Changing behavior

Moving the needle toward behavior change

At this time of year, people begin making and breaking their new year’s resolutions, and Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators are once again faced with the age old question: “What does it take to get people to adopt safety behaviors?” or as I like to call it, “Why won’t they just do what we tell them to do?!”

Our behaviors are made up of a complex interplay of our social and physical environments, education, access to resources, and economics combined with our perceptions of risk, attitudes, and knowledge base.  Traditional health education provides people with KAS:  Knowledge, Attitude and Skills to support the adoption of new behaviors.  These are the elements that are within the FLS educator’s control to promote and deliver to their audiences.  Those out of the FLS educator’s control are what make behavior change such an uphill battle, and what make behavior change require numerous attempts and a depth of effort beyond the educator’s time and budget.

Programs such as Remembering When: Older Adult Fire & Fall Prevention support the FLS educator by partnering with community & health agencies to reach community members to reduce fires and falls.   By working with a variety of partners, and using a variety of methods, FLS educators are providing knowledge, teaching people skills (yes, older adults need to know how to Stop, Drop and Roll), and working to change the “there’s nothing I can do,” attitude of home injury and fire prevention.

The seasoned FLS educator uses their village of community partners – media, health services, social services, schools, and community-based organizations to provide the depth, repetition, and reach needed to support behavior change.  NFPA's Safety Tip Sheets, in multiple languages, are a great addition to providing the knowledge, but they can’t work in a vacuum to make real change.  NFPA's lesson plans, in 10, 30 and 60 minute formats are designed to support the KAS model of learning, and our Community Tool Kits support the community partnership approach to behavior change through the provision of information, resources, social media assets, and support for your residents.  Together, the suite of methods, resources, and partners can begin to move that needle.

Wishing you all a healthy and safe 2021. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  TwitterFacebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

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Andrea Vastis
Senior Director, Public Education, public health promotion & education professional passionate about eliminating disparities in access, education and resources.

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