AUTHOR: Karen Berard-Reed

Firefighter and kids

CRR in Action: 3 Questions with Lt. Erin Stehle of the Harrisonburg Fire Department

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. This process has been gaining traction in fire departments around the world as a tool to enhance efforts to increase the safety of residents, visitors, and first responders. But what does it look like in action? As a member of the Community Risk Reduction team at NFPA, I am fortunate to work with passionate, proactive fire professionals who have real world perspective about CRR and its merits. I recently interviewed Lt. Erin Stehle, public education officer at the Harrisonburg Fire Department in Virginia. Lt. Stehle is an expert at using the CRR process to boost the impact of her public education initiatives.   KBR: Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW) is coming up quickly! The FPW theme, “Learn the Sound of Fire Safety™”, is important for everyone. How does your Community Risk Assessment (CRA) help you strengthen your FPW efforts? ES: The data from our CRA makes our Fire Prevention Week initiatives more impactful as it provides us with direction and a big picture view. The data points to the areas towards which we should be directing our FPW efforts and highlights the who, what and where risks are occurring in your community. Oftentimes in fire departments we assume problems are happening in certain areas. W. Edwards Deming said, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.” By assessing the nine community profiles outlined in NFPA 1300, we have data to support assumptions with facts and figures, and have also uncovered some unexpected risks. This has been helpful when making a case to executive leadership about our strategy to reduce such risks. All in all, data is crucial to developing safety initiatives allows CRR professional to mitigate risks in our community, which in turn prevents more civilian and firefighter injuries and deaths. Lt. Erin Stehle spoke about Fire Prevention Week in NFPA's Conference Series in August.   KBR: Is it fair to say that your CRA is helping you drive diversity, equity, and inclusion in your fire & life safety education efforts? ES: Yes! Let me give you an example. For the past 30 years our department has used the same strategy for Fire Prevention Week, which includes static displays at our local mall. While this was the best location to promote FPW years ago, we are changing direction because of what we learned from our CRA. Specifically in our department, the data has allowed us to narrow our focus on underrepresented populations such as people experiencing language isolation, people with disabilities and older adults. This approach allows our departments to bring equity to our FPW efforts and meet the needs of vulnerable and underrepresented populations. Our community is quite diverse and over 70 different languages are spoken across our 55,000 residents. It is imperative that we consider this information to ensure we are effectively reaching our target audiences. This year we are either participating or hosting events that include these populations, as well as our usual elementary field trips and school visits to ensure the messages reach the broader population. KBR: Do you have any advice to offer CRR professionals who are planning for Fire Prevention Week this year? ES: Absolutely! If you are a CRR professional gearing up for FPW, consider these principles: Quality vs. Quantity- CRR professionals tend to be charismatic and compassionate people, which is a major strength when planning for Fire Prevention Week. It is exciting to celebrate a week that encompasses fire safety. However, we often feel like we have to do it all and that can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to consider developing programs and activities that maximize efficiency. For years we have continued to implement programs because “it’s how it has always been.” Or perhaps we feel internal and external pressure to continue to host certain events for public perception. Rather than giving in to the pressure, use your data to identify a plan with a clear focus. Stay attentive to your desired outcomes and high-impact interventions rather than high-touch. Give yourself permission to start small. We are in this together- You should never feel like CRR is only up to you. Identify the movers and shakers in the department who love working with the community. This can help create buy-in, so everyone knows their part in CRR. Of course, there is always going to be that 5-10% of a department that complains about CRR or pub ed, but don’t worry about them. CRR saves lives and what we are doing matters. There are many people within our departments that are compassionate and want to help. Seek them out because you are never alone in CRR. Tag-a-long- One lesson I’ve learned from CRR is that you do not have to host all of these events during FPW/month. Instead, look and see what’s already scheduled in your community and tag-a-long. There’s no reason to feel like you have to create new events. Partnerships are key in CRR. There is power in numbers and the more people involved in an event, that better it will be. So be sure to tag-a-long to community events happening during FPW/month. To learn more about CRR initiatives in Harrisonburg, reach out to Erin. Visit www.nfpa.org/CRAIG1300 to learn about CRAIG 1300, the NFPA Community Risk Assessment dashboard that Lt. Stehle used to drive her Fire Prevention Week efforts. This blog is part of a series intended to provide a peek into some commendable CRR initiatives and inspire those interested in CRR to jump in and join the momentum. Throughout the series, we’ll share brief interviews with CRR professionals about the unique efforts taking place at the local level.
Berger

CRR in Action: 3 Questions with Daniel Berger, the Community Risk Reduction Manager for Pflugerville Fire Department

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. This process has been gaining traction in fire departments around the world as a tool to enhance efforts to increase the safety of residents, visitors, and first responders. But what does it look like in action? As a member of the Community Risk Reduction team at NFPA, I am fortunate to work with passionate, proactive fire professionals who have real world perspective about CRR and its merits. It is a pleasure to share their stories in this blog series. My next interview is with Daniel Berger, Risk Reduction Division Manager at the Pflugerville Fire Department in Texas.  When we met, virtually, your passion for Community Risk Reduction and Community Risk Assessment was instantly evident. Can you tell us where this drive originates? I’ve always enjoyed making things better for people in general and valued my time as a firefighter because of this. Early in my career, I moved from Operations to Fire Code Enforcement and Arson Investigations. These roles play a vital part in the overall fire & life safety ecosystem, but it was difficult to see the impacts of day-to-day efforts. Community Risk Reduction is a great fit for me because measurable outputs and outcomes provide tangible evidence that my work has impact. In addition, I value good stewardship. I also enjoy finding streamlined, sometimes common-sense approaches to problems. CRR checks these boxes as it provides a playbook that identifies the problems particular to a community and scripts an efficient solution. Couple all of this with the fact I’m a bit of a data nerd (Marty Ahrens on the NFPA Applied Research team is one of my heroes - her reports are must reads) and you can see why I am a big fan of  CRR. You and your team members in Pflugerville have completed an impressive Community Risk Assessment. Tell us a bit about the process you followed to complete this important work. The process of creating our first ever CRA had some of the elements of a binge-worthy TV series: a little bit of drama with some truly comedic moments and a lesson on resilience over the long haul. We began in April of 2018 with two Public Educators and a Lieutenant assigned to this project. At the time, NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development, was not yet available. Instead, Annex B from NFPA 1730 guided our work along with resources from Vision 20/20. The team began to accumulate data on our community including: Demographic information from the US Census Bureau and city resources Building information from the County’s Appraisal District and other local resources Response information on historical emergency response from several internal reporting systems Economic information from several local community partners. We shared this information with a local GIS specialist who created dozens of useful maps and displays to help us identify trends and clusters. The result was a mound of information that we mulled over extensively. We had awesome information, but we really struggled with what to do with the data. After several brainstorming sessions, we developed a process to prioritize the risks highlighted in the data based on the probability of an event occurring, the potential impact of an occurrence, and our capacity to influence either. We ended with a product we are proud of and came away with some valuable insights into how we’ll develop our next version in 2022.  What is the role of CRR in Pflugerville? I’m curious to hear how your team’s efforts impacted prevention initiatives within the fire service and the overall community. Our leadership recognized the need to follow a true CRR model several years ago. It began with the simple name change of our Division from Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction. Since then, we’ve been trying to institutionalize the principles and values of CRR. While we’re making great strides in this effort, we’re still scratching the surface of what we can really do with a CRR mindset. The CRA and CRRP are the drivers for our Division. Prior to creating our CRR plan, we were all over the map with our programming: cooking safety, wildfire mitigation, accidental poisonings, severe weather plans, car seat installations, fall prevention, and more. The CRA and CRR plan helped us define our focus to ensure a greater probability of positively impacting our community and efficient resource deployment. One example of how our CRA has resulted in a safer community is work we’ve done with our neighborhoods with manufactured homes. This project highlights the general good that can come from a well-written, well-executed risk assessment and risk reduction plan.  Data in the demographic profile of our CRA illuminated six manufactured home communities in our District whose residents were at an increased risk of fire injury or death. In addition to personal risk factors related to age and mobility, we found that many of the homes predate modern construction and fire safety standards. We decided to focus risk reduction efforts in these areas. Using our CRA data, we applied for and received a federal grant that gave us the ability to implement data-driven initiatives to educate each resident on cooking safety and install free smoke and/or CO combo alarms in every bedroom and the common areas of each manufactured home.   We’re roughly halfway through our efforts in these communities. Even through a pandemic, our Operations-led teams provided cooking safety education in over 550 homes and installed over 1,700 alarms. To date, these actions have directly impacted over 2,200 people in our District, including over 880 youth and nearly 130 seniors. We are proud to know our efforts have boosted safety in these neighborhoods. To learn more about CRR initiatives in Pflugerville, reach out to Daniel Berger at dberger@pflugervillefire.org. This blog series is intended to provide a peek into some commendable CRR initiatives and inspire those interested in CRR to jump in and join the momentum. Throughout the series, we’ll share brief interviews with  CRR professionals about the unique efforts taking place at the local level. NFPA is currently seeking new fire department to join the CRA pilot project. Looking for assistance with your Community Risk Assessment? Go to nfpa.org/CRR for more information about joining the project. Reach out to crr@nfpa.org with questions.

CRR in Action: 3 Questions with Lieutenant Chris Collins of Saint Albans Fire Department

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. This process has been gaining traction in fire departments around the world as a tool to enhance efforts to increase the safety of residents, visitors, and first responders. But what does it look like in action? As a member of the Community Risk Reduction team at NFPA, I am fortunate to work with passionate, proactive fire professionals who have real world perspective about CRR and its merits. It is a pleasure to share their stories in this blog series. My first interview is with Lt. Chris Collins, a Fire Inspector and CRR champion at the Saint Albans Fire Department in West Virginia. Karen: Lt. Collins, we have had a chance to work together on a couple of projects. It is clear you are a prevention-minded firefighter. Can you share a little bit about why prevention and risk reduction are important to you? Chris: A few years ago, our chief asked me to take an NFPA Certified Fire Inspector class. I grudgingly accepted, but made it clear to him that I became a firefighter to put out fires and rescue people, not to inspect buildings. While studying the course and reviewing the codes, I was amazed at the thought and care that goes into making occupancies safer. As I read about the history of NFPA and studying historical fires, a specific line in the text stood out to me: “Every code represents past victims.” That was an “aha” moment for me. I realized I could save many more people with proactive preventive measures than being reactive and waiting until an emergency happens. Not long after, we attended the Remembering When™ Conference and learned more aspects about how to influence our community with proactive prevention measures for elderly residents. These experiences fueled my enthusiasm to work in this space. Karen: As a member of the NFPA CRA Pilot Project, you’ve had a chance to use a digital dashboard customized to your community to get a good view of the local risks and capacities. How has the CRA dashboard impacted your work and the work of other members of your fire department? Chris: The dashboard centralizes data needed to conduct our Community Risk Assessment (CRA) into one place. This saved us tons of time and frustration. The CRA process is a long-term, data driven, fluid process and the dashboard helps us to slow down and capture the short-term gains while we also plan for long-term results. For example, we were able to quickly adapt our safety programs to match our interventions to the needs in unique neighborhoods while working on our CRA in the background. This tool has also helped us write grants, work with local news outlets to bring awareness to our CRR efforts and activate the public. I am incorporating the dashboard into our recruit academy in the upcoming weeks so we can cultivate a new culture on the operations side that emphasizes the importance of CRR and its progression within our department. Karen: On that note, we know that some fire department operations crews are supportive of CRR efforts but don’t see their own work as a critical component. How do you feel about that? What are the vital contributions line firefighters make to the CRR process in your community? There is a culture in the fire service to poke fun whenever possible and some of the crews find some amusement at the expense of the prevention team. However, I know that most of the staff recognize the critical importance of preventative methods and sincerely promote the programs designed to help residents. As an example, I routinely get calls at all hours from crews sharing information about smoke alarm installations in homes that had none, of overcrowding in our homeless shelter, about building deficiencies, identifying at-risk geriatric patients and many other red flag issues. They do this because they see the results of these programs and feel valued when they are a part of them. Of course, we still have a few operations staff who may never value CRR. I find it most rewarding to focus more of my efforts on the recruits and young staff who will carry CRR forward in our department long after I am gone.  This blog series is intended to provide a peek into some commendable CRR initiatives and inspire those interested in CRR to jump in and join the momentum. Throughout the series, we’ll share a brief interview with a CRR professional about the unique efforts taking place at the local level. NFPA is currently seeking new fire department to join the CRA pilot project. Want to learn more about the NFPA CRA pilot project in which Lt. Collins’ community participates? Go to nfpa.org/CRR for more information and apply before December 16, 2020. Reach out to crr@nfpa.org with questions.
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Wildfires are a community problem that have a community solution

When reading about the wildfires ravaging the western United States, it is easy to get bogged down with a sense of sadness as scenes from the frontlines are more and more heartbreaking. However, one thing is certain. People are pooling brainpower and mobilizing efforts to control what can be controlled. Out of the ashes rise stories about neighbors helping neighbors implement successful mitigation efforts in Firewise USA sites, researchers using data to identify pockets of high-risk residents who may need unique support during evacuation, and local agencies re-designing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) on the fly to consider added complications of living in wildfire risk zones amidst a global pandemic.    Community is at the heart of the issue.  We only need to look as far as the wildland urban interface to find this intersection of data-informed decision-making, energetic community partners, and residents who portray an ever-valuable sense of responsibility for safety. In fact, Firewise USA can serve as the perfect micro-model of Community Risk Reduction (CRR). Leaders in local initiatives collect information about the people, geography, weather, and hazards such as building materials and local vegetation to assess wildfire risk. They take stock of available services and resources. Then they pull local partners together to develop plans and take measurable action to mitigate risk. Most importantly, these initiatives truly reflect the “C” in CRR with a never-wavering connection to the people who live in the community. As we hear more and more about the silver linings that peek through the ash, I suspect we will find creative ways to leverage the passion and energy found in Firewise sites to reduce risks even beyond wildfire. Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks of all kinds, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. It requires a deep look at local data and consideration all of the puzzle pieces - geography, systems, and resources – to get a clear view of how hazards might impact resident safety. This Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the critical first step in the CRR process. Once that information is gathered, a local team determines the priority issues and then develops plans to address those risks. The process, while it can be challenging, is hugely beneficial to those who are laser-focused in allocating resources in impactful ways. Stop by NFPA's CRR page for updates about Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction and access to NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. You can also follow me on twitter @KBerardReed for updates about these important topics. Photo Credit: Firewise Photo Library As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.
GettyImages-84425664 CRR International Firefighters Day

On International Firefighters' Day, say thanks by taking responsibility for your own safety

May 4 is International Firefighters' Day. This special event memorializes a fatal event in which 5 volunteers from the Geelong West Fire Brigade in Australia lost their lives while bravely fighting an intense wildfire in 1999. While this tragic incident prompted the initiation of International Firefighters' Day, it is intended to reflect appreciation for the sacrifices all firefighters make throughout the world in order to ensure their communities are as safe as possible. We all know that firefighting is dangerous business. Firefighters put themselves in harm's way on a regular basis to protect lives and property. But it is important to consider that the scope of firefighters' work has broadened dramatically since the early days of organized firefighting. Imagine if Benjamin Franklin could travel in time from 1736 for a sit down with the current leader of the Philadelphia Fire Department: “Hey Commissioner Thiel! How's the bucket brigade doing these days?” “Oh, Ben – We are as busy as ever. Our members are doing lots of strong work! They respond to fires, car crashes, gas leaks, broken elevators, false alarms, trapped ducklings, caved-in construction sites, fallen grandmothers, derailed trains, collapsed decks, downed power lines, and flooded basements. Not to mention all of the medical calls. It all makes for a busy Monday!” I'm sure good ol' Ben would be curious about the journey his fire department had experienced over the course of the past 284 years as it transitioned into this all-hazards response agency. His eyes would pop thinking about how mitigation of each hazard would require new training, new equipment and new thinking – and increase the risks to the members of the department. Firefighting is dangerous work. It is easy to see how entering a burning building puts these heroes at risk. But the threats are expansive. When a fire department is an all-hazards response agency, risks related to exposure to dangerous chemicals, vehicle crashes, to heart disease and cancer, to entrapment, to electrical injuries – and many other issues - increase. Even with amplified risks, the fire department still responds because the words of Lt. JJ Edmondson shared in 1999 still ring true today, “The role of a firefighter in today's society is one of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.” As such, when we reflect on the sacrifices made by firefighters over the years, it is clear the only way to honor their work is to become an all-hazards prevention community. One strategy to help drive that transition is Community Risk Reduction. CRR is an all-hazards prevention approach and while many people look to CRR as a process to keep community members safe – it is also about keeping our first responders safe! If you are community member wondering how you can thank a firefighter on International Firefighters' Day, the answer is simple: Do something to take responsibility for your own safety. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms, remove the debris around your home in preparation for wildfire season, remove the trip hazards on stairs to prevent a painful fall. Once you have done that, help a neighbor do the same. Advocate for community-wide prevention activities. Help to foster a culture of prevention to protect those who have spent their lives protecting us. The time has come to honor our first responders with action rather than words.

Getting My Ducks In a Row: The Importance of Professional Connections

Last week, my teenage son came to me and said, “Yo, Mom. Can we get some baby ducks?” No joke. He really said “Yo, Mom.” (Cue the eye roll.) And he really asked for ducks. (Cue the eyebrow lift.) I quickly brushed off this request until later that evening during what has been coined as Social Distancing Cocktail Hour. This is exactly what you are picturing: a fireside gathering of 4 former PTO moms from the neighborhood sitting at least 6 feet away from each other while holding tumblers filled with frosty adult beverages. Towards the end of the evening, I mentioned Jonnie's request and, for some reason, the idea of having ducks in the hood was highly appealing to everyone in attendance. Fast forward a few days. I have ducklings. Two of them. They are super cute and are named Bandit and Rona. Both of my teenagers were over the moon with their arrival and have been helpful with duck care and cleaning. Here's the rub: This may have been a bit impulsive. I really don't know anything about raising ducklings. SO MANY QUESTIONS! Ducks love to swim! Are they too young to swim? If we let them swim, how warm should the water be? Is it OK to give them bananas? What is grit?? Do I need that? What about niacin?? I hear ducklings need more niacin but do they get enough niacin in their duckling food?? What is the right temperature for the brooder? Will they know to move if they get too hot? How long do they need to live inside? Can you potty train a duck? Who decided it was a good idea to get ducklings in the middle of a paper towel shortage? It doesn't escape me that the mind-spinning questions, the uncertainty, the weight of responsibility for the safety of these creatures, and even the nights of interrupted sleep serve as a fuzzy yellow metaphor for my feelings during the COVID-19 crisis. During these unprecedented times, I know more than one prevention professional who feels like a duck out of water in the absence of opportunities for face to face engagement with residents, students, and business owners. Personally, I have learned that when I start to feel overwhelmed, my best course of actions is to take a deep breath and calm the duck down. Once my spirit is soothed, I'm ready to come up with a plan – and usually, that plan includes one key concept: Connections. First responders across the world are dealing with unique challenges and faced with tough decisions fueled by equal parts data, gut, and grit. Whether a chief officer, line firefighter, or CRR specialist, connecting with others working in similar circumstances provides a critical boost in both professional success and emotional wellness. Luckily, a focus on virtual meetings has provided opportunities to connect with others in the same boat. One great example of a grassroots effort with virtual networking comes from the Fire Life Safety Educators & Coordinators Facebook group. This group originated from some boots-on-the ground CRR thought leaders and has grown to almost 500 members. When members started posting about the challenges of working during the COVID-19 response, CRR Captain Michael Sedlacek of the Madison Fire Rescue in Alabama grabbed the bull by the horns and set up some Zoom sessions for group meetings. He shared, “I really needed some motivation to keep pushing. I knew that if I was struggling, so was everyone else. This group is helping me stay energized and find new ways to renew my personal commitment to my community to educate and meet their needs.” While many participants in the Zoom sessions logged on hoping to snag new creative and innovative outreach strategies during this crisis (and certainly found what they were looking for!) the meetings served a dual purpose. Sylvia Rodriguez Peace, Fire Life Safety Education Coordinator from Greenville Fire-Rescue in Texas was not alone in her account, “Taking part in the Zoom meeting gave me a sense of normalcy by visiting with my peers who I draw energy from under normal circumstances. It was like sitting at Ott's and networking. It was a very positive boost to my mental health!” So how exactly do you get your ducks in a row so you can benefit from professional connections? You can do it in three simple steps: Find your peeps: Take advantage of formal and informal social media networking groups. Actively engage in the online chats. Plan some time to meet up virtually and pose a few key questions to discuss. Pay attention to strategies others are using in case something fits the bill as a solution for one of your struggles. Take a quack at it: Borrow an idea, tweak it to fit your needs, and see how it goes. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. This might even be the perfect time to tackle that Community Risk Assessment you've always wanted to complete. Sing like a bird: Share your successes! Use social media to let your community know about the work you are doing to add to the safety scene. Follow your peers' accounts and help each other out with some retweets and shares. Be sure to return to your networking groups and let them steal your new ideas. Remember – Birds of a feather flock together. Find the people who are struggling with the same challenges as you, lean on each other for energy and solutions, then make the magic happen. I know my own stress levels would be much higher if not for my fellow duck moms AND the colleagues in my safety circle! As Lt. Katie Harrington from Worcester Fire Department reminds us, “Our motivation and determination for outcomes are all the same. We share the same focus on reducing risks in our own communities. Together we are strong!” This networking and support can keep you from going absolutely quackers during this chaotic time. The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org. Find our past blogs about working your CRR game during COVID-19 at nfpa.org/CRR. NFPA has also been generating a great deal of relevant resources as we deal with the coronavirus, in support of you and your work. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

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