College Planning & Management

MAY 2013

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Fire & Life Safety FOCUS ON PREPAR AT ION AND PRE V EN T ION Engage With Social Media Make the best use of this popular technology to share news and alerts. BY MIKE HALLIGAN A S CLASSROOMS EMPTY FOR the summer, now is the time to think about fire and life safety messages for the fall when students return. In the past, most schools have relied on posters, brochures, presentations, and email messages as effective ways to disseminate fire prevention and fire safety messages. Now we must find ways to use social media to spread the word. Twitter is now one of the fastest ways and also most popular way to reach students. Parents and community members can also follow your Twitter feed. However, before you are ready to tweet you must consider your strategy for the communication or behavior you want to convey with your messages. Since most in the fi re prevention field are not social media experts, I would suggest that you consult with your media communications office for technical guidance on how to best make use of this technology. Using Twitter will require you build a following and gain the trust of your intended audience. A review of successful Twitter campaigns will demonstrate that there are several key elements that will help you spread fire prevention messages. 1. Share — Sharing pictures and people engaged in the behavior you are trying to get your customer to adopt will capture followers' attention and, if the pictures are "fun," they will retweet them to their friends, who in turn will follow your Twitter account. 2. Listen — Regularly monitor the comments other make about your fire prevention tweets. 3. Ask — Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights into why they ignore alarms or participate in unsafe behaviors. 4. Respond — When students answer and give feedback, respond with a compliment. If they ask questions, respond with an answer. 5. Reward — Tweet updates about fire system improvements to buildings that students will be using. Offer a discount to a local business to those students who retweet or respond within a certain time period. 6. Champion your target audience — Talk about students and events that promote fire safe practices. Students are more likely to retweet messages to others if they are personally involved in the message. 16 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / MAY 2013 7. Establish a voice — Twitter users prefer a direct, genuine, and likable tone. Think about the "voice" they will hear in the words. If the message appears negative — one that uses "don't," for example — it is less likely to be retweeted. If the message has a positive tone it has a better chance of being retweeted. An ideal plan for creating a fire prevention and life safety Twitter presence would include identifying early on in a strategic plan what types of messages should be sent and when they are appropriate. Once the types of messages are identified, they will need to be edited down to just 140 characters (choose your words carefully!). Keep messages short; keep the message simple. Consider that each tweet can have three phrases; the words chosen should be short, and when needed, a link can be included to lead to a picture that can more clearly tell the story. Once you have identified the messages, develop a schedule to post each message. Many Twitter-based safety messaging programs post less often rather than more often. During the beginning of the school year, consider posting every other day during the first two weeks of the term. A simple strategy may be to highlight three different aspects of fire prevention each week: • Monday — Feature helpful tips that apply to a specific building. • Wednesday — Feature a student or student group that is incorporating fire prevention into his/her/their activities. • Friday — Focus on a specific individual who helps promote fire safety within your organization. As the school year progresses, messaging campaigns can be developed that address large events, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and holiday fire safety. Tweets can also be sent that respond to fire events at other locations. If there is a fire in a classroom, lab, or residence hall at another school, you can tweet messages about the cause of the fire and steps to take to ensure that the risk is minimized in your own facilities. CPM Mike Halligan is the associate director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Utah and is responsible for Fire Prevention and Special Events Life Safety. He frequently speaks about performance-based code solutions for campus building projects, is recognized as an expert on residence hall fire safety programs, and conducts school fire prevention program audits/strategic planning. He can be reached at 801/585-9327 or at WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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