NFA’s Growing Impact on Community Risk Reduction

One of the goals of the U.S. Fire Administration is to reduce risk and increase resiliency through programs and training in preparedness, prevention and mitigation. As part of USFA, the National Fire Academy (NFA) has offered courses focused on prevention since its doors opened in 1980.

Strategic Analysis of Fire Prevention Programs was one of the four courses offered in the original Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) in 1985. The emphasis of this course was analyzing large-scale fires and determining how they could be prevented.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, Executive Analysis of Community Risk Reduction is a required course in EFOP; its goals are to

  • develop leaders in comprehensive multi-hazard community risk reduction
  • create a strategic community risk reduction plan
  • focus on reducing risks in the local community
  • reduce line-of-duty deaths among firefighters

NFPA 1452, Guide for Training Fire Service Personnel to Conduct Community Risk Reduction, 2015 ed., defines community risk reduction this way: “Community risk reduction integrates emergency response with prevention.

Community risk reduction involves identifying and prioritizing risks, selecting and implementing strategies, monitoring and evaluating activities, and involving community partners, all in an effort to better protect residents and firefighters.”

There has been a shift in attitudes toward the role of the EFO candidate in prevention and CRR over the years. Today’s students understand being an advocate for CRR is their responsibility. EFOP candidates come in ready to take their data and use our NFA Community Risk Reduction Model to develop data-driven risk-reduction programs.

We’re seeing the same enthusiasm among our company officers who are enrolling in the Managing Officer’s Program.

These students take a 6-day class called Applications of Community Risk Reduction, designed to impact communities at the station level.

Here are a few examples of how Executive Fire Officer graduates are putting theory into practice.

Fire Chief Roderick Jolivette of Manchester, Ga., reports, “Community risk reduction helped us lower our ISO’s Public Protection Classification Rating from 4 to 3. The National Fire Academy has helped us with conducting community risk assessments for low risk high frequency occupancies.”

Fire Chief John Senft, retired from York, Pa., recently gave testimony to the Pennsylvania Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, where he advocated for community risk reduction for communities protected by both career and volunteer departments as a way to manage risk in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Chief Thomas DiBernardo, Sunrise Fire Rescue, Fla., has developed a comprehensive risk reduction plan for his community with the help of staff and community partners. He says, “It certainly has been a source to provide focused budget funding and has assisted in two grants so far.”

The strategy for building community equity can be summarized by four elements:

  • Visibility – Fire department personnel must be visible in neighborhoods in non-emergency roles.
  • Interaction – Firefighters must interact with residents in informal and face-to-face settings.
  • Participation – Fire department officers must actively and frequently participate in community organizations and events.
  • Response to citizens’ needs – Fire departments must be willing to respond to non-emergency and nontraditional requests for assistance. In addition, company officers must be given the authority to be responsive.

A big selling point of CRR is what it can do for the fire and emergency service. It provides value-added services—providing services residents don’t expect. CRR improves quality of life and promotes a standard of care important to every elected official. This means fire departments exist not only to respond to emergencies after the fact, but to prevent or reduce the effects of their occurrence in the first place. It assumes the fire service will act proactively as a risk-reduction entity for their community and will partner with other community organizations as needed to accomplish their risk reduction objectives.

Ultimately, what CRR does is build community equity, which is the result of an ongoing, positive relationship with the community. It’s not something that happens in a few days or a few weeks. It’s the total sum of all programs and services of the fire department. Community equity is built each time a member of the community has a positive interaction with the department. By working proactively and with community partners, the fire service will be able to provide the highest level of protection.

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