Today’s fire service is much more than just fire and EMS response. Our industry is tasked with fire suppression, emergency medical care, hazmat, technical rescue and myriad other responsive tasks.
While we often find comfort in these responsive duties, we would be remiss to not focus attention on our preventive duties as well, such as inspections, public education and emergency management. These often lack the draw and can be clouded in focus, but these critical community risk reduction (CRR) measures provide exponential benefit to our communities and our organizations.
While the idea of CRR isn’t new, the term itself may be new to some in the fire service. Though reducing fire deaths through smoke-detector checks or reducing fire loss through sprinkler implementation are actionable items, CRR is so much more. Often, we consider this a task handled by the prevention bureau or think of it as the fire marshal’s job, but true risk reduction can and should occur at the company level.
Company-level personnel, the company officer and associated crew, are truly the face of our organizations. Daily they interact with the public; whether on calls or non-emergency events, the crews encounter the public on a routine basis.
With these high-frequency interactions comes the opportunity to engage and interact in ways related to CRR. Having a mindset of constantly seeking ways to improve quality of life and reduce potential injury will improve the community and overall life of our residents.
As an industry, we must transition from hanging our hat on run statistics and move to a culture of positive public encounters. Preventing an injury, while not glamorous, is much better for the person than treating a dislocated hip that will likely create a long-duration hospital stay and potentially future complications.
The idea of CRR isn’t a complicated one, especially company-level risk reduction. These tasks can be simple, focusing on effective ways to leave the community in a better place.
One example of company-level CRR is identifying and if possible mitigating fall risk for a patient. Oftentimes, we run a person who has fallen; the patient isn’t injured and just needs assistance back to a chair or bed. Taking the extra time to identify the reason for the fall, such as a loose rug, and correcting it will hopefully prevent a future fall and in turn reduce the chance that we’ll need revisit for a potentially worse injury.
Likewise, when we respond on routine alarms, we can take the opportunity to conduct a home-safety check. We can test smoke detectors, check for fire extinguishers and look for such fire hazards as materials stacked around cooking surfaces. Again, we can prevent a potential catastrophe before it happens as well as show our community members we truly care about their wellbeing and quality of life.
Community risk reduction is a necessary aspect of today’s progressive fire service. We must continue to prepare and be ready to respond to emergencies, but we must also have the skill sets to identify ways to prevent those emergencies when possible to improve our community and the quality of life for those we serve.