This Wednesday, March 18th marks Sparky the Fire Dog’s 69th birthday. Sparky plays an important role as both a mascot and cue to action within NFPA’s mission to eliminate loss of life & property from fire, electrical and related hazards. Indeed, Sparky encourages the “Informed Public” cog of our Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem, to assure people are engaging in appropriate prevention and response behaviors, making personal investments in safety, and holding their government officials accountable. While Sparky is truly ageless and timeless, as a 69-year old, he is also a Baby Boomer, offering insight into a major need for Fire & Life Safety Educators – a way to reach varied audiences with tailored, relevant, and accessible information and resources.
The Boomers are an especially unique generation as they have participated in some of the most dramatic technological changes in society. They are the ones who went from two cups and a string as a telephone, to using their smart phones to respond to “Ok, Boomer” remarks on social media. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 in the US. By 2030, all Boomers will be at least 65 years old. While they will be older and wiser, they will still need us for their changing fire & life safety needs including increased risk of falls, medical complications from chronic conditions, and increased risk of death/injury by fire.
It is imperative that we in the world of Fire and Life Safety Education know our audiences not only in terms of their demographics and data-informed risks, but of how they consume their information. Flyers and brochures alone won’t cut it. Unless we do our diligence to learn about our audiences – who they trust, how they communicate with each other, and how they want their information, we will still struggle to get full reach and scale of our programs. My own Gen Z kids, for instance, are happy to remind me (a Gen X/Boomer cusp) that Facebook “is for Boomers” and that neither they nor their friends are doing anything on Facebook.
The Public Education Division at NFPA is continuing to find ways to support your efforts to reach people across the lifespan. Sparkyschoolhouse.org and Sparky.org offers a variety of lessons, games, apps and videos for children and their families. The Remembering WhenTM Older Adult Fire & Fall Prevention Program provides education, tools and resources for communities to prevent and intervene with their older adult residents.
Our social media efforts are targeting a greater variety of audiences with tailored messages across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and our Public Education pages on NFPA.org contain numerous resources that can be tailored for your needs.
Sparky’s birthday is a great time to look at your fire and life safety programs and consider who in your community could use some updated information and resources to help them lead safe and healthy lives. And, since so many are now stuck at home for the next few weeks, consider throwing a Sparky Birthday Fun party with all the trimmings.