During the discovery process of researching how to effectively connect with youth about the topics of wildfire safety, prevention and mitigation; Firewise Program staff knew the target audience had to become a large piece of the project and they implemented the don’t do anything about me, without me, concept discussed in yesteryday's blog.
Connecting with middle and high school students through six wildfire community conversation workshops produced input that was consistent and forthright - and participants voiced what needed to be incorporated to make it impactful. Attendees adamantly stressed that wildfire safety messages need to be delivered by peers who'd been personally impacted by a wildfire; and if possible include an entire family to make the messages even stronger. They felt it's important to learn from real people that can make the topic relatable – not actors, celebrities, government officials or politicians. Firefighters were another acceptable delivery mechanism for wildfire messages; but they felt if a teacher was used in that role, they prefer it be one that was (you guessed it) also impacted by a wildfire. Who they want to hear from was loud and clear, but they also want the information to be realistic; not scary, but definitely honest and straightforward.
They believe human-to-human information sharing is much more effective than advertisements in any form. One group adamantly stressed that, “if you want us to pay attention – the messages need to get our attention!”
This demographic expects and demands information that's real without any sugar-coating. They want to know what's at stake and what they could lose. Pets and animals of all kinds are very important to them and they want to know how wildfire could impact them.
They might be entrenched in texting, email and Facebook, but the teens we talked with said their most common source of wildfire information is traditional media sources; and tied for the second most frequent source of information was parents and school, followed by the Internet.
School may have been cited as a common source for information; but the majority of participants said extremely limited information was shared with them at school before or after the fire in their communities; even though all the fires that impacted attendees occurred during months that school was in session.
The full report on our conversations with youth includes in-depth information on how they want to be reached and the topics they prioritize as important. In our next blog, we examine the results of a questionnaire distributed to teachers in four communities that recently experienced a wildfire.