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Journal Entry 41 – Community Risk Reduction

Everything we do revolves around this fairly new concept for the fire service. Even keeping the fire in the room of origin is risk reduction. The National Fire Academy developed an entire curriculum and delivers it across the board from a two day state weekend program to the Managing Officer program to the Executive Fire Officer program. There must be something to it if they are pushing it out at all levels.


I recently attended the Connecticut Fire Officer’s Weekend at the NFA and signed up for the Community Risk Reduction (CRR) class. As a chief, I’m always looking for something new or different. I’ve read about and heard about it but it was time to dig in and take a look. As luck would have it, my old friend Chief Mike Chiaramonte from New York was teaching and he did his usual outstanding job for the weekend. (Few people in front of any class room can deliver the information with true meaning, the passion and wit like Mike. Just ask those that have sat for his classes.)

So, what about this CRR concept? Do you mean that the fire department in town needs to be all things to all people? Everything that I’ve seen, studied and read showed that the fire departments that do just that are successful because they’ve reached the bulk of their customers and not just in fire prevention education. I was also sad to learn that the methods of how we (most of us throughout the country) deliver and measure public fire safety education and that it’s poor at best. I’m sure most if not all that are reading this entry go out to the schools each year and on hands and knees interact and teach the kids to stop, drop and roll, smoke detector battery replacement, etc. That’s great but did the message get through? A few years back in a grade school in New Jersey, there was an active fire alarm in an elementary school. When the units pulled up there was no evacuation in progress which seemed very unusual. When they went in and looked in to the classrooms, the kids were rolling around on the floor. While this may seem funny now, it made that large city fire department realize that all of the public fire safety education they delivered wasn’t working. The kids didn’t get the message. So, before we embark on other areas of CRR, we need to fix our programs and develop a measuring tool. It’s not all bad news however. We had a fire in my jurisdiction recently and the occupant told me he was sure to close the door to the fire room before he and his wife got out. When I asked him why, he said he just turned 70 and remembered the lessons he learned from the firemen who came to his school throughout years who said to close doors when there is a fire. It was kept in the room of origin. Sometimes, the message does get through but let’s not leave it to chance. Make sure you’re getting through.

One of the basic concepts of CRR is adding to the “quality of life” in your jurisdiction. The International City Managers magazine talks about this in almost every issue in an effort to lure people to move to town and open businesses. In addition, these activities become “value added” for the fire service. We’ve spent a bit of time lately on “reputation management.” What better way to secure our position in town then to offer programs and services that no one else will or can? One example out of the NFA Student Manual was a drown-proofing program they started in Phoenix, AZ many years back. Why did the fire department do this? Because there are thousands of pools in Phoenix, the fire department gets called to drownings and other water accidents and all other drown proofing/drown prevention programs have a child’s name attached to it. (I guess you all know what I’m working on now, right?) Other things we discussed was a High School Lifestyle program, e.g. drugs, alcohol, driving, cycling, skiing, swimming, boating, etc. Basically, all of the things high school kids like to do. This was a joint effort in another jurisdiction with the police, parks department and other town agencies.

So, I’ve asked you in the past to get out of box, smash the box, re-build it or get rid of it when we’ve discussed tactics. (Journal Entry 18, July 2012) Here’s a chance to add value to your department and get closer your customers. You never know what support you’ll get at budget time or any other time you need to make a big move. Like any other business, you’re nothing without a dedicated customer base. And by the way, Community Risk Reduction saves firefighters live too. Now get going!

Take care, be well and be safe,

Ronnie K


PS-Hope to see you at FDIC in Indy which is just a few weeks out. Tommy A and I will be live on Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio on Thursday April 21 at 1330 hours. If you can find the studio on the second level of the convention center, stop in.           


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