In these uncertain times…
I cannot count the number of times I have heard or read this phrase over the past week. Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, our world is in crisis. We face unbelievable challenges in the weeks and months ahead. We are scared of the known and the unknown.
But even during these uncertain times, there is good reason for optimism. Because where challenges live, so do opportunities.
While this war against COVID-19 isn’t something we would ever wish for, we have the opportunity to leverage an unprecedented shift in public attitude and behavior. We are entering this battle as a culture of rescue - one in which we trust a system to provide an ever-present safety net. One in which we are sometimes complacent in the work of preventing emergencies. BUT - with a little bit of effort, we will finish this battle with a culture of responsibility.
While the challenges are vast, there is an opportunity to emerge from this pandemic as a world driven to prevent, partner, plan, and protect.
In many places, we are seeing signs of this already.
The media has focused the public’s attention to the problem at hand. Individuals are taking actions to protect family members and strangers alike through social distancing and quarantines. Religious services are being streamed and restaurants closed to keep parishioners and patrons healthy. Kids on “coronacations” are learning virtually as parents become ad-hoc home school teachers. Unexpected public-private partnerships are sprouting up in an effort to combat the physical, emotional, and financial difficulties. People are being re-educated with amended definitions of “emergency” and developing self-reliance should the need for medical attention arise.
Emergency declarations are often driving the bus on these actions. The public is moving towards compliance.
And, folks, this is exciting and encouraging.
In my role at NFPA, I am immersed in all things Community Risk Reduction (CRR). My work is focused on increasing awareness and implementation of CRR to help communities identify, prioritize and plan to mitigate risks. It requires a dive into the data, input from partners, and lots of creative, strategic thinking to reach the end goal of safer communities.
An important ingredient in CRR success is an activated public focused on responsibility for individual and community safety. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unfortunate catalyst driving this positive shift.
It will take time to see outcomes we consider as positive. But there is value in thinking ahead. If your community currently embraces CRR, pay attention to the opportunities to expand your tailored messaging. Support your vulnerable residents and ensure their needs are met. Make note of the partnerships that are forming now. Start planning new strategies to leverage a renewed sense of responsibility among business owners, students, and families. Pay attention to the boat-loads of community data sliding across our screens every day.
If you are new to CRR (or not), take some time to read through NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. As standards go, it is a short read but packs a punch with helpful information for anyone looking to understand CRR foundations.
Pay particular attention to the information about Community Risk Assessment (CRA). This process is guided by an examination of 9 different community profiles to provide a clear view of the risks in the communities. A look at profiles such as demographics, critical infrastructure, economics and others may well provide helpful information during the fight against COVID-19, as well as in the aftermath.
While these are indeed uncertain times, let’s work together and ensure something good comes from the chaos. Seize the opportunities.