational and educational material more attractive, involving and entertaining.

A good example of using text, video, audio and photographs is the U.S. Fire Administration's (USFA's) Surviving a Wildfire: A Tale of Two Communities. It tells the stories of a community in the West and one from the East that survived wildfire loss because residents worked collaboratively with their fire departments and agency partners on wildfire safety project activities.

ad for the Surviving Wildfire success story

Community success story

Surviving Wildfire: A Tale of Two Communities

Learn how fire-adapted work helped communities in Colorado and Virginia survive wildfires with no deaths, no injuries and no structure loss in this short, easy-to-share digital presentation.

Building a multimedia presentation

The first step in building your multimedia presentation is to decide:

Why do you want a presentation?

Tell a success story? Prioritize risk reduction efforts? Generate support for a community initiative?

The second step is to identify:

Who is the audience for your presentation?

Homeowners? Caregivers? Community groups or leaders? Firefighters?

The third step is to determine:

What do you want your audience to do after seeing the presentation?

Clear debris from around their homes? Install smoke alarms? Start an arson prevention program? Complete a risk assessment of structures and landscape around the community?

The next step

Now that you know “why,” “who” and “what,” the next step is to make an outline of the presentation. The outline covers the general steps to organize and present your information in a logical way that moves your audience from the introduction to suggested actions.

A simple template to use as the foundation of your outline is AIMA (Attention, Interest, Me, Action). Here's how it works:

  1. Attention: Make your audience aware of what you've created. In the example above from the USFA, the title page does a good job of this: “Surviving Wildfire” catches their attention and “A Tale of Two Communities” lets them know that that they are going to get information based on real experience. Their reaction is: “I live in a community where wildfire is a possibility. If there is a wildfire, I would like to survive it. You’ve got my attention.”
  2. Interest: Pique their curiosity about why they should engage with the information. Using the USFA example again, the next page states: “Two communities on different sides of the United States were threatened by wildfire events.” The word “threatened” makes them curious and now they want to see what happened. What was the extent of damage? Did both communities escape unscathed? Did only one? Did either?
  3. Me: You have their attention and they are curious. Now your audience wants to know what happened. As they take in the story, they will look for points they can identify with and ask themselves “What does this mean to me?” In the USFA example, the story includes photographs of people who are easy to identify with doing simple, understandable tasks and benefiting from the process. The benefits — no deaths, no injuries and no structure loss — are benefits that they want for themselves, too.
  4. Action: Now it's your opportunity to tell your audience what you want them to do. This is done in the USFA example with a simple line that includes a gentle sense of urgency: “If you live in an area prone to wildfires, now is the time to begin discussing how to create a fire-adapted community.” This is followed by some information on creating a fire-adapted community and a call for specific action: “For more information on wildfire safety, visit usfa.fema.gov.”

Content

Prepared with a basic plan, you need content to execute that plan. Collect information to tell your unique story, such as impactful statistics (consider using charts and graphs), videos, images, sound recordings and mapping information.

For inspiration, here are some other examples of multimedia presentations:

helicopter flying over a wildfire

40th CAB Rescues Nearly 400 Stranded by Creek Fire

First responders work hand-in-hand with the California National Guard.

illustration of people on building blocks

A Blueprint for the Future

Explains how the European Union's budget works for the people of Europe. (Could you tell a similar story about how your department's budget makes your community safer from fire and all hazards?)

snowflakes

Braving the Cold: Winter Driving Tips

A quick refresher on winter driving. (Could you use multimedia to inform your community about fire safety tips or other community risk reduction activities?)

wildland firefighter

Fighting for Firefighter Safety

A story about research to improve wildland firefighter safety.

Notre Dame fire illustration

An Icon in Flames

An interactive look at the Notre Dame Cathedral fire: what was lost and what was rescued.

forest fire

Precipitation and Wildfires

A data-driven story using maps and charts effectively.

Content tips

  • Story length. After considering your audience, ask yourself this question: “How much content do I really need to tell the story?” Some stories can be told in 200 words, others in 2,000. Some may require a single image while others need 10. Be strict with what makes the final cut.
  • Accessibility. Make sure your story is accessible to people with disabilities, particularly people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Mobile-friendly. Test your story on phones and tablets.
  • Optimize your media for the web. Compress your images and videos so that they load quickly on mobile devices.

Do you need help?

With all the pieces in place, you are now ready for a detailed outline which includes organizing the selected content into each step of AIMA. Once your text is organized into a script, consider creating a story board narrative with images.

At this point, based on your experience, you may need help putting all the pieces into the final form. If so, connect with a professional or explore free and subscription-based digital story tools and platforms to create your own. If budget is an issue, consider a volunteer, such as a college intern or a teen working on a community service project.

The final steps

Once your first draft is completed, present it to a test audience for their feedback. After updating your multimedia presentation with input from your test audience, your story is ready for your website and to share on social media.

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