Changing people's minds and behaviors to effectively prepare homes and landscapes for the presence of wildfire requires that the perspective of flames, dense smoke, and blowing embers within their neighborhood be accepted as realistic and probable. This occurs when like-minded people incorporate the threat of fire into the community's common culture. One way to achieve this is to put fire on every agenda (e.g. Kiwanis meetings, HOA events, a poster at the post office, mailings, etc.) and make a deliberate effort to keep the issue in front of people in a frequent, persistent manner. This level of communication does not happen by accident but requires thoughtful consideration and planning. Developing an annual communications plan is the first step in bringing about the adaptation in community perception and perspective that is needed. The following outline identifies the critical components of a communication plan:
1. Establish Goals
For the coming year, what are the two or three things you want to accomplish with your communications effort?
2. Identify Key Characteristics of the Intended Recipients and Use Methods and Strategies to Achieve Successful Communication
Who do you ultimately want to influence and how can you reach them?
3. Identify Key Messages
What messages are going to resonate most strongly with your community?
4. Create a Tactical Approach to Delivery
What are the most effective ways to deliver your messages to the members of your community (e.g. door hangers, personal letters, newsletters, social media, face-to-face conversations, meetings, presentations at community events, posters, inspections and recommendations, etc.)? Are there partners that can assist in message delivery?
5. Secure Materials
What kind of materials do you need to convey the messages to your community? Where can you get them or do you have to develop them?
6. Determine Frequency
Establish a timeline that identifies specific content and delivery methods to be used. Assign responsibility to individuals and follow up with them.
7. Evaluate and Adjust
Reinforce what is working and make changes where necessary. Constant and frequent exposure to critical messages regarding vulnerability, wildfire threat mitigation, and community protection is an essential component to the creation of a Fire Adapted Community. Developing a communication plan forces thoughtful consideration as to the most effective way to bring this about.