Public Sector: Staffordshire fires up smoke alarm testing

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) wanted to highlight the need to regularly check smoke alarms.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service: wanted to highlight the need to regularly check smoke alarms
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service: wanted to highlight the need to regularly check smoke alarms

Campaign: Push the Button
Client: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)
PR team: In-house
Timescale: October 2011
Budget: £7,500


Statistics show nine out of ten UK households have smoke alarms installed, but seven out of ten do not test them. SFRS says people are more than twice as likely to die in an accidental fire if there is not a working smoke alarm in the house.

The in-house team designated 13 October as 'Push the Button day' where SFRS would ask residents to check their alarms and pledge to check them every week.


  •  To reduce accidental house fires
  • To promote the tagline: 'Check it bleeps every week'
  • To increase campaign video viewings
  • To create buzz around 'Push the Button day'
  • To work with local commercial partners to promote the message.

Strategy and plan

In the run up to 13 October, SFRS' Facebook and Twitter pages asked followers to share advice on how they remember to test their alarms. The team gave their own suggestions such as checking while watching a favourite TV programme or cooking a Sunday roast.

The team ran a competition where the entrant with the best suggestion won a family pass to Alton Towers. This came from a woman who sticks her lottery tickets on the alarm.

SFRS created a YouTube video where firefighters danced to the Sugababes song Push the Button, and promoted it through social media and the SFRS website.

Firefighters promoted the message in branches of Argos. Fox's Biscuits donated 'Jam 'N' Cream' biscuits to be handed out during the campaign. Firefighters also chatted to fans at a Stoke City FC fixture, with the SFRS mascot Welephant joining club mascot Pottermus for the half-time entertainment while the video was shown.

After the awareness day the in-house team continued to issue news stories throughout October, highlighting incidents where smoke alarms had or had not worked. It promoted ongoing stories about remembering to test alarms to tie in with key dates such as the changing of the clocks.

Measurement and evaluation

The story featured on BBC Midlands Today and in six radio interviews. It ran on the BBC News homepage and local sites, and was reported in 21 regional newspapers, including The Sentinel and Express & Star. SFRS' website saw 13, 618 unique visitors the day before 'Push the Button day', compared with its daily average of 500. YouTube viewings doubled during the week of 'Push the Button day', reaching roughly 75,000 hits by the end of 2011. SFRS added more than 100 fans to its Facebook page and tripled the page's interactions during the main campaign week. The Twitter hashtag #pushthebutton is still in use, and a tweet of the dancing firefighters video by Radio 1's Sara Cox was retweeted by more than 100 of her followers.


Accidental house fires in the county decreased by 13 per cent in the October to December period compared with the three months before the campaign. House fire incidents normally increase during the winter.



This is a great example of a creative, integrated campaign that shows just how much can be achieved on a small budget.

It would have been easy to go for shock tactics for this kind of activity, but by combining an entertaining and positive delivery with a strong call to action and serious underlying messages, the campaign has been able to access a much wider audience.

I particularly like the emphasis on genuine engagement of local people - whether it's through seeing their friends and neighbours dancing in the video, working with local businesses and football clubs, or through social media. The impact of this is shown clearly in the ultimate measure - a 13 per cent drop in accidental house fires.

The campaign made a strong start in getting the message out there - but these activities need repetition, and a legacy, to ensure behaviours become embedded. It will be interesting to see how Staffordshire Fire and Rescue plans on making the most of the successes of this campaign to ensure house fire numbers continue to fall.

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