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Comment: February 2016


February 12, 2016
By Laura King


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This time last winter, when my younger offspring was looking for a place to live in Toronto for the 2015-2016 school year, he went with a buddy to see a basement apartment. I was less than enthused.

Until he called and said in one big breath: “Mom, it’s way better than I expected. It’s half above grade, the whole house has hard-wired combination smoke and CO alarms, it has fire-resistant drywall, three exits from the lower level, fire-escape windows and fire-proof doors.”

The lease was signed the next week.

My offspring, of course, are hard wired about fire safety. Indeed, regular readers may recall an editorial in 2013 about a B&B in which we stayed on Vancouver Island that had no smoke alarms and the ensuing battle with the owner that both embarrassed and educated said offspring.

My boys, both young adults now, got their fire-safety and fire-prevention lessons at home, for the most part, although certainly they were educated to stop, drop and roll in elementary school by the Oakville Fire Department’s finest.

But many young adults who don’t get reinforcement at home are less than astute about fire safety and reaching them – along with teens and pre-teens – is a public educator’s biggest challenge.

Why? Pre-teens, teens and young adults have short attention spans thanks to texting, YouTube, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Instagram and the impossible-for-people-over-25-to-understand Snapchat.

So how do we reach them? (Insert Jeopardy theme-song music . . . )

Exactly. Through the likes of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and, if we can figure out how, Snapchat.

Even older adults are becoming attention-span challenged – we watch commercial-free Netflix, we get our news from Twitter and we can’t sit through a one-hour conference presentation without checking our phones every two minutes.

What gets our attention? Humour. Wit. Great graphics. Top-10 lists. Beautiful people. Gimmicks. Emotional impact.

Think Superbowl commercials and Viagra ads that never mention Viagra. We’re enticed by good looks, funny pictures, smart sayings, innuendo, awesome images.

The Minto Fire Department in Ontario has figured out this phenomenon. Or rather its marketing-trained administrator, Callise Foerter, has done so. Hip hashtags, eye-catching images, seasonal tie-ins, smart sayings – a refreshingly new approach to fire prevention and public education.

Follow the Minto Fire Department on Twitter @mintofiredept and feel free to beg, borrow or steal its ideas – doing so may save a life.


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