Fire Kills 180The Government has launched its new fire safety campaign, Unsung Heroes. Rebooting the Fire Kills brand, the Home Office unleashed new advertising using revitalised smoke alarm designs, not for the smart home, but for the friendly, helpful and safe home - FIRE correspondent Catherine Levin looks at the messages behind the campaign.

Not wanting to frighten the public anymore, Fire Kills has used its new creative agency, Engine, to create characters that are expressive and show emotion. It’s all about behaviour change after all, so these friendly fellas are going to appeal to pretty much everyone from little kids to older people.

The focus remains on smoke alarm testing. The campaign has done some interesting stuff in recent years: the YouTube short videos, showed all sorts of whacky ways to test your alarm, with the trampoline one being particularly challenging.

Fundamentally, it’s a bit boring to remember to test your alarm, so Fire Kills has a tough job to jolt people into action in the first place but an even harder job to change the behaviour long term.

In his first foray into the world of fire, the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning reinforced this point, “with only half of people who own alarms testing them regularly, this campaign gives us a timely reminder to make sure our smoke alarms are working properly.”

Over the years, the Government’s Fire Kills campaign has reflected the times and the state of the economy. From a high watermark £3 million budget and waves of TV advertising starring Julie Walters who warned viewers to Pull Your Finger Out in the early months of 2008, the campaign budget has diminished hugely. In 2016, austerity demands greater creativity and the clever use of digital to ensure extensive reach and impact.Fire kills large

The last time the Home Office was in charge of fire, UK domestic fire-related deaths stood at 483 (down from a 1979 peak of 865). Last year, in England alone, 188 people lost their lives in house fires. While every fire death is tragic, this reduction is an incredible achievement. It is in part thanks to the continued commitment to Fire Kills and all the fire prevention activity that goes on every day in every fire and rescue service across the UK.

Unsung Heroes may be a new approach for the government’s campaign, but it also reflects the thinking of manufacturers. Nest, a US company, took as its starting point, the concept of the unloved object in the home, started with the thermostat and then turned its attention to the smoke alarm. The result was a beautifully designed, technically smart, but eye wateringly expensive object.

This Fire Kills campaign shows that smoke alarms don’t have to be design objects, but they do need to come out of the shadows and become part of the home, the safe home.

Get more insight on the campaign by subscribing to February's FIRE Magazine which also features a 'Flood Focus'