Coffee break Bulletin

The importance of pilot testing your community risk reduction program

Posted: Oct. 10, 2017

This Coffee Break Bulletin explains how pilot testing community risk reduction programs aids in program start-up success and sustainability.

Photo by Cpl. Neysa Huertas Quinones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pilot testing is a great way to ensure the success of your community risk reduction (CRR) program. A pilot test serves as a trial run for your program and lets you know if you are ready for a full-scale roll-out. It’s also a good way to begin building community awareness and strengthening key partnerships, which are important for program start-up success and sustainability.

How does pilot testing help?

Specifically, pilot testing helps you to:

  • Determine if any changes to your implementation plan or program are necessary.
  • Discover unforeseen challenges that might come up during the program’s launch, such as issues with settings, logistics and staff training.
  • Gain an understanding of your target population’s reaction to the program. It is best to select a pilot group that is similar to your program’s target population to confirm the program is a good fit.
  • Make better decisions about how to allocate time and resources. You might learn that you need to allow more time for completing certain activities than originally anticipated.

Don’t forget to measure!

Once your program is launched, you need to be prepared to measure its success. Measuring the results of your pilot test gives you the chance to practice. You will find out if changes to your evaluation plan are needed so that you can measure the desired impact and outcomes in the best way possible. Measuring your pilot test results also allows you to test your evaluation tools.

Tips for measuring pilot test results

  • Have a system in place to observe and capture information about how well the program is working. Get feedback, track activities, and record any changes to the program.
  • Stress the importance of data collection and evaluation during the test to staff. Make sure they are well-trained to ensure that the important tasks are completed.
  • Keep in mind that results from your pilot test are not the same as the results from a large-scale evaluation. However, they can provide you with early information about positive efforts that you can share with staff, funders, policymakers, and other interested community members.

Action step for pilot testing your CRR program

Learn more about the role pilot testing plays in building and sustaining successful CRR programs — and how to conduct one — by attending the National Fire Academy course, Leadership Strategies for Community Risk Reduction (R0200 or R0833 – Volunteer Incentive Program).

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