Lisa O'Leary Your Smallest Customers Can Be Your Biggest Advocates

Guest Blogger: Brandy Spainhoward, Vectren, Lead Specialist, Creative Services

When it comes to educating customers about natural gas safety, Vectren has found a high degree of success in letting children bring the message home to their parents. For six years, Vectren has partnered with the National Energy Foundation to bring natural gas safety education each fall to nearly 15,000 fourth graders throughout Indiana and Ohio.  Each year, more than 2,000 teachers are invited to participate in a 45-60 minute Energy Safe Kids interactive classroom presentation. The program has become so popular that the 235 fall presentations were filled and waiting lists had to be created last spring.

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The interactive presentations feature a science experiment that demonstrates how natural gas is formed, tips for safety when around natural gas appliances and equipment, the importance of calling 811 before digging, and how to respond when you recognize signs of a natural gas leak. After the presentations, classes are invited to participate in a contest to create a 90-second video teaching other children how to be Energy Safe Kids.

A key element of the program is the household energy report card that students take home to their parents. Families are instructed to work together to grade their home on natural gas safety and return the completed report card to their teachers for a prize. Answers to questions about topics like calling 811, carbon monoxide detectors and keeping the furnace area clutter-free not only help Vectren gauge the effectiveness of the program, but also help the company meet pipeline safety requirements for public awareness. The improvement in scores from year-to-year shows the messages are hitting home.

As this program and its results signal, we should not ignore the impact of reaching out to children as utilities plan their public awareness and outreach – they are the customers of tomorrow.

Lisa O'Leary

About Lisa O'Leary

Lisa O'Leary is the Manager of Digital Communications for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Lisa served as Manager of Multimedia Communications for the Senator John Heinz History Center, "the Smithsonian's home in Pittsburgh," and as a Web Producer at WPXI-TV, Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh, PA. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Communications.
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