Community fire safety advocates often hear people say: 'It will never happen to me" This can be frustrating and discouraging, but there are proven methods to reach people and impact their perception of fire risk.
A UK study, "Understanding People's Attitudes About Fire Risk" sought the attitudes of groups vulnerable to fire risk and the impact that community safety advocates can have on these attitudes. The key lies in getting the message out there and repeat it with sufficient frequency to maintain awareness to the problem.
According to the research, "the perception of fire risk is influenced by the extent to which fire is cited in the media." A high level of media coverage may influence the perception of risk for people who have not experienced a fire.
Media coverage of real events may make it easier for people to imaginge what can happen and increases their perceived likelihood that it will happen to them. News of fatal fires increase emotional responses resulting in increased perception that it does impose a risk of death.
Tto educate the community and impact the perception of fire risk:
• Real life stories need to be publicized
• Media coverage aimed at raising awareness of risk needs to be repeated often
• Messages need to empower people to take action
If we are to influence the community to understand the need for residential fire sprinklers we need to increase media actitvities that elevate the perception of fire risk and the ability of fire sprinklers to save lives, protect property and reduce the cost of injuries. We need to continously publicize home fires that ocurr in the community throughout the year. Stories of sucessful sprinkler activations contributing to the saving of lives and property need to be featured. The lack of a fire sprinklers system that could have made a difference needs to be included in media releases.
According to the research, fire safety advocates also need to identify key partners to work with in different sections of the community. These partners can assist in creating awareness and influencing policy makers to the need of residential fire sprinkler systems.
So it remains with us safety advocates to make sure that the perception of risk is understood by people so that they will demand fire sprinkler systems in their homes.