A study of wildland fire communications in the United States

by Clute, Kevin P.

Abstract (Summary)
For those natural resource management organizations charged with communicating about wildland fire, the public's perception of the risks associated with fire and its deeply-rooted belief that 'fire is bad' poses an immense communications challenge. This study explores the current state of wildland fire communications in the United States from the perspective of wildland fire communicators. At the outset, it seeks to identify the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and backgrounds of a population of natural resource professionals with wildland fire communication responsibilities. It then queries both the opportunities and barriers they perceive in the course of conducting their day-to-day responsibilities. Utilizing this information as background, the usefulness of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s wildland tire message themes is explored. The data for the project were obtained from 321 responses to a 13-page questionnaire completed by natural resources professionals working in governmental and non-governmental organizations. The questionnaire was developed utilizing the results of an e-mail administered Delphi instrument and needs assessment of thirteen wildland fire communicators. It also drew upon relevant themes identified in the literature. Concepts of social marketing were used as a reporting framework in the data analysis phase. Results of both the Delphi process and questionnaire showed that respondents have a relatively high perception of their knowledge and skills with respect to the organization for which they work, its mission or mandate, and its role in the wildland fire management. Respondents' lowest perceived knowledge and skill levels related to communications activities, such as identifying target audiences, developing communication plans and products, and using evaluative feedback. Generally, participants perceived more opportunities than barriers to their wildland fire communication efforts. Significant barriers identified were the lack of sufficient resources and inadequate planning to meet future needs. Recognizing that the public has limited knowledge of wildland fire, the need for improved and better coordinated messaging – highlighting that wildland fire provides substantial benefits – was stressed. Respondents also preferred a single national wildland fire message with regionally focused and developed subcomponents.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2000

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