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CRFD Selected for National Pilot Program Focused on Community Risk Reduction

Recently the Columbia-Richland Fire Department became one of only 250 fire-service agencies in the U.S. that will take part in a new nationwide pilot program to map areas of risk in our communities.

In the coming weeks a new software will be coming online at the department that will help keep track of and chart areas in Richland County that have experienced fires and other types of emergencies. Using this information, the department can then take actions that will help reduce risk in communities that need it the most.

“This is part of our duty as firefighters and protectors of the public,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “We not only must respond to emergencies but must also take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place. I’m excited to see how our department puts this new software to use and can’t wait to see the difference it will make as we move our mission forward.”

The pilot program is being organized with fire departments through the National Fire Protection Association.

According to NFPA, the concept of community risk reduction (CRR) – a process that identifies and prioritizes risks and ensures impactful mitigation initiatives – has been gaining traction across North America for more than 20 years. Innovative technology, access to data, and a shifting focus on prevention have resulted in new energy around this process. Reflecting that momentum, NFPA’s CRA tool works to help fire departments aggregate and disseminate data that pinpoint where risks exist within a given community.

“Access to accurate data will allow CRR leaders to use insights and make informed decisions about where to focus efforts and resources,” said Karen Berard-Reed, community risk reduction strategist at NFPA. “While many fire departments have struggled to work with data sets, NFPA’s CRA tool will do the complex work behind the scenes to compile relevant data allowing stakeholders to create effective community risk reduction plans that incorporate five priorities – education, engineering, enforcement, economic incentives, and emergency response – in the most impactful ways possible.”

The first phase of the pilot project, which included participation from 50 fire departments across the country, helped identify features of the digital dashboard that will work effectively and those that need fine-tuning. During the second phase of the program, which involves participation from 250 departments nationwide, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department, will provide insights around the use of the dashboard through June of 2021 to help continue refining and enhancing its effectiveness.

“Participation in this project allows each fire department to provide important feedback that will be used to improve future versions of the dashboard, positions the community among CRR leaders in the United States, and signals an interest in leveraging technology to drive high-quality community safety initiatives,” said Berard-Reed.

As a participant in the pilot program, CRFD will have free access to the dashboard, which includes customized visualizations (maps, charts, graphs) that illustrate each community’s risks and hazards across a variety of categories such as demographics, geography, building stock, economics, infrastructure, and event loss history. The dashboard also provides a snapshot of local capacity for risk reduction activities with information about public safety response agencies and community service organizations. In addition to dashboard access, participants will be provided rich networking and professional development opportunities with other communities engaged in CRR.

CRFD Volunteer Coordinator William Broscious has been heading the department’s involvement in the program and will continue to oversee activities as the department moves forward.

(From Left: Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins & CRFD Volunteer Coordinator William Broscious)

In addition to highlighting areas of risk, data that is generated by the new software will also be used to help the department pursue grant opportunities that focus on community risk reduction.

In addition to CRFD the other fire departments in South Carolina that were selected for the program are the Bluffton Township Fire District, the Greenville City Fire Department, the Long Branch Fire Department, the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety and the Tyger River Fie Service Area.

For more information on the pilot program visit www.nfpa.org/crr.