With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forcing most people to adjust their routines, it comes as no surprise that this year’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW) will also look a bit different in many communities.
That doesn’t mean the campaign will have any less impact. If anything, the unique situation we are in has forced all of us to get creative and adopt a few innovative approaches that, I believe, will boost awareness and participation in FPW activities both this year and into the future.
As Fire Prevention Week officially kicks off today, we all need to maximize the opportunity to promote this year’s theme, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!”. Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in the US and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths. With most people forced to stay home, the number of us cooking at home has also increased, and fire departments across the country are anecdotally reporting an uptick in kitchen fire incidents. All this makes the campaign’s messages even more relevant and timely.
While the realities of COVID-19 made it apparent that most of our tried-and-true approaches to communicating FPW and its messaging—things like open houses at fire stations and school events—won’t occur, the importance of doing things differently to effectively reach the public with cooking safety messages is critical.
The fire and life safety community has been working diligently to rise to the occasion. One idea I heard about that I love is the drive-by fire-safety open house. Instead of inviting parents and kids into the fire station to see the trucks and get FPW material, why not bring the truck and material to them? Early in the pandemic, many fire departments took part in birthday parades and other celebrations in their communities; the drive-by event takes the idea a step further by handing out information along the route. Webinar participants suggested that departments could use community data to target the truck events at neighborhoods with higher numbers of fires.
Another great idea is to develop and use a range of new community partnerships that could help spread the FPW message. For instance, local restaurants and food-delivery services could bring information directly into homes by including it on pizza boxes, putting it in grocery bags, or finding other ways to deliver handouts. Local theaters and event venues could include key messages on marquees to add to community visibility while providing an awesome backdrop for selfies worthy of social media sharing.
In addition to these methods, NFPA has developed digital assets to support this year’s FPW, including a full suite of sharable social media cards, as well as ramped-up, curriculum-based learning activities to teach and entertain young children, whether they are in a classroom or at home. We have also seen safety departments take the lead in creating their own digital assets and online contests to promote our theme of safe cooking behavior. They have also encouraged their staffs, family members, and communities to post their own photos, videos, and even TikTok dance moves that amplify our safety messages. In the week ahead (and beyond!), we encourage you to do the same when and where possible.
While FPW may be a little unconventional this year, the importance of our collective effort is the key to making our communities safer.