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Have It Your Way: The New Vision 20/20 Materials Generator

Finally! After three years of research and testing, Vision 20/20 will soon release the new Fire Safety Materials Generator with funding from AFG. The Materials Generator will allow fire departments to design their own public-education materials based on the latest social-marketing research and customize them to reflect the demographics and fire risks of their communities.

This exciting online tool makes it easy to brand the materials with your own logo and contact information and to select from among several options the message formats you think will work best:  a flyer, a door hanger or a family activity. You can also choose from several options to reach the audiences you want with the messages you think are most important, using text and images that have been proven through testing to have the greatest impact on audiences, especially those at high fire risk.

I won’t bore you with the step-by-step history of how the Materials Generator came to be, but I assure you, every design decision is based on consumer research and testing by Salter>Mitchell, a national leader in behavior-change marketing and communication, and with input from leading fire organizations and many practitioners on the ground. We’ve been working on this since 2012, and it’s finally ready for prime time.

The messages you’ll find in the Materials Generator focus on smoke alarms for now, but we’ll be adding new content on cooking safety in the near future. This reflects the priorities established for Vision 20/20 at a strategic planning symposium back in 2008. The need to increase the number of working smoke alarms across America is huge. NFPA estimates that almost five million households don’t have any smoke alarms, and many more don’t have enough of them.

Extrapolating from Vision 20/20 field data, TriData estimates a need for between 100 and 150 million smoke alarms, excluding multifamily occupancies, to bring homes closer to current code (NFPA 72) requirements. That number is based on informal risk assessments and is most likely underestimated.

Key Consumer Research Findings

Salter>Mitchell research focused on identifying the key motivators in testing and maintaining smoke alarms. We found that emotion, especially love for your family and home, is a strong motivator in changing attitudes and behaviors regarding smoke alarms.

Because the fire service represents our strongest delivery system to market safety to the public, Vision 20/20 also surveyed our constituents to determine their needs and preferences for public-education tools. Two themes emerged as top choices from testing both consumers and members of the fire service:

  • Where There is Love, There are Smoke Alarms
  • Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With

Our key messaging centers around tying the behavior of testing and maintaining working smoke alarms to the emotional benefit of knowing that your family is protected and loved. The language used to convey basic safety information on smoke alarms is very short, simple and literacy-friendly.

Users can pick and choose up to three messages to communicate (the goal is to educate, not overwhelm the audience with too much information) and can choose images of diverse individuals with their loved ones to underscore the concept that working smoke alarms equals caring for those you love.

If desired, the Materials Generator also allows users to upload images from their own communities to further customize the tools.

Changing public attitudes and behaviors about working smoke alarms is a tough, tough challenge. People understand the value of alarms, but most see little likelihood they will ever be needed. That attitude is compounded by new evidence that nuisance alarms are a significant factor for people disabling smoke alarms, contributing to more unnecessary fire deaths.

We believe the new Materials Generator will make it easier for fire departments to reach their diverse communities with well-researched materials and methods. Vision 20/20 will launch the Materials Generator with a how-to webinar in partnership with IAFC in September, available on the Vision 20/20’s website.

And thanks to a FY 2014 Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, Vision 20/20 will host another national symposium to promote best practices in prevention in 2016. The symposium will include a train- the-trainer component to prepare state fire-safety advocates and practitioners with research-based and peer-reviewed community risk reduction and education/marketing tools, including the new Materials Generator.

By expanding the availability of customized outreach tools designed to educate the public—especially high risk audiences—about the value of and need for working smoke alarms, Vision 20/20 hopes to help create a national in-kind marketing strategy that reaches millions of people. To do so, we must rally hundreds of fire departments, making it easy and affordable to deliver their messages locally.

Such an effort will take years execute, but it must begin somewhere and there is no time like the present to start.

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