MySafe:LA is committed to supporting communities throughout Los Angeles with fire and life safety education, home inspections, as well as installation of smoke alarms and CO detectors. The work we deliver is a component of what is often being referred to as “community risk reduction” or, CRR. It’s an important term to understand, and one that is often misapplied.
MySafe:LA’s Executive Officer, David Barrett speaks about CRR across the country. He has collaborated closely with policy makers, including Vision 20/20 and the American Red Cross to not only share the CRR message, but to provide feedback about the work MySafe:LA performs throughout the community. Vision 20/20 coined the term Community Risk Reduction, and EO Barrett and MySafe:LA have been actively engaged in the process since the very beginning.
A name can mean multiple things to different people. In today’s complex world, managing words becomes a potentially huge responsibility. Some things are easy:
My name is Bob. We know that’s a name.
Community Risk Reduction. What on earth does that mean?
MySafe:LA’s mission is to help create more resilient communities. So, it would make sense that “Community Risk Reduction” become part of our operational guidelines, if we depended solely on the name. But there’s much more to it, and that’s where understanding what’s behind the name becomes so important.
There are fire departments who believe that changing the name of their fire prevention bureau to “Community Risk Reduction Division” or something similar have fulfilled what CRR means – a re-label for the things a fire prevention division has been doing for years. In fact, community risk reduction is often the opposite. Other fire departments create a new unit or group – call it their CRR unit – give them a charter to do “risk reduction analysis and then teach fall prevention, or CPR…”
That isn’t community risk reduction, either.
Community risk reduction is a process – not a thing. How it’s implemented can create an important impact on a community and if pursued with focus and vigor can create a more resilient and safer environment for people – both at work and at home.
In reality, many fire departments and fire chiefs miss the point about CRR, and that’s key to resolving what a fire department does, and what an organization like MySafe:LA does. They’re actually very different approaches to a similar set of values.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has been involved in CRR for decades (long before the name emerged). They might not have realized it. Shortly after the civil disturbance called the “Watts Riots” took place in 1965, the Fire Chief determined that the LAFD could respond more effectively if they grouped a series of apparatus together. By assigning a Fire Engine, a Ladder Truck, and a second engine specifically for pumping water, the LAFD believed it could knock down fires faster, as well as mitigating other emergency situations. They were right, and the “task force” concept is still in effect today.
That is community risk reduction.
Because the LAFD operates EMS services, they must respond to every request for assistance. Some people, often homeless and without recourse dial 911 continually. Serving those individuals drains resources as ambulances are unavailable for other emergency calls. Separately, LA area hospitals are busy, so the time it takes to get ambulances back into service can become challenging.
In 2016, the LAFD began a new program wherein a Nurse Practitioner would be a member of an ambulance crew. When arriving on scene, the NP could manage patient care and when appropriate, could release the patient (EMTs and Paramedics cannot). The result has been increased availability of emergency resources to respond to 911 calls in high density in-demand sections of the city.
That is community risk reduction.
Those are two great examples of a fire department practicing community risk reduction. Why? Because resources get there faster, have more flexibility, and resolve ongoing issues freeing up resources for the next emergency call. The LAFD practices CRR in other ways, too – bike medic teams can get to places a fire engine cannot. GPS transponders on apparatus helps dispatchers know where the closest resource is to a 911 caller. The bottom line is that properly pursued, Community Risk Reduction is a department-wide endeavor – a process.
For MySafe:LA, a completely different strategy unfolds, but with a similar impact on the community. Ultimately, the work we perform is designed to help the community to be more resilient in the event of a major disaster, not to mention being better prepared prior to one occurring.
As a key example, consider the issue of smoke alarms in homes. Distributing or even installing smoke alarms in homes is not really a CRR activity. Smoke alarms don’t prevent fires. But they do help people escape, doubling their chances of survival in the event of a fire. At the same time, the process of being in a home and seeing where other possible hazards exist does help prevent certain types of fires. So, the smoke alarm issue provides access, while the inspection and related educational materials and discussion reduces the risk. Add in the opportunity to help map a neighborhood into a database and the net result is reduction of risk to the community. That’s what MySafe:LA does.
CPR is another area where CRR is often misunderstood. Knowing CPR doesn’t prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Many people who learn CPR aren’t actually prepared to perform it if they come across a person who is unresponsive. So, that isn’t reducing risk to the community. However, when people learn to work as a team, to properly communicate with 911 call takers, and to utilize technology (in this case, PulsePoint), then that becomes a reduction of risk to a community. Again, it’s the process – not the single application of a class or a product.
When MySafe:LA instructors teach CPR, they focus on getting people to work as a team, even if they’ve never met before. The trained person communicates with those around him/her, directing one to call 911 and another to seek an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Frankly, it’s the teamwork that will help the patient survive, with a combination of chest compressions and application (as appropriate) of an AED in a timely manner (within five minutes or less of SCA occurring).
The Community Risk Reduction process involves much more than responding, or even teaching. Who is involved? What type of community is it? There are multiple layers of risk that need to be evaluated. And this is another area where things can get complicated. A rural community will be able to not only implement CRR faster, but the chances of measurable success (saving lives, reducing emergencies, etc.) will be much higher than in a densely populated metroplex. Put another way, delivering CRR in Portland, Oregon is far easier than in Los Angeles, California.
Although MySafe:LA has a diverse and capable in-house set of skills, including training, research, logistics, and technology management and implementation, we strongly believe the best way to help the community is to partner with those who have similar objectives. That’s why we continue to build relationships with entities like the American Red Cross, the LA Department of Aging, the Emergency Management Department of Los Angeles and other organizations that focus on making Los Angeles safer. By supporting the Community Risk Reduction process in a collaborative team-approach, the people who live there have the best possible chance of being better prepared – and the organizations who respond to cries for help will get there faster, be better prepared to act, and have policies and procedures in place that will ultimately save lives. What could be more important than that?