October is typically known for Fire Prevention Month and the increase of community education. This includes school visits, department open houses, station tours and presentations to civic groups by our professional operation staff as well as inspectors and educators. It's easy to build relationships during this time because the public is accustomed to our activities.
Beyond October, what's your plan for community risk reduction? Does your organization's strategic plan have goals for community risk reduction, for events such as fires and medical incidents? Providing leadership to typical fire-prevention activities is as critical as the fire chief's role in developing long-term solutions for apparatus replacement.
We've been trained to lead a small army of well-trained professionals at a moment's notice to just about any emergency. If we can apply that same training to our community risk reduction efforts, what would happen?
Engage your educators, EMS staff and fire prevention personnel in developing a long-term strategy in community risk reduction.
Engage your department staff and ask them to identify the risk problems in your community. For some of us, we may need to look at adjacent areas to determine trends. These are the conditions our plan must look at solving. For instance, there may be a high level of trips and falls, creating nontransported medical emergencies at a facility, or a large number of false alarms.
Actions – While engaging the group that displays the conditions, encourage actions to help reduce these types of incidents. This should include nontraditional roles of our staff, including operations and education staff. Share the conditions with everyone involved in the organization so they can understand what the problems in the community are.
Needs – What does it take to meet this reduction? Do we need to apply for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, develop a critical partnership or develop a smoke-alarm installation program? The needs may require a short-term goal or to a long-term one, such as reducing incidents by 5% over 3 years.
Once you've identified the conditions you need to change, developed an action plan and identified the needs, put the plan in place and determine when and how to evaluate it. Leading community risk reduction isn't hard, but it's often overlooked and in the shadow of operations.
As a fire department, we must find opportunities to install smoke alarms, discuss fire safety and aggressively work with other agencies to reduce emergency medical incidents that are preventable. If we're not engaging our management team in community risk reduction, our education programs won't address our current fire and medical dangers.