True public education is something that requires an understanding of the difference between awareness, information, and education.
Providing public fire and life safety education is not simply a matter of showing up with an assortment of toys and leaflets and calling it "education." True public education is something that requires an understanding of the difference between awareness, information, and education. Once these areas of knowledge are attained, public education now becomes much more like a construction project. When building a sturdy house, it takes time and careful consideration to make it last a lifetime.
Location, Location, Location...
We hear this all the time in regard to real estate, whether we are talking about building or buying an existing home. In regard to public fire and life safety education, this is just as important. Being prepared for any opportunity is a must. Some events may provide an opportunity for basic awareness, maybe to distribute some information, and other events give us the chance for real education. What's the difference you ask? Let's put the hammer to the nail:
Awareness: Becoming aware or more cognizant of the problem or situation. (For example: a bumper sticker that says "Fire destroys lives and property.")
Information: Provides information that may or may not expect a behavior change, but gives a call to action. (For example: a billboard that says "Learn not to Burn ... call 1-800-444-LNTB.)
Education: Expects a behavioral/attitude change that is measurable. (For example: a pre-test score of 72 percent and a post-test score of 94 percent denotes a 22 percent knowledge gain.)
Now that we have that straight, we can proceed with deciding what type of opportunity we have. This will help us determine what tools we need for the job. Is this the right environment for a safe escape trailer? The fire sprinkler trailer? How about a fire extinguisher demonstration unit? What about a mock bedroom or a dry erase board with an escape drill floor plan? Maybe it will only be a brochure hand out? You get the idea. But as with a house, we need that solid foundation of understanding before we begin construction.
We now know what we have to work with as far as the environment, but what about the safety message? Is there a specific problem that we must address? Have there been a rash of careless smoking fires? Maybe it's been candle fires recently.
It really doesn't matter what the problem is, what matters is that our response addresses the issue and the knowledge we give is clear, correct, and consistent. This, as with the cornerstones of a building, will lend integrity and strength to the project. A little research goes a long way to keep us from getting caught in the rut and spinning our wheels.
Is Pre-Fab Better Than Stick-Built?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What will determine this for you may be budget; it may be that the problem you are trying to solve is very localized or unique, or it may be a time issue. There are many fabulous pre-packaged brochures and curricula out there, and if they fit your needs then you should find the resources to purchase them.
If you can research and take a little information from many places to create your own message to better reach the public, then that's the way to go. This is your call, but remember, measure twice, cut once.
Any time we are attempting to reach the public, we must draw them to us. If we have built a beautiful house, but hide it behind an atrocious landscape, it just won't bring in the customer. It's the same with our fire safety outreach.
An approachable smile is a great start, but have you tried a Sparky costume to attract the little people? How about temporary Smoky Bear tattoos? These will both give you that "c'mon and see us" necessary to share a minute or two with the passerby.