The basic suggestion is: avoid building conditioned reflexes, unless you mean it and are confident that you can manage the consequent reduced flexibility.
The “fire drill” is the typical reflex building schema, as the purpose it to ensure that a stimulus (the fire alarm or fire/smoke presence) will generate a predictable behavioural pattern (reach fire exit, etc.).
Why it works:
- you build the stimulus-based conditioned reflex
- you do not overuse the stimulus to the point of becoming part of the environment (i.e. it is still unusual)
- the stimulus and the associated actions are simple and intuitive, and pictorial aids help to ensure the result.
The less control you have on your “public”, the more you have to rely on controlled crises to raise awareness, as this would be the only way to avoid endless discussions on the actual need to solve the problem you want to raise awareness to.
As with any other activity, try to avoid building a routine around the awareness-rising activities, like scheduling drills at regular intervals, and focus on specific areas of intervention.
Example: in Italy, during the early 1970s oil crisis the Prime Minister had one street light out of two switched off- years later, he said that it was pointless, but really aimed at raising awareness about the need to cut down on electricity consumption, and the individualist inclination of Italians ruled out a traditional appeal to “national interest”.