Changing the Future of Public Education
Strategic planning sessions lay the groundwork.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2008
My home, modest as it is, is always changing. I’m constantly moving things around, redesigning with what I have. My husband never knows what to expect.
Sometimes, my changes don’t sit well, but some changes have really enhanced our home. Rearranging the furniture in the family room has actually provided better television viewing. We can even see the television from the kitchen!
Change is good in the workplace, too. Without change, we might not have legislation requiring fire-safe cigarettes. Without change, we might not have codes that require smoke alarms in the home. We might not have reached out to all our audiences with fire and life safety information.
As John F. Kennedy once said, "change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future."
The Public Education Division is looking to the future using lessons learned from the past. In 2007, we conducted several strategic planning sessions with members of the Public Affairs, Engineering, Research, and Marketing Divisions, members of our Board of Directors, and users of our materials to lay the groundwork for our future direction.
When we asked the Research Division to analyze fire loss data to identify the victims of the 3,000-plus residential fire deaths each year, we found that no one high-risk group accounted for the majority of fire deaths. These data were the catalyst for our plan to reach out to general audiences, rather than targeting safety information for specific high-risk groups. We will weave this information throughout our work, although we’ll continue many of our specialized projects that reach out to high-risk groups, too.
Our goal is to position NFPA as the primary source of fire and other hazard information to reduce residential fire deaths, injuries, and property loss. It’s a lofty goal, but one NFPA is well able to reach. Over the next three years, we’ll work hard to give you the type of public education information you need and to make it easier to find on our website. We’ll also mail community outreach kits to every U.S. fire department several times a year.
You may already have seen our "Keeping Your Community Safe and Warm" kit, mailed last November. It contains editorials, press releases, safety tips, statistics, and more to help fire departments reach out to the community. We plan to produce three kits this year focusing on electrical, cooking, and heating safety.
Our Fire Prevention Week efforts will include the website, which will have everything you need to launch a successful campaign. We’re also planning a school-based outreach program with publisher Scholastic, Inc. Our monthly e-newsletter, Safety Smart, which we will send to anyone interested in fire- and life-safety education, will debut in March 2008.
We’re also creating a network of state and provincial public educators who will meet annually to learn about NFPA’s activities and other topics. Each state and province will be assigned an advisor who will liaise with the state or province in all areas of public education.
Our public educator and Remembering When scholarship programs will continue to be premier education opportunities for educators, and we’ll continue to offer educational sessions as part of the NFPA World Safety Conference & Exposition®. We’ll also update our educational programs regularly, including the Learn Not to Burn® Preschool Program, Ready for Risk Watch®, and Remembering When™.
A public education advisory committee will work with us to ensure that the initiatives and materials we provide meet the needs of the fire service. This committee, with our public educator’s network and public education advisors, will provide ongoing communication between NFPA and the fire service.
We’ve asked ourselves some hard questions, faced our challenges, and made changes that will keep the Public Education Division fresh, focused, and exciting.
Change is good. We’ve done great work in the past, but I’m taking President Kennedy’s advice. I don’t want to reflect on the past and present because there’s too much we are going to make happen in the future.
Judy Comoletti, is assistant vice-president of NFPA’s Public Education Division