GAINING TRUST AND ACCESS
Partnering with groups, agencies and organizations in your home visit communities improves your chances of gaining access to homes. Working with partners can also increase sustained safety awareness beyond the home visit.
To identify people who might accompany firefighters on home visits, start by developing strong relationships with community leaders. Discuss the high-risk problem in their area and invite them to accompany you on home visits. Ask them how best to reach out to the community and about other successful programs that you can model or with which you can join forces. Become familiar with the norms and preferences of the audiences you most need to reach with your fire and life safety messages.
Because the groups and organizations that routinely serve the individuals and families in your selected community already have trusted, well-established relationships, they may be able to help you open doors to high-risk homes. Some may already have home visit programs with which to partner. Partnering can extend your workforce to help with home visit promotion, scheduling, translation, installing life-safety devices and with educational messages. In some cases it may be more effective to have the trusted community partner take the lead when introducing the home visit team to the residents by saying, “I’m here to talk with you about smoke alarms, and by the way, here is my friend, Firefighter Jones, to help me.”
Some fire departments send a team of a firefighter and community partner for each home safety visit. Some departments train organization members to conduct home safety visits with fire department supervision.
Firefighters who live in, or come from the communities identified as being at increased risk may use their own relationships and cultural awareness to connect more easily. They can be strong advocates for the program. Retired firefighters may be a good resource as they have experience and knowledge. Consider recruiting them to be part of the visiting team, with training on updated and consistent messages and current best practices.
Examples of agencies, groups, clubs and organizations that may be working in your target communities are:
- Senior Services: In addition to working with your local organizations, consider recruiting healthy older adults to participate in your home safety visits.
- Faith-Based Organizations: Local houses of worship can help you spread the word about your home safety visit program and identify homes that most need this assistance. They may also be a source of important resources, such as translators, to help reach key audiences.
- Veterans Groups: Returning veterans may welcome opportunities to volunteer with local fire departments and may know of high-risk homes. Disabled veterans can offer a unique perspective to support home visits in homes where a resident has a disability.
- Public Health Departments: Local health departments can help plan, implement and evaluate an effective, data-driven home fire safety visit program. Nurses and physical therapists making home visits can help identify homes needing better fire safety. Twenty-two states have Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded state injury prevention programs in their state health department and many unfunded states have similar programs.
- Literacy Programs: High-risk members of your community may have lower levels of income and education, which often correlate with poor reading and writing skills or difficulty in speaking and understanding English. Local programs that offer adult and family literacy outreach can help you access homes at higher risk of fire. Find a program in your community through the National Literacy Directory or by contacting ProLiteracy.
- Immigrant and Refugee Groups: These groups can support home access and provide cultural and translation assistance.
- Service and Professional Groups: These groups may be a source for volunteers, fundraising and home visit support.
- Language Groups: Members of local groups or clubs may be able to help you with American Sign Language and other language translation services during home visits.
- American Red Cross Chapters: The Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes, with nearly all of those responses being to home fires. The national organization sponsors a major national fire safety initiative encouraging their local chapters to partner with fire departments and others to conduct home safety visits.
- For more information, read the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign Smoke Alarm Installer Guide.
- Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels provides in-home senior nutrition programs in every state.
- Injury Free Coalition for Kids: Through hospital-based, community-oriented programs focused on research, education, and advocacy, this coalition currently includes 42 sites located in 40 cities, each housed in the trauma centers of their participating institutions.
- Safe Kids: There are 500 coalitions across the U.S.
Local Colleges and Universities: Schools often have community service components through sororities and fraternities or even have training programs for fire-related careers. Schools of public health, nursing, and medicine are also likely to have community relations programs or practicum requirements for students to work in the community with an agency. Your community may also have an injury control research center with professionals who can help you with analyzing your fire data, program planning and evaluation. Find research funded programs and activities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Michael H. Minger Foundation has developed a Campus Fire Safety Community Service project with a number of free, downloadable resources.
- HUD Healthy Homes: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Healthy Homes Initiative works to protect children and their families from housing-related health and safety hazards.
- Nurse-Family Partnership: This federally funded program provides public health nurses to assist low-income, first-time mothers and their families with weekly or biweekly home visits.
- For-Profit Providers: Private sector companies that serve your target audiences can be valuable partners. One example is BrightStar: This group provides in-home pediatric, newborn, and older adult healthcare solutions, and may have healthcare workers already working in the homes in your target area.