Fuels planning: science synthesis and integration; social issues fact sheet 08: The "Golden Rule" and other lessons on communicating about hazards
This is one in a series of fact sheets on communicating about wildland fire. In other fact sheets, we identified considerations for communicating about hazards, talked about the importance of working locally, and discussed the seven laws of effective hazard communication. In this fact sheet we introduce the "Golden Rule" of hazard communication and share some final lessons from hazard educators. The Golden Rule The "Golden Rule" of communicating about hazards is to use windows of opportunity.
... l the sophisticated materials and behavior modification techniques do not have the force of one catastrophe to change what people think, their behavior, and even public policy, at least in the short term. During the window of opportunity that opens following a disaster, abundant information from various sources in the affected location will increase the chances for changing what people think and how they behave. This is also the case for people and communities that were not directly impacted by the disaster but experienced it from the mass media. Use the window of opportunity while you can-the window isn't open for long and fleeting interest wanes. Typically, even after a big disaster, people will keep the hazard high on their big issues list for only 2 to 3 months. You don't need a catastrophe to create a window of opportunity. Windows of opportunity for communicating about hazards also open when a new resident moves into a neighborhood, during Wildland Fire Awareness Week, or any time when people may be open to new information about wildland fire. Other Important Lessons 1. Partnerships Work Best. Partnerships work better than any one organization working alone. High-profile, local organizations with established track records are important to include as partners. 2. Feature Specialists. Education programs are more effective if they feature specialists who are experts in the hazard that your education program is about. 3. Adapt Materials to Locals. Adapt and customize information to your audience. For example, if the population you seek to educate has experienced a disaster in recent history, reference it in your materials. 4. Use Different Ways to Communicate. Use many different forms of communication to increase the chances that your message will be heard. For example, you may do a mass mailing to local residents, but putting your message on grocery bags will also help you reach residents and visitors. Be innovative in selecting several ways to reach people.