There is a growing trend to assign Community Risk Reduction (CRR) responsibility to the Fire Prevention Bureau, the community educator, or specifically the State Fire Marshal. It is important to remember CRR is integrated management. All facets of a fire department’s services are included in a strategic and well-documented CRR plan.
Though education and engineering are both powerful and beneficial practices when implementing Community Risk Reduction strategies, they should not be the primary focus when effective impact and outcome are to be realized. Assigning the title of Community Risk Reduction Coordinator to an education specialist or community outreach specialist may not be the best plan for longevity of the program. These positions are often the first to be eliminated when budgets are cut, though new practices show they contribute more to the bottom line.
In integrated management, education, engineering, enforcement, economic incentive, and emergency response are removed from their silos. Operations personnel are a vital part of the process, as are inspectors, support staff, and department leadership. Plans are developed for them to work together to address targeted risk. These risks aren’t simply fire concerns. They include any targeted risk that can endanger the well-being of a community and its members. The community ranges from a large city to a simple apartment building. Because these risks may require additional services the fire department does not facilitate, partnerships with other agencies and community members are formed. Ideally, when a fire department builds a plan from their community risk assessment, the fire chief is the true CRR coordinator.
Ideally, using standard practices to build the foundations of a CRR program is recommended. Both the Institution of Fire Engineers USA Branch (IFE-USA) Vision 20/20 project and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer solid tools to help get started.
Vision 20/20 at strategicfire.org shares a wealth of combined knowledge by leading subject matter experts, as well as online tools and resources. Their partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) offers free training in the Resource One portal at ifsta.org. The Vision 20/20 CRR Radio podcast provides insight from those who have learned what works and doesn’t work.
NFPA released NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. The intent of the standard is to help normalize the definition of CRR and provide direction. It addresses steps to complete community risk assessments and the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a CRR plan. This standard includes important information on how to assemble a CRR organization and committee, how to form partnerships, how to use data in the CRA, and to evaluate activities. NFPA 1300 can be found at nfpa.org/1300.
Overall, the responsibility of CRR goes to the entire community. But the fire department, led by the chief, is often the agency that responds regardless of the magnitude or impact of a risk. Removing fire department services from their silos to work together will help reduce negative impact and lead to positive outcome.