What we all can learn from Ferris Bueller

Blog Post created by freddurso Employee on Jul 13, 2016


Settling into my cramped seat at Boston's Fenway Park last week--beer in one hand, popcorn in the other--I watched one of my idols grace the Jumbotron. He was not donning a Red Sox uniform, but rather a neatly wrapped bath towel around his head.

A one-day-only showing of Ferris Bueller's Day Off at Fenway was the perfect ender to a summer night. (My haiku summation of this 1986 classic, for those who sadly haven't seen it: Teen boy takes "sick" day/opts for fun outings with friends/gives key life lesson.) More importantly, the movie was a reminder of the joys of rule-breaking.


Now I'm not condoning illegal behavior or playing hooky from work. (You're welcome, HR.) What I am trying to highlight is Ferris' think-outside-the-box mentality. In Ferris' world, a good day is a terrible thing to waste. On his day off, he trekked into Chicago, rode a sports car, caught a foul ball at a Cubs game, chowed down on a swanky dinner, and participated in a danceathon to the Beatles' "Twist and Shout" during a parade. ("Shake it up baby, now!") If he played by the rules, none of this would have been possible.


How does this relate to us in the fire safety world? We can continue to do the same thing day in and day out, or we can alter our habits. We can start to think differently. Live differently. Work differently. Act differently. Advocate for safety differently.


An example: I recently attended Canada's first summit on home fire sprinklers. This country mimics the U.S. when it comes  to setbacks requiring sprinklers in new homes, but one of their biggest hurdles is battling opponents in the homebuilding industry. Rather than bring together all fire service supporters for sprinklers for this summit, our Canadian friends (with NFPA's support) did something different. They invited Ontario's homebuilders to the table and gave them a day's worth of education. All of the myths they had heard on fire sprinklers were countered by facts. They participated in healthy dialogue on the topic. One builder even said, "I will walk away from [this summit] with more information than I have ever gotten [on fire sprinklers] at this point."


How powerful is this type of education? I've interviewed two American builders this year (here's one of them) who told me all it took for them to change their opinion on fire sprinklers was a healthy conversation with a safety advocate on the facts.


Fire sprinklers might not be your forte, but is there a way to somehow find or embrace your inner Ferris? How can you promote fire safety in a way that's not the same ol' same ol'? How can you reach your audience with messages that are getting through? Take a page from Ferris' book--start challenging the status quo.


This post was written by Fred Durso, Jr., communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @FredDursoJR.