What Are the 5 E’s of Community Risk Reduction?
A fire department knows its community probably more intimately than almost any other organization out there. From going inside people’s homes on medical calls, to inspecting new construction, to driving the streets on a daily basis, firefighters begin to know their little corner of the world very well. So how can a department take this knowledge and regular interaction, and use it to make the community safer from medical and fire incidents?
The answer is creating and implementing a Community Risk Reduction (CRR) program. While this terminology may bring to mind visiting schoolrooms and discussing “stop, drop, and roll” (still a very important outreach for local fire departments), a real CRR is a bit more complex and multifaceted. It employs a wide range of tools and outreach plans, based on real-world data, to form a strategic and integrated program focused on reducing the occurrence and impact of local risks.
If that sounds a bit overwhelming, the good news is that a CRR can be broken down into five main areas of focus, known as the 5 E’s.
1. Emergency Response
Probably the most obvious criteria to review, ensuring your fire department’s emergency response is optimized and fully functioning is the key to reducing the impact of incidents in your community. Ensuring that you have all the equipment you need and that your crews are in compliance and trained is the first step. Using your department’s historical data to create a realistic budget based on real-world needs and incident rates goes a long way to creating prepared and empowered stations. This is also where department metrics like response times come in to play, as one measure of how effectively you are serving the community.
This is the second-most obvious activity for a CRR, but remains undeniable in its value to help produce desired low-risk behavior in your community. School tours, presentations, door-to-door visits, and school curriculum encourage face-to-face education. Flyers, brochures, articles, and social media outreach can all help your community members identify high-risk situations or behaviors in their own homes and communities, and pass this information on to future generations as well. Additionally, this element of a CRR improves community relations, breaking down communication barriers and putting real “faces” to the concept of fire safety.
As fire professionals, you may be aware of the new risk-reducing products and technologies being released on a regular basis, but your community may not be. A CRR is a great opportunity to work with other local organizations and government entities to promote and distribute these new products to the community at large when possible.
This can range from new heat-regulating stove elements to improved smoke alarms and fire suppression systems. It can come in to play as you offer free child seat car inspections, or hand out new helmets to the children at your local park. Fire departments are also regularly involved in inspecting new construction in your area; this is another chance to help spread education on newer fire suppression technologies and products that can help reduce risk.
Speaking on inspections, there’s no better chance to improve fire prevention than identifying and notifying on potential risks and non-compliance in your local properties. Whether it is in a new construction, or the regular inspection of an older property, conducting careful and comprehensive inspections may actually be saving the lives of your own crewmembers by preventing unnecessary risks and hazards in the future. It can help form useful incident preplans that improve your situational awareness at a fire call or emergency response.
Additionally, participating in the forming and promotion of legislation relating to hazard and risk reduction can be a valuable and important role your department can play in local government discussions.
5. Economic Incentives
As the saying goes, money talks, and economic incentives can be a useful tool in encouraging individuals and business to make choices that reduce risk. For example, free smoke alarms with free installation can help a wide range of community members, while local business can benefit from tax credits for installing sprinkler systems or water supply trade-offs for new construction fire sprinklers. Of course, economic incentives can also come in the form of penalties or fines for non-compliance. Working with your local government and organizations as a subject matter expert – and using data like your incident rates and most common calls – can help make these economic incentives a reality.
6. Bonus! Empowerment
While there are traditionally just 5 E’s for CRRs, some experts recognize a sixth E that plays an important role: empowerment, both for community members and members of your department. By using the 5 previous E’s, you are creating an environment of awareness and collaboration to proactively reduce risks and make your community safer. The empowerment comes when community members begin sharing this information with their own family members and friends, spreading the word about ways to reduce risk, sharing information on the benefits of the economic incentives.
Similarly, your own crewmembers can be empowered to look for ways to improve safety in the community. Perhaps during a medical call, they notice a lack of smoke alarms or fire suppression devices. When they interact with the public during down times, they might take steps to improve community relations, or reinforce safety themes to children. They may even be inspired to organize their own outreach activity in the local neighborhood. Every action they take to improve safety in their community and for its members actually makes their own jobs easier and safer.
How Your Data Empowers Your CRR
So now that you have a framework for the various activities that make up an effective CRR, you must also remember that the key to targeting the program – and ensuring that it is successful – is data. It is imperative for your budget that you are making the best use of your resources, just like you must be able to prove that your time and energy is making a real difference in your community. This comes directly from real-world data with benchmarks and regular tracking.
Just like when you are forming a QI/QA program, it’s important to have as many facts as you can before starting your program. Whether it’s creating a map with your local fire incident “hot spots” or just understanding the demographics of your service area, information can help you target the right audience with the right activities. And it’s important to note that fire stations, even within relative close proximity, may have very different data points and needs for intervention.
Perhaps you have many senior living communities within your area, and want to focus on fall prevention or conflict resolution. Maybe you have many young families who could use child seat inspections or a fire-starting prevention campaign. Maybe there are numerous lower-income housing units that would benefit from free smoke alarm installation or upgrading of stoves. Knowing your community is key in making a plan that makes a real difference, rather than spinning your wheels and wasting resources.
Software that Turns Data Into Decisions
With the large amount of data coming into your fire station, sorting through it and making it something you can process and use can be a struggle. Fire industry-specific software – known as Fire Record Management System (Fire RMS) – makes recording, analyzing, and even reporting out on your department operations easier than ever. You can quickly and easily access reports for incidents over months at a time, and easily identify trends and areas of success or concern.
Additionally, utilizing a digital record system makes is simpler to “check in” on the progress of your CRR regularly, allowing you to tweak your approach as needed. Finally, a Fire RMS makes it simple to easily convey progress to stakeholders who may be involved in your program, like city council members and private businesses.
A well-researched and integrated CRR can make a real difference in your community, helping you focus your efforts and resources, improving safety for community members and firefighters alike, and making your department a more active member of the community. Using real-world data gives muscle to your efforts, and ensures you’re staying on track and taking steps towards a safer and healthier community.
Learn more about ESO Fire RMS and how it can help you get a handle on your department’s data.