Changing minds at Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Winner of the Gold Award for Social, Community and Not For Profit at the 2023 NZ Research Association Effectiveness Awards
On the face of it, fire safety seems to be a no-brainer. Why would anyone not take simple and effective measures to keep their home and family safe? For firefighters faced with their difficult and dangerous job, it is almost inconceivable that people would not heed and act upon fire safety messages. Deep down, many at Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) truly believed that if people really knew the dangers of fire, they would act. This was the foundation of their fire safety approach for many years.
However, after over twenty years, this approach was losing effectiveness – particularly amongst pockets of the general public who seemed resistant to fire safety messages. Stagnating outcomes data showed that new engagement approaches were needed.
FENZ engaged Verian, formerly Kantar Public, to deliver a more powerful approach for understanding and segmenting audiences compared to their previous demographic-led approach.
Forefront in our mind was the need to produce actionable outcomes, namely delivering understanding of barriers to fire safety, but also where solutions can be found. It was also clear that this wasn’t a one-off research exercise - success would not be driven merely by the robustness of the findings, but by how widely adopted they became by the organisation.
This required a phased plan which included firstly a deep and broad investigation into the real drivers of fire safety behaviour through one on one at home interviews. Secondly, we quantified these drivers through a robust survey and segmentation. We then returned to at home interviews to test how fire safety behaviour could be influenced. Lastly we designed a final “Inspire” stage to encompass a series of workshops with FENZ staff at a district level across New Zealand.
The most immediate and tangible output of the project was the discovery of five distinct fire safety mindsets across the New Zealand population. The use of mindsets to define these segments gave a much more cohesive and differentiated understanding of patterns of risk and behaviour than the previous demographics-only approach.
Importantly, the research helped FENZ understand what people were doing, who was doing it, and why. Suddenly, we understood why certain groups seemed impervious to ‘no brainer’ fire safety measures and messaging. The mindsets revealed key target segments for fire safety initiatives – like where smoke alarm installation needs to be encouraged, or who needs to be encouraged to have an escape plan.
The mindsets have become a key part of the Fire and Emergency toolkit - seeping into the organisation’s vernacular. We are particularly pleased that an introduction to the mindsets is included in new firefighter inductions – thereby setting the stage for a new generation of trusted firefighters to benefit from this new way of thinking.
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