Outreach to elementary school students can have a major impact on public safety. School outreach is not just good community relations, it’s one of the most effective ways to communicate important messages and promote a culture of safety in your community. So whether your focus is safety, communications, legal, risk management, or regulatory affairs, school outreach is an investment that can earn returns.
Elementary school children (and their teachers) are among the best targets for utility safety outreach for many reasons:
- School-age children care about right and wrong and understand the importance of safety messages. They’re at a stage where they understand consequences and are beginning to make their own decisions based on the lessons they learn.
- Children are highly impressionable. Much of what they learn in the elementary grades stays with them for the rest of their lives, including when they become your adult customers.
- Elementary school teachers like using electrical and natural gas education resources. When properly designed, such resources can help teachers address academic standards and can easily be incorporated into school curriculum.
- During the elementary school years, students bring educational materials home, stimulating meaningful discussion with parents and siblings and increasing awareness and behavioral change.
- Teachers themselves learn a great deal from the programs and discuss the information with both their peers and their families.
Effectiveness Study Results
Research supports the effectiveness of educational outreach to elementary school students. On an annual basis, we collect feedback from thousands of K-6 teachers nationwide. We find that the vast majority appreciate the resources and are able to apply them to subjects such as reading, science, health, math, and social studies. The resources also address national and state curriculum standards—aiding in the classroom adoption of your safety lessons.
To better understand teachers’ information needs and perceptions, we regularly ask if they feel the resources are worthwhile. We specifically ask teachers whether the educational resources:
- Benefit students
- Are discussed at home
- Connect with students
- Are valuable
In all four categories, an overwhelming majority respond positively, stating that students will use electricity and natural gas more safely as a result of the resources utilities provide.
The Snowball Effect
In addition to reaching an audience that is receptive, elementary school programs have a “multiplier” effect: They communicate utility messaging to more than just the students. Our research indicates that one teacher can help deliver this important information to tens, even hundreds, of community members.
According to effectiveness studies of teachers using Culver utility education booklets, a single teacher supplied with resources reaches an average of 30 students. The majority of elementary school students take booklets home and share the information with their families. So when you provide booklets to one teacher, your results are exponential. This single important touchpoint can result in hundreds of community members engaging with your message.
Powerful Anecdotal Evidence
Anecdotal evidence also indicates that outreach programs to elementary school children can have dramatic impacts. Case in point: Victoria Rosas, a third-grade student in California, prevented a very dangerous, potentially fatal situation because she learned important safety information from a booklet distributed to her school by the local utility.
A power line had fallen in Victoria’s backyard, and heavy rainfall had flooded the area around the home. Victoria helped her family respond safely and stay away from the downed line. Had the family exited the house through the rear, they almost certainly would have been electrocuted. “She saved the whole family,” said her mother.
Victoria explained that her knowledge of the situation came from an illustrated utility company safety booklet. “When the power line went down, I knew what to do because we had read this safety booklet in class,” she said.
There are many compelling stories similar to this one all over the country, proving that utility education programs do raise the level of public safety. View a video of Victoria’s story, along with Kiera Gray’s natural gas safety story, at www.culverco.com/proof-utility-public-outreach-prevents-accidents.
Value to Your Stakeholders and Your Business
Public safety outreach to elementary schools is proven to be a highly effective way to educate the public and prevent accidents. What’s more, research shows utility outreach enhances public perception of the utility and boosts customer satisfaction. When receiving information that they consider valuable, customers view a utility as a company that is making a concerted effort to help the community.
This has positive financial implications. According to J.D. Power, “utility industry research has identified quantifiable links between customer satisfaction and key financial metrics, such as profitability and credit ratings. In fact, a highly satisfied customer base can be a leading indicator of return on equity for utilities.”
The financial benefits can include lower insurance premiums (increased safety in the service territory lowers the risk) and a positive influence on regulators when negotiating rate increases. This makes school safety outreach a sound investment, helping to meet departmental goals and benefit the enterprise as a whole.
The implications are clear: Safe business is smart business.