One of the biggest shifts in communications practice in recent years has been the focus on behaviour change techniques to support our messaging and actions. Truth be told, the use of psychology in PR has been around since the work of Edward Bernays in the 1920s (Edward also being the nephew of Sigmund Freud). The only difference is we now have more accurate data (and more of it!) which vastly improves our understanding of human behaviours.
As I sit here and write this blog, it’s 31 degrees outside and over 40 in other parts of the country, leading to the first red heat warnings in history. The record-breaking temperatures the country is enduring aren’t just a fluke. The effects of the climate crisis have now led to climate scientistd heralding warnings that this is now the norm in the UK. While that may cause some to rejoice and invest in hot tubs and buckets and spades, it does raise the question of whether people in the country are prepared for the downsides of a warming climate.
It’s not just health that is impacted. For our sector, we will see increases in wildfire risk (the fire severity index is going to stay between amber and red for much of the country this week), garden fires, water incidents as people use waterways and lakes to cool down, and other behaviours that could lead to people needing our services. And that’s just the summer – other times of the year are seeing more frequent and more severe storms which raises other risks for our services.
This shows that understanding and being able to use behavioural science in our work is not just an add on, it’s a necessity as we encourage people to adopt safer practices to keep a check on the ever-growing risks posed by climate change.
There is some great work going on across fire and rescue services in this area. And we’ll be looking to provide more FirePRO training in this area, starting at the next conference where we’ll have a special behaviour change boot camp session.
And on the subject of the FirePRO Conference: it was brilliant to be able to hold an in-person event last year, which was well attended and received great feedback from those who came. We are doing it in-person again and bringing the date forward a little to avoid the busy period in November. We’re also switching venues – based on feedback from last year’s event – to give us more space and not be confined to one place. The agenda is pretty much set and we’ve got some fantastic speakers and workshops lined up. Early bird tickets are now available, so grab one quick.
Away from the conference, we have been working hard on the sector standards for communications and engagement. These went through a rigorous engagement last year and we’ve updated them based on the feedback of people involved (practitioners in the sector, comms leaders from outside the sector, and chief fire officers). We feel these are in a great place and they are now going to go through the Fire Standards Board process, which will involve consultation across the sector later this year. We’ll continue to keep you posted.
That’s all for now. Hope you’re managing to stay cool. And look forward to seeing you at the conference.
Chair of FirePRO and Head of Communications and Engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service