Don’t Change Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction

Are You Crazy?
"Don't change Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction!" I am one of the most vocal proponents of Community Risk Reduction. I regularly write articles, train, and speak publicly regarding Community Risk Reduction. Many people feel I'm crazy and wrong about making this statement, “Don’t Change Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction.” I have been told, "At least CRR is being talked about" and "This change moves the focus in a positive direction onto CRR." While I see their point, I see a much bigger issue that hurts the Community Risk Reduction cause.

Money, Power, Staffing, & Leadership

The Operations section of our Fire Departments have, and always will have, the most money, power, & staffing. Top leadership within our departments rarely comes from anywhere other than Operations. Some may have spent time in Fire Prevention, but their hearts are still rooted in Operations. Operations personnel typically dwarf Fire Prevention personnel in numbers. Union Leadership and initiatives are focused on Fire Operations, not Prevention. Politicians, when seeking support, point to Operations. At times, Fire Prevention represents a stumbling block to their campaign. These issues have been the case since the beginning of the fire service.

I Love My Fire Prevention Brothers and Sisters
Although I come from Operations, anyone who has ever spoken with me in person, read one of my articles, or heard me speak at a conference knows I have the utmost respect and love for my Fire Prevention brothers and sisters. I understand their frustrations. I wish they could have the resources they need to accomplish their mission. I mean no disrespect to any in this worthwhile and necessary profession. We need and love you. That being said, we need to understand where the money, power, staffing, and leadership rests within our organizations if we are to move Fire Prevention and CRR to the forefront.

Whose Responsibility is Community Risk Reduction?
Here's the problem with labeling Fire Prevention as Community Risk Reduction. We automatically place the responsibility for CRR on Fire Prevention and not the larger, better staffed, better funded, more politically active, majority of the department in Fire Operations. It is far too easy for Operations personnel to say, "CRR, that's Fire Prevention's job." In all sincerity, the Fire Chief is the CRR Chief, not the Fire Marshal or parts of their staff. We all recognize that Emergency Response is one of the E's of Community Risk Reduction. Why do we continue to exclude them by changing the name of Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction?

Fire Prevention is Part of CRR, just as Fire Operations is Part of CRR!
Fire Prevention is only part of Community Risk Reduction. We will always need those whose primary responsibility is plan checks, inspections, and the myriad of other Fire Prevention responsibilities. Because we change the name to Community Risk Reduction does not change their job responsibility, Fire Prevention. Those who are Fire Educators will not change their job responsibilities because we place them under CRR. The same goes for Fire Operations. If we place Fire Operations under CRR, that doesn't change our primary responsibility either.

Community Risk Reduction Chief
Do I think fire chiefs across the world will be changing their titles to Community Risk Reduction Chief? I'm not that naïve, and I'm not sure that is the best solution either. The public knows us as fire departments or fire and rescue. They know that when they call, we show up. Let's not lose that trust by confusing them with a name change. That being said, it may be appropriate to have another chief that oversees Operations and Prevention have the CRR Chief title. Would that send a clear message that Operations has a role in Community Risk Reduction?

One Big Happy Community Risk Reduction Family!
Every member of the fire service has a role in Community Risk Reduction. This includes the fire chief, administrative assistants, fire prevention, volunteers, fire administration, cadets, explorers, fire educators, and yes even fire operations. Don't exclude the other members of your department by simply changing the name of Fire Prevention to Community Risk Reduction. Use all of the money, power, staffing, and leadership of our organizations. We need to be "One Big Happy Family" if we are to move our Community Risk Reduction processes and programs forward.
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