It Is Time to Do More: Community Risk Reduction

Recent news out of Philadelphia tells a tragic story about the devastating fire in which 12 people died on Wednesday. While investigators work to uncover the cause of the fire and neighbors mourn those who perished, this tragedy is truly heartbreaking for all of us work each and every day to reduce the likelihood of fire in our communities. It also makes us question where the cracks within our own communities remain, and how we can do more to ensure that no one suffers this type of loss moving forward.

The fire problem is complex and there are no easy answers. Risk is inherent and exists in every building. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate the risk of home fires, we can certainly work strategically to gain traction in the fight against fire. We can build on our existing knowledge. Working smoke alarms provide an important piece of the safety puzzle and provide critical early warning in a home fire. We also know that planning and practicing home escape plans helps family members learn the route to safety ahead of a scary, disorienting event.

These are messages all of us well know, and they’re ones we continually work to promote among our audiences time and again. When a devastating fire like this happens, it’s a resounding signal that it is time to do more, and that it’s a time to do things a bit differently from the way we’ve long done them.

Derrick Sawyer, the former Commissioner of the Philadelphia Fire Department, is a long-standing advocate for Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process of identifying local risks and planning targeted interventions to reduce those risks. In the article, Connecting the Dots, Chief Sawyer explains how data are important fire prevention tools that provide insights into the unique needs of neighborhoods across a community. The data should be considered in a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) alongside input from local stakeholders and partners to get a comprehensive view of the risks and capacity at the neighborhood level.

Community Risk Reduction arms prevention specialists with a deeper understanding of the unique qualities and characteristics of each neighborhood and the people who live, work, learn, and play there.  This knowledge guides tailored interventions designed to meet specific needs and ensure resources are deployed to address those experiencing the highest levels of risk. It is an equitable approach to prevention that leads to impactful, multifaceted initiatives.

Data-informed assessments, rich community partnerships, and targeted plans guided by the CRR process reduce the likelihood and the impact of home fires. It is time to embrace this new approach to fire prevention.

Do you have all the data you need to accurately identify where risks within your community exist? Do you have the partnerships to effectively connect with your communities to address them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into capturing that information and making those impactful connections.

But for the many fire departments and safety officials that still need more information and support to truly ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of fire in their communities, please consider what actions will you take today to better prevent fire in your communities.

Taking the first steps can be daunting, but there are many ways you can begin to more effectively identify and address risks within your communities. Our CRR resources can help get you started and move toward better understanding and responding to the biggest safety threats impacting specific populations with your jurisdiction.

NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.

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Karen Berard-Reed
Senior Strategist, Community Risk Reduction Lead

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