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Rural Health Information Hub

Public Fire Safety Education to Prevent Unintentional Injury

Public fire safety education is a traditional fire prevention strategy in which fire prevention programs and fire service personnel educate the community on fire risks and ways to prevent fires. Fire safety education aims to change behaviors, knowledge, attitudes, and awareness relative to fire safety. Programs may cover the following topics:

  • Common fire causes and prevention strategies
  • The importance of fire extinguishers and how to use them
  • Emergency planning and evacuation
  • Electrical safety

Creating and Delivering Fire Safety Messages

Successful rural fire safety education programs have the following elements:

  • Committed fire department leadership and personnel
  • Centered on the local fire problem and the people at highest risk for fire injury or death
  • Community partners who are involved in the planning process and developing solutions
  • Evaluation to determine its success

A key component of public fire safety education programs is the delivery of fire safety messages. Before developing fire safety messages, rural fire departments should identify who their messages will be delivered to. The audience(s) of focus should be people at highest risk for fire injury or death. This can be informed by performing a community analysis or community risk assessment.

USFA recommends that rural fire departments deliver messages that are:

  • Widely accepted and reviewed by experts for greatest effectiveness and relevance to the fire prevention topic
  • Age appropriate
  • Contain consistent messaging and common language

Rural fire departments can use several methods to deliver fire safety education to the community. Using two methods simultaneously can optimize outreach. Some example methods include:

  • Local media
  • Direct mail
  • Community meetings
  • Home safety visits
  • Fire safety trailers

Fire Safety Trailers

A fire safety trailer, also known as a fire safety house, is an education tool used to simulate real fire emergencies. Rural fire prevention programs can use trailers to review common hazards found in the home and teach fire safety skills in an interactive way. Rural fire departments can also tailor fire safety trailers to both children and adults.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) Fire Safety Trailer Curriculum offers step-by-step guidance on how to use a fire safety trailer to deliver fire safety education. It walks through how to get funding for a fire safety trailer and how to tailor lesson plans to different age groups. For more information on how to develop a fire safety education program in rural communities see the USFA's guide, Public Fire Education Planning for Rural Communities: A Five-Step Process.

Implementation Considerations

When developing a public fire safety education program, rural fire prevention programs must ensure that they are reaching the right audience. It is best to identify audiences during the community analysis phase of program development. Fire safety education should be age appropriate and tailored to reach multiple audiences.

Although children tend to be the main audience for fire safety education, it is important for rural fire departments to expand their education efforts to all age groups. Rural fire prevention programs can consider creating materials for other audiences such as college students, older adults, and people with disabilities.

Many rural fire departments report that their communities lack the money to start a fire safety education program from the ground up. Rural fire prevention programs should consider using existing resources from fire safety education programs, as this may be more cost-effective. The following national agencies are possible sources for fire safety education materials:

  • National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)
  • National Fire Safety Council (NFSC)
  • U.S. Fire Administration (USFA)

Program Clearinghouse Examples

Resources to Learn More

CRR Materials Generator
Offers a method to create research-based community risk reduction (CRR) materials such as flyers, door hangers, activity guides, social media posts and videos.
Organization(s): Vision 2020 Project

2020 Educational Messages Advisory Committee (EMAC) Desk Reference
Outlines fire safety messaging, consistent with NFPA's standards, by topic for educational programs, curricula, and handouts for use by fire safety instructors. Includes educational messages geared towards children and audiences with limited English proficiency.
Organization(s): National Fire Protection Association
Date: 2020

NFPA Home Fire Safety
Offers consumer-friendly fire prevention outreach materials geared towards a variety of audiences.
Organizations(s): National Fire Protection Association