CenterPoint Energy’s interactive natural gas safety website, Safe and Smart with Buddy Blue Flame, delivers tools and resources related to natural gas, safety and conservation. The colorful, educational site, which was launched in 2016, offers a variety of content for all ages in formats targeted to parents, teachers and students. The offerings include classroom activities, videos, games, quizzes, energy efficiency tips and eBooks. The site won the Southern Gas Association (SGA) Community Service award in 2017.
Site offers expanded content as students progress through grades
“Our company has promoted safety among young people in kindergarten through 12th grade for years,” said Tracy Janda, Community Relations Manager. “Our website represented an opportunity for us to offer digital resources to that population.”
The site is part of CenterPoint Energy’s safety and education initiatives, which include promotions at large community events and schools.
The site is hosted by the National Theatre for Children (NTC), a well-known education consulting company. Content was developed in collaboration with NTC and CenterPoint Energy’s internal resources, which included stakeholders from across the company.
NTC provided significant creative content for the site. “We’re especially excited about the games, which are similar to the video games kids play every day,” Janda said. “These are multilevel games that allow kids to progress as they learn and achieve more in the game. We also have multiplayer games for more than one student or family member.”
The site was designed to capture the attention of students as they progress from lower to higher grades. Once students reach the higher grade levels, they can access expanded content on numerous topics such as science and career choices.
Website offers access via mobile devices, interactive whiteboards
The website was developed using responsive design and can be viewed on mobile devices and interactive whiteboards in the classroom.
The site provides teachers with a variety of useful resources, including worksheets, lesson plans, classroom experiments and downloadable activity sheets that promote literacy and math skills. Educational games can be projected on interactive classroom whiteboards, which serve as touchscreens for students.
“This is a really robust offering that teachers can fit it into their lesson plans as needed,” Janda said.
The site leverages two safety characters: Buddy the Blue Flame and Wanda Water Heater. “We felt it was important to have consistency,” Janda said. “These are characters that bring a smile to anyone’s face, no matter what the age.”
Janda said her favorite website offering is the Fun Facts About Natural Gas flyer from the American Gas Association, which shares information that is not widely known. “For example, at the MGM Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, natural gas is used for the volcano to erupt in front of the hotel, and it’s fueled by piña colada-scented natural gas,” she said.
In 2018, the team enhanced the site with two versions of a popular eBook called Buddy’s Big Day – one for grades one and two and another, more involved version for grades three and four.
Site metrics vary depending on time of year
NTC provides metrics from Google Analytics to track site traffic, but the site is fairly new and the team is still collecting and analyzing data.
“We have thousands of hits per month at certain times of the year, and at other times it may be less than 1,000,” Janda said. “It’s cyclical. What’s important is that when they get to our site, they linger. It’s an experience. We’re very pleased with the click-through rate.”
To get the word out about the site and its resources, CenterPoint Energy issues media releases and sends emails to teachers.
“During August and September, the website hits go up when teachers are back at school and working on their lesson plans,” Janda said. “We hope to engage our teachers more this school year, as we’ve been doing a more robust direct mail campaign to them.”