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Polyurethane Foam Association's Fire Education Program Targets Rural South

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The Fire Prevention Alliance (FPA) recently completed a test effort to educate a largely underserved and overlooked audience: families in the rural South. As a program sponsor of the Fire Prevention Alliance (FPA) “Keep Your Family Alive” fire prevention program, the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) helped to evaluate a trial communications effort to bring a fire prevention message to this underserved audience. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) research showed that the population segment most likely to experience a household fire would be found in the rural areas of America and that Southern states had the highest fire death rates. To reach families in this population segment, the FPA attempted to enlist support from ministers of small rural churches. Using direct mail and telephone contacts, FPA hoped to distribute fire prevention education kits to church members. The kits included a fire prevention checklist, refrigerator magnet and a rebate coupon to help reduce the cost of purchasing any brand of smoke detector. FPA’s “Keep Your Family Alive” program was specifically developed to reach the most at-risk groups, but despite having a focused message, the program achieved poor results. Less than 1 of 50 ministers contacted accepted the opportunity to participate. “There is a natural tendency for people to believe that ‘fire can’t happen to me’ and follow-up calls indicated this was a common feeling among rural pastors. They believed that members of their congregations would not be the ones likely to experience a fire. One minister advised that his church members had fire extinguishers and would not require the fire prevention materials,” said Bob Luedeka, Executive Director of the PFA. “The feeling of immunity from fire is one of the greatest obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve effective fire prevention education.” “While the results of this test program were discouraging, the members of the Polyurethane Foam Association will continue working to educate at-risk population groups such as those living rural areas, apartment dwellers and those that speak English as a second language. We know that success requires a continuing effort and PFA has been active in fire prevention education since the group’s founding in 1980,” Luedeka added. FPA’s “Keep Your Family Alive” program was an initiative sponsored by Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, American Fiber Manufacturers, American Furniture Manufacturers Association (UFAC), American Textile Manufacturers Institute, International Sleep Products Association (SPSC), National Cotton Council, and the Polyurethane Foam Association. The program’s goal is to reduce the number of deaths resulting from household fires by educating at-risk groups on ways to avoid household fires.

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