County Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue Service

Find out how we identified the best social marketing approach for the North East's Fire & Rescue Service using a mix of focus groups and in-depth interviews....

"The service we received from Explain was excellent."

The customer

Jointly commissioned and funded by Cleveland, Durham & Darlington, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services and the 'Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership', we explored how the principles of social marketing could be utilised to influence the behaviour of key groups reducing the risk of them being involved in a house fire.

The objectives of the project were to:

  • Improve and enhance regional knowledge and understanding of why people behave in the way that they do
  • Identify techniques that can be employed to motivate specific indiviudals within the community to change their behaviour
  • Position the FRS alongside partners at the heart of empowered communities
  • Address and recognise the limitations of traditional communication methods which often fail to bring about the desired behavioural change
  • Improve the targeting and delivery of key fire safety messages and interventions

The outcome

We explored the attitudes, needs and motivations of several target audience groups including:

  • Hard to reach
  • Black minority ethnics
  • Juvenile firesetters

Through a mix of focus groups and in-depth interviews, we were able to develop a clear picture of those target audiences and we began to understand how we might influence behaviors by addressing gaps in service provision and the inconsistencies in previous approaches to communication and engagement. 

In addition, an examination of historical fire incident data facilitated the development of an audience segmentation model that enabled us to focus upon the specific needs of individual groups and which gave us the information we needed to create a social marketing toolkit that could be tailored to the different needs of each target audience group.

For example, we concluded that home fire safety visits should become the focal point of intervention because they enabled the FRS to assess the fire risk within individual households and to engage with target audiences. Our recommendations were presented to representatives of the target audience and to stakeholders within the FRS to test their reactions to the proposed ideas for engagement; this had the added benefit of gaining support and provided us with a list of proposed improvements.

Working in close partnership, we were ultimately able to deliver:

  • a body of insight providing clear evidence of the efficacy of existing practices and opportunities to improve performance 
  • a web-based toolkit providing FRS personnel with a means to identify vulnerable groups and to more effectively target resources towards those at greatest risk. The toolkit also supports the delivery of information, education and support aligned to risks identified in individual households
  • an approach to the presentation of marketing communications materials that enhanced the strength of the messages being presented with the aim of making them more memorable and effective
  • a database of market intelligence that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and to inform its on-going development

This programme of work provided an opportunity to bring together and critique a range of existing practices and, by using formal research techniques, we were able to better understand how to take the best elements of the existing marketing communications and develop a social marketing process that would be sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the FRS, while also delivering strong, consistent advice, information and support to those at greatest risk of being involved in an accidental house fire. The toolkit was eventually implemented across the North East of England and is continually evaluated to determine its effectiveness.

"The service we received from Explain was excellent. The elements of the project that they were responsible for were, without fail, delivered on time and to a very high standard. All members of the team always had a professional and friendly approach to all fire service members of the team and tasks involved.

We were very happy with the relationship we had with the Explain Team. It was apparent from early stages that the whole team was very knowledgeable and well versed in project management. This took a lot of the pressure off the Fire and Rescue Service members allowing them to focus on their areas of expertise. 

The Explain team had a very friendly manner with all members of the project team and always had time to discuss issues and detail their work plans and delivery. Communication links were always open and we felt that we could contact the team with any issues whenever we needed to.

Their advice and guidance was very much appreciated and aimed at supporting our objectives rather than trying to steer them in another direction. I felt that we got the highest standard of reports and insight into our target groups from Explain. The work they did for us will form an integral part of our community safety delivery. This will enable us to tailor our services to the most at risk and most in need of these services. This prioritization will prove to be essential in the present financial climate"

Paul Raey Director of Community Safety, County Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue Service



Sage Bellway

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