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Monday, April 14, 2014

Turning Misfortune Into a Fire Safety/Injury Prevention Message - Celebrities Included

BY: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us
Twitter @PGFDPIO

The fire service utilizes many training methods and visual demonstrations during community outreach events while providing public education for fire prevention and injury safety.  At times we use the negative event as a teachable moment that helps to drive the fire service message home, literally, home.

One of our most often used instructional methods is to demonstrate how "not" to do something in the hopes of using a negative and turn it into a positive teaching moment. A moment "burned" into the memory of the public to help them avoid avoid that particular tragedy from ever occurring to them.  A popular landmark burns to the ground, a family is displaced after a home fire or perhaps a fire involving a fatality are all opportunities for teachable moments for Life Safety Educators and Public Information Officers (PIO).

When tragedy strikes a community it provides firefighters an opportunity to help educate.  Consider a  door-to-door campaign within that community including checking smoke alarms, performing safety checks, distributing literature and interactions with citizens are all acts that are appreciated and safety message remembered.  A visit to schools within a grief stricken community to talk about fire safety, smoke alarms and developing a exit drill in the home with 2 ways out of every room in your house is better received by the students who in turn will bring the fire safety message home and discuss with parents and siblings.  Of course, all of these community outreach events are an excellent opportunity for the Departments PIO to invite media to join firefighters on these visits and increase the exposure of the fire safety message.

During planned community outreach and life safety events that don't involve a recent tragedy it's safer to demonstrate the "negatives" by capturing the event on video or using existing video.  A video makes the teachable moment available to play over again and again.  A video can be used by the PIO to post on the Departments website and social media sites expanding the number of people that may be positively impacted with your public safety message.

One of most commonly used live demonstrations and videos is the comparison demonstration between a well-maintained Christmas tree and one that is not properly maintained.  A fire starts out small and within seconds the dried out tree "explodes" with fire.  Watch this powerful public awareness video here.

When tragedy and misfortune strikes a celebrity it provides another opportunity to expand the potential reach up to millions of people with a fire safety message.  Remember, we are turning a negative into a positive.  This is a great moment for a PIO to send a fire safety and injury prevention message especially when no one is seriously injured (must remain respectful) and when the celebrity makes a public disclosure of their own "incident."  Celebrities, by their very nature of being well-known and admired by millions of people, help the fire service with public education messages by them sharing an unfortunate experience.  A vast audience of fans across the world will listen to their story of misfortunes and tragedy and the fire service has the ability to capture the moment with a beneficial message.  It's would be a shame and a missed opportunity if PIO's and Life Safety Educators did not take full advantage of a celebrity misfortune and public disclosure to send a message of fire safety and injury prevention.

For example, Sharon Osbourne shared her story of a candle fire at their Beverly Hills Home.  Carrie Underwood showed it's OK to have a working smoke alarm after she set hers off accidentally.   Remember William Shatners misfortune with a turkey fryer?  He shared his story by producing videos demonstrating what went wrong and spoke of the dangers of a deep fryer.

Country star Trace Adkins Tennessee home was significantly damaged by fire.  His kids got out and
met outside just like they had practiced after Brentwood Tennessee Firefighters had taught them during a school visit.  Trace and his wife both publicly thanked firefighters for their education efforts and for their work in extinguishing the fire at their home.  If the fire service did not take this occurrence and turn it into a positive story about public education and escape planning than it was a missed opportunity.

The most recent video that demonstrates what is an increasing number of home fires caused by candles comes in the form of a music video by Blake Shelton.  Blake's most recent hit song, "Doin' What She Likes," contains the lyrics of;

"Lightin' watermelon candles upstairs, Lettin' them burn and holdin' her all night,
 I like doin' what she likes."

Letting candles burn all night???  Shocking words for any firefighter as we all know that candles should never be left unattended and extinguished if you leave the room and before you go to bed.  I was alarmed by the lyrics until I saw the music video for "Doin' What She Likes."  This music video should be used by firefighters, Life Safety Educators and PIO's to help in our campaign to prevent fires caused by unattended candles.  Well done Mr. Shelton, well done.  You have provided fire services across the country another teachable moment through your video.  Please watch and listen;

By the Numbers from the United States Fire Administration: 

Candle Fires

estimated number of home candle fires each year
estimated number of home candle fire deaths each year
estimated number of home candle fire injuries each year
of home candle fires start because the candle is too close to combustible materials
of candle fires begin when candles are unattended or abandoned
of home candle fires begin in the bedroom, more than in any other room
of candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6 am
Celebrities and professional athletes have a tremendous opportunity to save lives by their mere mention or tweet of a safety message.  For example, "Smoke Alarms Save Lives - test yours today to ensure it is working."