Determining Effective Options

After you have identified and prioritized the risks to your community, organized a planning group or coalition, and understand the various strategies and tactics that can be applied, it will be necessary to determine which of these will be the most effective. Specific steps may be taken and considered in the process of developing which strategies and tactics will be utilized in your CRR plan.

  1. Begin by brainstorming the various strategies that could potentially be applied towards risk reduction.
  2. Develop a list of pros and cons, or some type of criteria to assess the various options.
  3. Consider the feasibility and implications of each option. These should include:
    1. Political
    2. Financial
    3. Logistical
    4. Organizational
    5. Cultural.
  4. Rank each of the strategies by order of importance and feasibility.
    1. Top-ranking strategies should have the highest degree of probable success, feasibility, and impact.
    2. Those with greater levels of agreement and enthusiasm among the planners should be ranked higher, as this can contribute to their success.

Essentially, you must select strategies and tactics that are not only feasible, but also effective in preventing or mitigating risks and hazards within the community. The following figure is an example of you might list those risks you have identified, and the mitigation strategies you will employ.

Figure 4: Example of Identified Risks & Mitigation Strategies
Identified Risks Description of Strategies
Fires caused by smokers
  • Effective Emergency Response Capabilities
  • A media and/or public education campaign designed to raise awareness for careful smoking habits and to change behaviors
  • Placement of proper smoking containers in apartment complexes to avoid disposal of smoking materials in planting material (containing cellulose)
  • Partner with community programs such as meals on wheels or public health visiting nurses to identify smokers for targeted outreach efforts
  • Legislation requiring distribution and/or use of proper smoking containers in multi-family housing
  • “Fire safe cigarettes” required by law
False alarms
(generating excessive responses)
  • Legislative requirements for alarm contractor competence and reporting
  • Enforcement of the legislative requirements
  • Education of contractors and businesses on how to reduce false alarms
  • New technologies designed to prevent false fire alarms
  • Relocate detectors
Elderly ground-level falls
  • Education of target audiences to reduce falls hazards in their homes
  • Partnership with organizations to install fall protection devices (rails, stair lighting, etc.) in target audience homes

Home Safety Visits

Some or all of the Five E’s can be applied within specific strategies. For example, home safety visits are a common strategy utilized by fire departments throughout the United States. How some of the Five E’s might be applied in a home safety visit are:

  • Education: Talk with residents about fire safety; develop and practice a home fire escape plan; discuss smoke alarm testing and maintenance; provide flyers and brochures; teach residents the proper way to extinguish a kitchen fire.
  • Engineering: Test and install smoke alarms.
  • Enforcement: Require smoke a arm legislation.
  • Economic Incentives: Provide free smoke alarms; provide coupons and discounts from local merchants for safety related products.
  • Emergency Response: Collect vital pre-plan information.

Many fire departments now carry smoke-alarm tool kits on each of their apparatus, so that firefighters can install them in residences or other locations as necessary.

Home Safety Visit Referrals

Smoke alarm tool kit

Figure 5: Smoke Alarm Tool Kit. Courtesy Gwinnett Fire & Emergency Services

Firefighters or other personnel can be trained to observe certain conditions during home safety visits, or on incident-responses to residents (depending on the nature of the call). They can provide information and referrals for specific circumstances. Examples might be:

  • Aging services programs
  • Fall prevention programs
  • Transportation assistance
  • Weatherization/energy assistance programs
  • Disability programs
  • Environmental health services
  • Public health referral

The NFPA publishes a guide—NFPA 1452: Guide for Training Fire Service Personnel to Conduct Community Risk Reduction—that may be helpful for home-visit programs. Its purpose is to help fire departments design and implement of a CRR program for residential occupancies, as part of a community wide all hazards risk reduction program.

Other Strategies

There are numerous options for addressing community risks beyond home safety visits. They are only limited to your imagination and ability to implement them effectively. Strategies often utilized by many fire departments may include:

  • Free services at fire stations or other locations
    • Blood pressure checks
    • Child car-seat installation assistance
    • Fire extinguisher training
    • Custom-fitted bicycle (or other) helmets by firefighters
  • Development of pre-plans for all commercial structures
  • Annual fire hydrant inspection program
  • Self-inspection program for businesses

Example: The Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service CRR Strategy

Because of the substantial number of fire deaths and injuries in their community, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) in the United Kingdom made a commitment in 1999 to take steps to address this problem. MF&RS realized they needed to develop strategies to prevent and mitigate fires in their community, and that they had to go out and talk to the residents. A major aspect of their program was conducting home visits, with a goal of visiting every home in their community. The strategies included:

  • Home visits conducted by fire service (firefighters) or advocates
  • Installing free smoke alarms
  • Completion of home-safety surveys
  • Referring residents to needed health & social services
  • The use of community advocates for special populations

MF&RS went beyond home visits and employed a number of other strategies, including visiting schools. By 2009, the program had produced substantial benefits. There was a 33% decline in accidental fires and a 60% decrease in accidental fire deaths!5