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6 Posts authored by: kbreed Employee

May 4 is International Firefighters’ Day. This special event memorializes a fatal event in which 5 volunteers from the Geelong West Fire Brigade in Australia lost their lives while bravely fighting an intense wildfire in 1999. While this tragic incident prompted the initiation of International Firefighters’ Day, it is intended to reflect appreciation for the sacrifices all firefighters make throughout the world in order to ensure their communities are as safe as possible.


We all know that firefighting is dangerous business. Firefighters put themselves in harm’s way on a regular basis to protect lives and property. But it is important to consider that the scope of firefighters’ work has broadened dramatically since the early days of organized firefighting. Imagine if Benjamin Franklin could travel in time from 1736 for a sit down with the current leader of the Philadelphia Fire Department: “Hey Commissioner Thiel! How’s the bucket brigade doing these days?” “Oh, Ben – We are as busy as ever. Our members are doing lots of strong work! They respond to fires, car crashes, gas leaks, broken elevators, false alarms, trapped ducklings, caved-in construction sites, fallen grandmothers, derailed trains, collapsed decks, downed power lines, and flooded basements. Not to mention all of the medical calls. It all makes for a busy Monday!”


I’m sure good ol’ Ben would be curious about the journey his fire department had experienced over the course of the past 284 years as it transitioned into this all-hazards response agency. His eyes would pop thinking about how mitigation of each hazard would require new training, new equipment and new thinking – and increase the risks to the members of the department.


Firefighting is dangerous work. It is easy to see how entering a burning building puts these heroes at risk. But the threats are expansive. When a fire department is an all-hazards response agency, risks related to exposure to dangerous chemicals, vehicle crashes, to heart disease and cancer, to entrapment, to electrical injuries – and many other issues - increase. Even with amplified risks, the fire department still responds because the words of Lt. JJ Edmondson shared in 1999 still ring true today, “The role of a firefighter in today’s society is one of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.”


As such, when we reflect on the sacrifices made by firefighters over the years, it is clear the only way to honor their work is to become an all-hazards prevention community. One strategy to help drive that transition is Community Risk Reduction. CRR is an all-hazards prevention approach and while many people look to CRR as a process to keep community members safe – it is also about keeping our first responders safe!


If you are community member wondering how you can thank a firefighter on International Firefighters’ Day, the answer is simple: Do something to take responsibility for your own safety. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms, remove the debris around your home in preparation for wildfire season, remove the trip hazards on stairs to prevent a painful fall. Once you have done that, help a neighbor do the same. Advocate for community-wide prevention activities. Help to foster a culture of prevention to protect those who have spent their lives protecting us. The time has come to honor our first responders with action rather than words.

Last week, my teenage son came to me and said, “Yo, Mom. Can we get some baby ducks?” No joke. He really said “Yo, Mom.” (Cue the eye roll.) And he really asked for ducks. (Cue the eyebrow lift.) I quickly brushed off this request until later that evening during what has been coined as Social Distancing Cocktail Hour. This is exactly what you are picturing: a fireside gathering of 4 former PTO moms from the neighborhood sitting at least 6 feet away from each other while holding tumblers filled with frosty adult beverages. Towards the end of the evening, I mentioned Jonnie’s request and, for some reason, the idea of having ducks in the hood was highly appealing to everyone in attendance.


Fast forward a few days. I have ducklings. Two of them. They are super cute and are named Bandit and Rona. Both of my teenagers were over the moon with their arrival and have been helpful with duck care and cleaning.


Here’s the rub: This may have been a bit impulsive. I really don’t know anything about raising ducklings.

 

SO MANY QUESTIONS! Ducks love to swim! Are they too young to swim? If we let them swim, how warm should the water be? Is it OK to give them bananas? What is grit?? Do I need that? What about niacin?? I hear ducklings need more niacin but do they get enough niacin in their duckling food?? What is the right temperature for the brooder? Will they know to move if they get too hot? How long do they need to live inside? Can you potty train a duck? Who decided it was a good idea to get ducklings in the middle of a paper towel shortage?


It doesn’t escape me that the mind-spinning questions, the uncertainty, the weight of responsibility for the safety of these creatures, and even the nights of interrupted sleep serve as a fuzzy yellow metaphor for my feelings during the COVID-19 crisis.


During these unprecedented times, I know more than one prevention professional who feels like a duck out of water in the absence of opportunities for face to face engagement with residents, students, and business owners. Personally, I have learned that when I start to feel overwhelmed, my best course of actions is to take a deep breath and calm the duck down. Once my spirit is soothed, I’m ready to come up with a plan – and usually, that plan includes one key concept: Connections.


First responders across the world are dealing with unique challenges and faced with tough decisions fueled by equal parts data, gut, and grit. Whether a chief officer, line firefighter, or CRR specialist, connecting with others working in similar circumstances provides a critical boost in both professional success and emotional wellness. Luckily, a focus on virtual meetings has provided opportunities to connect with others in the same boat.


One great example of a grassroots effort with virtual networking comes from the Fire Life Safety Educators & Coordinators Facebook group. This group originated from some boots-on-the ground CRR thought leaders and has grown to almost 500 members. When members started posting about the challenges of working during the COVID-19 response, CRR Captain Michael Sedlacek of the Madison Fire Rescue in Alabama grabbed the bull by the horns and set up some Zoom sessions for group meetings. He shared, “I really needed some motivation to keep pushing. I knew that if I was struggling, so was everyone else. This group is helping me stay energized and find new ways to renew my personal commitment to my community to educate and meet their needs.”

 

While many participants in the Zoom sessions logged on hoping to snag new creative and innovative outreach strategies during this crisis (and certainly found what they were looking for!) the meetings served a dual purpose. Sylvia Rodriguez Peace, Fire Life Safety Education Coordinator from Greenville Fire-Rescue in Texas was not alone in her account, “Taking part in the Zoom meeting gave me a sense of normalcy by visiting with my peers who I draw energy from under normal circumstances. It was like sitting at Ott’s and networking. It was a very positive boost to my mental health!”

 

So how exactly do you get your ducks in a row so you can benefit from professional connections? You can do it in three simple steps:

 

  • Find your peeps: Take advantage of formal and informal social media networking groups. Actively engage in the online chats. Plan some time to meet up virtually and pose a few key questions to discuss. Pay attention to strategies others are using in case something fits the bill as a solution for one of your struggles.
  • Take a quack at it: Borrow an idea, tweak it to fit your needs, and see how it goes. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. This might even be the perfect time to tackle that Community Risk Assessment you’ve always wanted to complete.
  • Sing like a bird: Share your successes! Use social media to let your community know about the work you are doing to add to the safety scene. Follow your peers’ accounts and help each other out with some retweets and shares. Be sure to return to your networking groups and let them steal your new ideas.

 

Remember – Birds of a feather flock together. Find the people who are struggling with the same challenges as you, lean on each other for energy and solutions, then make the magic happen. I know my own stress levels would be much higher if not for my fellow duck moms AND the colleagues in my safety circle! As Lt. Katie Harrington from Worcester Fire Department reminds us, “Our motivation and determination for outcomes are all the same. We share the same focus on reducing risks in our own communities. Together we are strong!” This networking and support can keep you from going absolutely quackers during this chaotic time.


The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org. Find our past blogs about working your CRR game during COVID-19 at nfpa.org/CRR. NFPA has also been generating a great deal of relevant resources as we deal with the coronavirus, in support of you and your work. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a call came from the Community Outreach Coordinator in my town seeking volunteers to assist with a newly implemented meal share program. To ensure no residents would be hungry while stay-at-home orders are in place, organizers from the mayor’s office, the senior center, the housing department, and volunteers from a variety of agencies came together to coordinate a meal pickup site as well as a contactless delivery program for home-bound and high-risk residents. Like many people who are feeling the need to be helpful, I jumped at the opportunity to participate.


I was fortunate to score a late afternoon time slot on an unusually warm, sunny March afternoon and found myself working alongside another local mom who works for FM Global. Amy told me about the #FMGlobalCares initiative and how her company, much like NFPA and many other companies, encourages employee volunteerism. Over the course of a few hours, we talked about our jobs, our kids, and the crisis at hand while we handed out over 400 free meals to our neighbors. At the end of the day, I felt great about helping and my mind was spinning about how we could do more.


In my role at NFPA, I am immersed in work intended to pave the way for local Community Risk Reduction (CRR) implementation. NFPA, 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development serves as the cornerstone for this process. While the document is chock full of helpful content, my recent volunteer experience got me focused on one important component: partnerships.


When you look around your community and take note of the successful initiatives playing out during this crisis, you will notice a common thread. The wins are driven by partnerships. We have realized that together, we accomplish more. We see simple acts of neighbors looking out for neighbors by consolidating grocery (and liquor!) store trips, restaurants providing food to essential workers, and local merchants providing free materials to help families make face coverings. There are also massive public-private projects to get COVID-19 testing up and running and corporate internet providers offering free wi-fi for local school children to help the learning process roll on. And of course, this New England gal still has a warm fuzzy feeling from watching the New England Patriots plane return home from a round-trip flight to China with a belly full of critical medical supplies donated to the New York City coronavirus hot spot.


In a previous blog, COVID-19 Provides Opportunity for Elevating Your Community Risk Reduction Efforts, I encouraged readers to peel away the layers of fear, confusion, and hardship to see the opportunity this crisis provides. I truly believe we can emerge from this crisis stronger and prepared to embrace the work of prevention. The partnerships we build now will certainly have value once life gets back to normal.


If your typical CRR activities have been grounded due to COVID-19, consider switching gears to build out your partnership cache. Think about stakeholders and potential partners who strengthen your CRR plan. Reach out to them and find out how they are doing. Ask if there is anything you can do to lighten their loads. For example, school leaders are important CRR partners who are currently faced with big challenges. You may be able to lend a hand by assisting with contact-free delivery of learning packets, lunches, or chromebooks – and maybe you can slide some life safety information in as well! Offer to share your Community Risk Assessment data to help leaders solve unique problems related to education. Perhaps a motivational message on social media to families engaged in home schooling would be appreciated. Maybe you could offer the principal a sweet ride on a fire truck through the neighborhood to help the kids feel connected to their school during this crazy time. Not only can you demonstrate your worth as a partner and put chips into your CRR bank but your actions will build community during a time when we need this most. Think creatively and start with an offer instead of an ask. When you start by giving, your partnership base will grow quickly, as will your heart.


The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org.

While we owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to our healthcare workers, first responders, and grocery store employees in this war against COVID-19, we should also offer a tip of the hat to the data scientists working in the background. If you’re a nerd (and proud of it) like me, then you know it has been impossible not to be fascinated by all the data, statistics, and visualizations being used to combat this virus. Through all of this, one thing is clear… data is king (and queen!)

 

I want to share one message to everyone working in the prevention space: Pay attention!

 

Every day, new data emerge to guide decisions about how to protect our communities. The community-level information is critical in planning effective COVID-19 mitigation. Data help you tell a story about your demographics, economy, critical infrastructure and other profiles so you can make informed decisions to increase community safety during the pandemic. That alone is gold – and it gets better. Once virus-related threats have passed, this local knowledge provides a solid start in building and updating your all-important Community Risk Assessment.

 

Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the critical first step in the Community Risk Reduction (CRR) process. It requires a deep dive into local data to be able to paint an accurate picture of the people, the hazards, and the capabilities in each unique community. The need to collect and analyze data often positions CRA as the most challenging component of CRR but the pay-off for the expended effort multiplies in value. Data allow CRR teams to create plans that address the true risks in each community to ensure resource deployment with have the intended impact. NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development is the go-to resource for anyone eager to learn more. Check it out (for free!) for details about community profiles and the CRA process.

 

Communities who entered the fight against COVID-19 with a CRA in hand have a wealth of data at their fingertips to inform mitigation efforts. They know where their high-risk residents live. They are conscious of neighborhoods in which residents lack English-proficiency. They can identify buildings available to serve as temporary medical sites. They have a sense of neighborhoods in which residents rely on public transportation, have a grocery store within walking distance, have access to urgent medical care, and may be better prepared to cope in an economic downturn. Summer Mahr, Public Educator for Largo Fire Rescue has found her local CRA to be extremely helpful. “We use this data to increase awareness to our citizens and educate both the vulnerable and younger population on the importance of being safer at home. Our younger population will realize just how many vulnerable neighbors are living in their community, and we encourage the community to check on their at-risk neighbors (from 6ft. away of course) to see if they need any groceries, supplies, or other needs.”

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If your community has not completed the CRA process yet, do not throw in the towel. While the data may not be presented in the neat bow-topped package of a CRA, you can still benefit from the wealth of information surfacing every day during this crisis. Take a look at the 9 community profiles outlined in NFPA 1300 and arm your team with a chart or spreadsheet where information can be dumped as it pops up. Keep in mind that it is important to keep track of information related to both hazards and capacity.

 

While this is far from an all-inclusive list, consider these data points to get your creative juices flowing about how to leverage available information to guide your efforts now and in the future:

 

  • Demographic Data: Response to COVID-19 has resulted in a wealth of information-sharing about the people who live in our communities. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, Community Risk Educator Pat Corran speaks to the value of demographic data. “Our population density data has been very helpful in our response to the COVID crisis. It helps give us some real insight as to where this thing could really ramp up and we work even harder to reiterate social distancing measures in these areas.” Some additional demographic indicators to consider include aging populations, residents who may struggle financially during the outbreak, people who may not have access to information due to language isolation, and families experiencing social vulnerability.
  • Building Stock: Which buildings in your community have shifted into a higher risk category because they house essential services, important manufacturing, serve as a vital link in the supply chain, or provide critical economic value to the community? Pay attention to the buildings that have been re-purposed as meal distribution centers, medical facilities, and isolation housing. Derrick Sawyer, Director of Fire in Trenton, New Jersey relies on his CRA to address a broad range of issues. “We have concerns about our homeless population living on the streets and in shelters. While we have shelters identified in our emergency operations plan, social distancing requires additional spaces. Our CRA can help to identify buildings that can be re-purpose as alternative shelters.”
  • Business Continuity: We can’t ignore the interwoven relationship between community health and economy. During this crisis, take note of business closures that are impacting the overall economic health of the community, businesses have been able to pivot to implement creative solutions to stay afloat, and businesses who have supported community members with donations, space, or service during this time of need.
  • Weather Hazards: Mother nature doesn’t take a break for pandemics. What are the weather-related hazards to keep top-of-mind? Consider aligning this data with your building stock data and demographics to ensure you have a plan for shelters should they be needed in case of a weather emergency.
  • Transportation: Consider the modes of travel on which your residents rely. Are people able to get to grocery stores and medical appointments in neighborhoods in which residents typically rely on public transportation? Are COVID-19 testing sites and meal pickup locations set up to accommodate residents who do drive? Also, we know motor vehicle crashes top the list of incidents to which EMS and Fire Department personnel respond during times of health and prosperity. With stay-at-home orders, are motor vehicle crashes still an issue in your community? Do data reveal trouble spots more related to road troubles than traffic volume that should be considered in future CRR plans?

 

And, of course, do not forget about capacity! Every rich CRA includes information about the abilities of public safety response agencies and community service organizations to respond to and reduce risks. This pandemic has posed an incredible challenge to communities across the world. We are all new to this and we are coming up with innovative solutions every day. Keep track of new strategies, hare-brained schemes, and lofty ideas. A failed attempt may be one tweak away from becoming a major success but this may be lost if you don’t track your efforts.

 

The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas for your CRA data toolbox or CRR during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org.

(A recent example of a fire department using Twitter to engage community members and share safety information during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

 

Calling all community relations coordinators, life safety educators, community risk reduction specialists, …and all those working in the prevention space who have been grounded by COVID-19! Many outreach professionals are now tied to their desks instead of hitting the pavement and wondering how they can add value to their communities during these difficult times. While the work you are doing may look different today, there is no doubt about it: It is, and will continue to be, a critical component of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and a valuable local asset.

 

Where do you start?

 

This part is easy. Start with your goals! Before you jump in and generate a list of activities, social media posts, and Youtube videos, think deeply about what you would like to accomplish. Then, plan with this end in mind. Goal-focused outreach will ensure you can achieve your desired impact.

 

Community Relations:

Outreach programs intended to help agencies and departments establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with their communities are referred to as Community Relations initiatives. They are designed to foster positive relationships between residents, business owners, and local public service agencies. The desired outcome is a sense of community connection in which residents, business owners, and the response community feel protected, supported, and engaged. 

 

If your goal is to build strong Community Relations, consider these virtual outreach activities:

  • Record members of your department reading books and short stories. We tend to focus on children but home bound older adults may also enjoy this.
  • Schedule a Facebook Watch Party for a virtual fire station tour.
  • Interview members of your department in a 5 question “Get to know you” series. Ask questions such as: What is your favorite safety tip? What do you want people to know most about your job? How can people in the community help you stay safe?
  • Challenge families to build and post their best “pasta box & toilet paper” firetruck

 

Fire & Life Safety Education (FLSE):

According to NFPA 1035, FLSE programs work to eliminate or mitigate situations that endanger lives, health, property, or the environment. Those driving fire and life safety education are looking to impact safety behaviors. Rich virtual FLSE activities include a source of foundational content, an opportunity to practice a skill, and a specific call-to-action such as “Practice your home escape plan with your entire family!”

 

Think creatively about how you can deliver Fire & Life Safety Education through virtual channels:

  • Share the NFPA Heating Safety tip sheet and ask families to post pics of safe home heating.
  • Provide a virtual demonstration of the Fire Triangle to explain why it is important to keep a lid close by when cooking on the stovetop. Look here for additional resources to support your cooking safety messages. 
  • Loop in your local teachers! Share resources with teachers (and new home school “teachers”!) who can benefit from virtual lesson support. Sparkyschoolhouse.org is loaded with engaging educational activities that fit the bill. Check out the suite of Sparky Apps, videos, lesson plans, and e-books.
  • Run a virtual Remembering When workshop on Facebook Live. Pick one or two fire and fall prevention behaviors each day and discuss them. Host a session at a set time and invite older adults and their family members to join in for helpful tips. You might even make use of the Remembering When trivia questions. Engage those silver surfers!

 

Community Risk Reduction (CRR): 

Community Risk Reduction is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce the occurrence and impact of those risks (NFPA 1300). CRR requires a good look at data to identify local needs and input from partners and stakeholders. It calls for a tailored plan to mitigate risks that have been identified as high-priority within a community. If your community is moving towards data-informed decision and risk-focused prevention, CRR is your path.

 

Community Risk Reduction requires thoughtful planning. As most events are cancelled, and people are working from home, take advantage of this time to focus your attention to the processes and partnerships that are core to CRR initiatives.

  • First, read NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. This document, which can be viewed for free online, will guide your CRR work.
  • If a risk assessment has been conducted, review your community profiles and share the information with agencies involved in the COVID-19 response. The data tell important stories about the needs and capacities related to this crisis.
  • If a risk assessment has not be conducted, this is a great time to start. As we respond to the challenges of this pandemic, we are learning a lot about the demographics, economics, and infrastructure within our communities. This information provides the backbone of a CRA. Capture as much of this information as possible to feed future work related to your CRA and CRR plan.
  • As Mister Rogers taught us, “look for the helpers”. Maintain an active list of the local businesses and community service organizations who are positively impacting your community during this time of crisis. This list will help you build out the capacity component of your CRA as well as identify future CRR partners.
  • Formalize your CRR team. CRR is not a one-person show! Use this time to build a strong cross-agency team of partners and stakeholders.

 

Whether your goals are aligned with Community Relations, Fire & Life Safety Education, or Community Risk Reduction, your work is important. Mitigation is incredibly important, but not easy work – complacency is hard to overcome. There is true value in each of these outreach and engagement efforts, on their own, but collectively, the outcomes of this work will result in connected, safer communities.

 

For additional CRR resources, go to nfpa.org/CRR or reach out to the CRR team at CRR@nfpa.org. Look to nfpa.org/public-education for tips sheets, lesson plans, messaging to support your FLSE outreach.

 

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.


For additional CRR resources, go to nfpa.org/CRR. Feel free to reach out to the NFPA CRR team at crr@nfpa.org too.

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