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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.

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Karen Berard-Reed
Program Manager, Public Education

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