Preventing illegal fireworks through effective strategic communications
Every year, illegal fireworks pose a significant threat to the safety and well-being of local communities. From the risk of wildfires and property damage to potential injuries and even loss of life. The 2022 U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission's Annual Fireworks Report* found a 25% increase in reported firework injuries between 2006-2021, with 74% occurring in the weeks before and after July 4th.
Amidst these challenges lies an opportunity for local governments to proactively address this issue through effective social media messaging. Municipalities can educate and engage their communities, foster responsible behavior, and create safer and more pleasant environments for their residents.
To help local governments prevent illegal fireworks through effective strategic communications, we analyzed 2.4K posts from 171 local government and law enforcement agencies in the US, shared on social media throughout May and June 2023.
Effective messaging strategies
Based on the analysis, we were able to identify four key messaging strategies emerged for effectively communicating about illegal fireworks:
- Inform residents about anonymous channels for reporting illegal fireworks incidents and encourage active participation in reporting these activities.
- Emphasize the adverse effects of illegal fireworks on vulnerable populations, including individuals with sensory sensitivities, veterans suffering from PTSD, infants, the elderly, and pets. Additionally, underscore the potential harm to personal well-being and property caused by illegal fireworks.
- Highlight the enforcement efforts (and outcomes) to reduce illegal fireworks usage and measures in place, including fines and citations, to underscore the serious consequences of illegal fireworks.
- Promote inclusive and secure celebration alternatives, such as attending professionally organized community fireworks displays.
Despite the overall low level of negative sentiment generated by posts shared by local governments and law enforcement (averaging 5%), the analysis revealed several recurring themes of resident pushback among the cohort:
- Complaints about locations suffering from illegal fireworks usage and requests for increased police presence and stricter enforcement in those areas.
- Calls to address more pressing matters and allocate resources to violence, crime, and infrastructure needs over fireworks-related concerns.
- Expressions of discontent regarding perceived limitations on residents’ freedoms, cultural practices, and traditions related to fireworks.
So, to recap…
Local governments and law enforcement agencies accounted for two-thirds (66%) of all posts and over half (57%) of all interactions on this subject. This illustrates the pivotal role that cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies play in providing information to residents on the hazards associated with illegal fireworks and measures taken to reduce their usage within the community:
- Address complaints about lack of compliance with information about enforcement activities, their results, and ways for residents to contribute to these efforts.
- Position illegal fireworks as a pressing matter in its own right and note the contribution of prevention to other priorities, like maintaining public safety and protecting property and infrastructure from damage.
- Offer alternative ways to celebrate and enjoy this American tradition.
Happy – and safe – Fourth of July!