Author(s): Gary Keith. Published on November 1, 2011.

Social Adjustment
A self-described "social media holdout" urges us to follow along on Twitter

NFPA Journal, November/December 2011

No one was more surprised than I was when I agreed to test an iPad for NFPA’s Information Services Division and actually ended up liking it. Like millions of others who spend a lot of time on the road, I rely on applications that can organize work communications and files when I’m away from the office and make meetings more efficient, such as the PDA application for NFPA’s Conference & Expo.



September - October 2011
Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running U.S. public safety observance

July - August 2011
Why firefighters need to know if they are responding to persons with developmental disabilities

May - June 2011
How can safety professionals best reach immigrant communities?

March - April 2011
This is a big year for Sparky the Fire Dog, and you’re invited to the party

January - February 2011
Calling all Rolf Jensen Award nominees

November - December 2010
NFPA's Electric Vehicle Safety Program for first responders

I like not having to lug around a laptop when I travel, and I’ve come a long way in the brave new digital world. But I admit I’m still a holdout on social media.

Actually, that puts me in the minority. The number of people using social networks has nearly doubled since 2008. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of American adults say they use the Internet. And 59 percent of Internet users say they use at least one social networking site, mostly Facebook.

Even if I’m slowly inching my way into social media, I readily acknowledge that it presents fire and life safety educators with valuable and growing access to their audiences.

Whether it’s reaching the "digital natives" of the millennial generation (my three children, for example) or higher-risk populations such as older adults, social media can expand our reach in order to better educate the public about fire safety.

In 2010, AARP research found that two-fifths of adults over age 50 consider themselves extremely or very comfortable using the Internet. Approximately a quarter use social media websites.

These online tools can also help us spread the word about the need for more home fire sprinkler system installations. Because these tools are so nimble, they’re ideal for addressing the ongoing problem of misinformation and for quickly touting sprinkler success stories.

NFPA recently topped 21,000 Facebook fans and has a strong Twitter presence. To advocate for greater adoption of sprinkler codes, NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative has used a range of Internet-based outreach methods since its inception, including YouTube and blogging.

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) just launched an updated website,, with social media integration. HFSC is fairly new to social media, but it’s already finding a strong and growing base of interest. Last year, HFSC tested another digital technology, the QR code. It was placed in a print magazine adverisement that was targeted at new parents and received a surprisingly large number of scans. QR codes are a lot more common now, and they’re another great way to get our messages out there.

We may not yet have an app that can solve the problem of home fires, but as these examples demonstrate, we certainly have a much broader array of educational tools available to us today to fight those fires.

Become a fan of HFSC on Facebook or follow HFSC on Twitter at @HFSCorg.

Gary Keith is vice-president of Field Operations and Education at NFPA and is chair of the HFSC Board of Directors.