Safety messaging critical for utility communications

By Ruchi Solanki, Research Associate –

In light of the recent news of the Oroville Dam damage to a spillway in Northern California that caused a frantic but temporary mass evacuation of residents, safety messaging has become a critical part of communications to customers for a lot of utilities.

NorthWestern Energy provided critical safety messages to their customers as well as vacationers who visited near the dams’ adjoining rivers and public parks in Montana. The utility’s strategy was to use several different channels to spread the message and effectively promote hydroelectric safety around these areas. NorthWestern Energy utilized print, radio and digital channels along with “frozen billboards” on iceboxes.

Image courtesy of NorthWestern Energy

The campaign focused on three central messages to both customers and visitors: stop, look and listen. Customers were told that they needed to stop and read safety signs near dams, avoid littering the river and properly dispose of trash, and listen to warning sirens when leaving the waterways. The utility’s unique and creative approach to communicate through non-traditional channels, like the icebox, helped to increase safety awareness for its customer base as well as those visiting the area.

Safety communication is not limited to just to dam safety, nor is it limited to adults only. Educating children on electrical safety is just as important and many utilities already have programs in place on getting kids informed. Utilities can also incorporate the safety dance into their marketing messages to ensure that safety is a priority for customers.

If you are interested in learning more about how to optimize your utility’s communication strategy on safety, join Chartwell’s Customer Communications Research Council by emailing Tim Herrick at


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