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Community Risk Reduction: It’s Not Just a Catch Phrase

(Appeared in the October 2017 issue of The Dispatcher)

It might seem like every time you attend a presentation, talk to a colleague or read an article, the phrase “Community Risk Reduction” (CRR) is the topic.

While many believe that it is the new catchphrase for the fire service, it’s not.  Most practice CRR and call it “prevention” or “emergency response.” CRR is defined by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) as “the identification and prioritization of risk, followed by the coordinated application of resources to minimize the occurrence of unwanted events.” This process addresses not only occurrences but also their impact. This is done through combining prevention and reduction efforts.

When exploring the topic of CRR it is important to look at all of the potential hazards to the community, both man-made and natural. Examples of man-made hazards include fire, motor vehicle crashes, chemical spills, or terrorism. Examples of natural hazards include floods, tornadoes, winds, and severe weather extremes (hot and cold). With either, we may not be able to prevent the event, but we can lessen the impact by prevention and mitigation efforts.

Let’s discuss the effect of the hurricane season in the United States and Caribbean Islands. In many cases, prevention efforts were employed early: boarding up windows; sandbagging openings; stockpiling food and water; fueling generators; and evacuating hazardous areas. We also have seen the mitigation efforts afterward: cleaning up debris; removing trees; restoring power; evaluating and repairing infrastructure; and rescue and recovery. In these large events, both first responders (including law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, public works, public utilities, emergency government, and relief agencies) as well as members of the community are helping neighbors.

In today’s resource-challenged environment, fire departments must deliver effective and efficient programs. Fire service has become an all-hazards response organization, not focused specifically on fire, EMS, or hazmat. When people do not know where to turn, they turn to 911 because fire service responds, yet resources (budget, staffing, and equipment) decrease and responses increase. CRR helps fire departments work smarter, not harder.

Strategic CRR identifies and prioritizes risks; focuses efforts on real versus perceived issues; builds internal support; and recruits and engages community partners. These efforts lead to the development of strategies to address these risks through prevention and mitigation.

Too often fire departments are tasked with the job of reducing the risk within a community, but it is the community that needs to look at the risks collectively and decide how to address them.

For more information on CRR, visit the Vision 20/20 website at www.strategicfire.org. For training, view courses provided by Vision 20/20 and the National Fire Academy at www.usfa.fema.gov. For information on disaster preparedness and recovery, visit www.ready.gov.

Remember we all play a part in reducing the risk of loss and injury through prevention and mitigation. For more information on how fire sprinklers save lives and property, please contact Marty King at [email protected] or visit www.nfsawi.org, www.nfsa.org, and www.homefiresprinkler.org.

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