Community safety requires more than luck – and sometimes includes breaking from tradition
Each year in late February, my younger son makes the same announcement: “Let’s Go! They’re here!” What he’s referring to is that decadent St. Patrick’s Day treat, the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake®. At least once before March 17, I happily oblige with a trip to the golden arches. In recent years, I’ve had a dilemma at the drive-through now that the new Oreo® Shamrock McFlurry® is an option: Do I mix things up and order it, considering chocolate and mint is one of my favorite combinations? Or should I stay true to the classic minty shake, a tradition I’ve followed for years? It’s important to note that I have great respect for traditions. Professionally, however, tradition has become a bit of a trigger word for me. After years of working with the fire service, I am passionate about the value that Community Risk Reduction (CRR) brings to the table, but I know there are folks who have not yet embraced this strategy. I was once labeled a “tradition killer” by a firefighter who hadn’t yet bought in to CRR and it was a good reminder of the challenges ahead. As I moved forward with our CRR initiatives, a nagging voice in the back of my mind reminded me to consider the disruption CRR brings to a profession rich with tradition. Still, the words of my boss, Lorraine Carli, vice president for outreach and advocacy at NFPA, provided clarity around the difference being rooted in tradition and being stuck in it, and the importance of recognizing the difference, at the first IAFC CRR Leadership Conference in 2019. “We cannot allow our peers and colleagues to prevent innovation under the guise of tradition,” said Carli. “The true tradition of the fire service is to protect and serve. CRR allows us to do this by getting ahead of that 911 call and addressing risks before they become incidents. It allows us to enhance tradition with technology, with data, and with improvements that match the current landscape. The result is a modern fire department making data-driven decisions to guide tailored prevention efforts.” These words have stuck with me ever since, reminding me that CRR is not disrespectful of fire service traditions. Instead, it uses all the resources we have at our disposal today to help fire departments keep the public safe. CRR is an innovation the elevates the brand of the fire service, while the protect-and-serve tradition of the fire service provides the roots for this savvy approach to ensure community safety. Whether or not you have the luck of the Irish on your side, community safety initiatives are enhanced by a data-driven risk assessment, by rich partnerships and stakeholder engagement, and by matching resources to priority risks in an organized risk reduction plan. If you are looking for a starting point with CRR check out NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. While you do that, I’ll going to branch out and try that Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.