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Community Risk Reduction: How Data-Driven Is Your Program?

  • Posted on November 9, 2022

Time to read: 4 minutes 30 seconds

In the last 30 years, the number of reported fire deaths declined by nearly 50%. While the U.S. still averages 3,000 home fire deaths annually, the steady decline in fire-related casualties can be attributed to coordinated prevention efforts, change in building construction driven by fire codes, and an increase in community outreach programs like smoke detector installation, testing, and replacements.

But while fire-related injuries and fatalities are declining, the number of responses to injured or ill people by fire departments has continued to climb. In fact, according to the 2022 ESO Fire Index, 69 percent of all fire department calls have a patient or potential patient in need of assistance.

So, like the smoke detector effort, how is your department reducing the risks of injury or death beyond fire? And more importantly, are you tailoring your Community Risk Reduction (CRR) efforts to your community needs?

Data for Successful CRR Programs

The key to a scalable CRR program comes down to accessing and using community data. Luckily, a wealth of incident information about your community lives in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) records. In parallel with Tract-level census data, departments can uncover the most common incident types, where they’re occurring in a service area and the demographic trends within each incident.

Tap into those sources for insights like:

  • The relationship between incident type, location, and demographics such as income, age, languages spoken
  • The casual factors at play (paired with demographic data found in the American Community Survey or Vision 20/20’s Discovery Data Hub)
  • The populations are at the greatest likelihood of risk? Which are most vulnerable?
  • There are a lot of resources out there for putting together a successful CRR program in your community (use the Model Performance Criteria from Vision 20/20’s CRR program for inspiration).

Here’s how you can make sure your community programs are efficient for reducing EMS-related risks in your community.

Identify the top causes of community risk.

A comprehensive community risk reduction plan will start with finding the risks unique to the areas you serve. Common risks include home cooking fires, ground-level falls, and proximity to areas heavily affected by wildfires. Potential risks should be evaluated by the likelihood of these situations for the communities served. You can see the qualitative measures of risk likelihood here, courtesy of the National Strategies for Fire Loss Prevention, for inspiration on how to develop this scoring model in your area.

Design programs to teach and prevent the root cause of EMS calls.

Evaluate educational outreach and community-related programs you’re offering in your area based on the volume of EMS-related emergencies. What CRR efforts can your department create to decrease EMS call volume?

Here are some ideas:


Always keep the community in mind.

Your community is unique, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for a CRR program. Leaning on data can help tailor your program areas based on actual community needs. Ask yourselves: Are the messages and strategies you’re focusing on today the right ones for your community and its population? Are you targeting the right populations with the wrong methods? Are you spending time on one area but ignoring a more pressing issue? Are your programs culturally appropriate for the areas served?

Let’s take one of the above examples through the lens of community and cultural appropriateness: A Slip, Trip, and Fall prevention training only makes sense in a community with a large population of elderly members and a high volume of calls about fall-related injuries. And it should be conducted in all language(s) spoken in your community. Is your prevention program in English while 80% of your population speaks Spanish? Run through these questions for every proposed CRR program.

Build additional community partnerships.

If your department doesn’t currently engage with community partners, now is the time. Partners like Public Health organizations, hospitals, private or third-party EMS agencies, or alternative transport programs can supply much broader engagement to help improve the safety and health of a community. It’s the age-old “We’re stronger together” mentality. Consider activities with schools, community centers, and worship centers to get to know the people in your community even more.

Make sure it’s effective.

The success of these programs relies on consistent and reliable data, including complete datasets in standard formats teams can trust. ESO Fire RMS has modules that can help track your CRR activities and analyze your incident data. Consider working with universities to help analyze data and create predictive models that can be used as a decision-support tool – Several cities have begun to explore their approach. With that data, you can use data visualization tools to assess the ongoing risks in your community.


Want to learn more about how your agency can use data to reduce community risks? Join the ESO team and our invited experts at Wave 2023 featuring ESO Training Academy in Austin, Texas. Register now to snag Early Bird pricing between now and December 31, 2022.

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