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Executive Officer Leadership: “Fire Prevention” Is Outdated!

Before anyone starts to throw rocks at me or burn me at the stake for nontraditional fire-service ideas, hear me out. Am I suggesting that the fire service do away with traditional fire-prevention activities? Absolutely not!

However, you’re doing a disservice to the primary responsibility of every fire department—proactively protecting the community you serve—by still using the label fire prevention. The same can be said for still calling yourselves fire departments when less than 5% of what we do on an annual basis is fire related, but that’s a topic for another article.

Take a close look at what your communities are asking of you today. Is it just fire prevention or are you involved in many other proactive activities, all aimed at keeping the citizens you serve safe?

Fire departments are involved in EMS prevention. They play a major role in emergency management. And they work with law enforcement on terrorism response and prevention to some degree—to name just a few nonfire-related activities. Even traditional plan reviews have little to do with fire prevention and more to do with life safety.

I’m sure you can look at services you provide to your community and name other nonfire-related proactive programs you provide. But you still call it fire prevention, don’t you?

In January 2017, FireChief.com published CRR: The Fire Service’s Next Evolutionary Step. Every officer and chief needs to read what the author has to say on where fire prevention is headed, if it is not already there in your community. Community risk reduction is used to explain what you’re involved with today, and as you read the article, you’ll see that fire is a minimal part of the responsibilities of a true CRR program.

So why are you so reluctant to change what you call this proactive service you provide to your community? Is it tradition and not wanting to be the one who steps outside the box to embrace change?

Are you reluctant to create partnerships in the community that enhance your current resources for protecting the community for fear of losing control? If this is the case, you need to get over it and tell the public what you do provide them. Do it today.

I have recently noticed a few fire departments changing fire prevention to community risk reduction and for good reason. The NFPA, NFFF and Vision 20/20 support CRR and have tied it to the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives

Do your research. Learn what CRR involves and how it can help you market what you do for your constituents and elected officials. Let them know how CRR will enhance the value you provide to your community.

As you work to provide value to the services the taxpayer pays for, you need to be able to market these services properly. This must involve using terms that directly explain what you provide: Community Risk Reduction Division better communicates to your citizens what you provide than Fire Prevention Division can today.

Be a forward-thinking leader. Start a new and meaningful marketing strategy that will pay long-term benefits; explain what value you provide in terms that fit your responsibilities in a 21st Century emergency-service organization.

You have seen a reinventing of the traditional fire service over the last 30-40 years and this is the next step. Be a true leader and embrace this change.


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