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Leveling-up CRR: Beyond teaching kids to ‘stop, drop and roll’

Use innovative methods, modern technology to educate your community about fire safety


Creating innovative programs is a joint effort and involves seeking out the talents of team members who serve within your organization.

Photo/Myrtle Beach Fire Department

Remember the good ol’ days when we’d send the department’s prized engine out to a school or public event with air horns blasting and lights flashing? The children would cheer, and we’d give a talk about “stop, drop and roll.”

Fire prevention education has a rich history of big red trucks and plastic fire helmets. But is this the education that the fire service needs to provide residents in our communities?

Today, we ask the tough question: Has your organization been thinking outside the box toward creating, developing and implementing quality community risk reduction (CRR) programs, or have you been doing the bare minimum to merely check the life safety box?

The next level of CRR

I learned early in my public education career that most children have a firm grasp on the generic life safety messages the fire service has preached for close to 100 years. They knew to get outside during a house fire, to go to their designated meeting place and to call 911 to report the fire. But was that enough? Were those educational messages going to support the community and help provide the much-needed service of life safety? The short answer is no.

Although these messages will always have a place in CRR, it is time to break from the mold and begin to provide an actual risk reduction service, identifying what issues our individual communities are facing. It’s time to level-up our CRR efforts.

Start with the data

Quality CRR should always start with identifying the major risks within your community. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or magic potion to solve every life safety issue you will encounter, but there is no better place to start than in your own backyard.

Historical data and trend analysis will become your best friend in the world of quality CRR. Take the time to perform a thorough risk analysis within your community, so you know where to bring the fight. Technology gives us the ability to access incident reports with the click of a button, so review the calls, identify the trends and attack the risks your community is facing.

Seek out your talent

Now that you have identified the risks, it’s time to get to work. Where do you start?

Creating innovative programs is a joint effort and involves seeking out the talents of team members who serve within your organization. One thing I’ve learned during my 12 years in CRR is that firefighters have many talents and love to be involved in projects. They take great pride and ownership in creating and developing anything that benefits the fire service, so take advantage of the skill sets they can provide.

Here in Myrtle Beach, S.C., we have discovered graphic designers, videographers, programmers, electricians, carpenters, masons and welders who have helped in various projects, enhancing our CRR programs. Most recently, our team created an Oculus Virtual Reality Experience that put the viewer in the action working alongside firefighters while responding to an emergency.

Because of the talents found within the organization, the department was able to create an innovative and fully immersive CRR experience. This experience proved to be extremely valuable during the pandemic, as in-person education became practically nonexistent due to quarantining and school closures. This unique content allowed viewers access to the experience with VR goggles, smartphones and tablets from the safety of their own homes.

This is just one example of how harvesting skills within your organization can help create innovative programs that increase awareness and promote safety in the communities you serve. Find the individuals who can help push your CRR into the future.

Push the boundaries

Innovative and quality CRR programs will help ensure that our community members continue to stay informed and safe. As we move into the future, we need to keep sight of the reach and impact these programs can have on our citizens. After all, it is our duty to both protect our citizens and to prevent emergencies in the communities we serve. And we can do this by continuing to push the innovative boundaries in the field of CRR.

Editor’s note: What strategies has your department used to advance your CRR efforts? Share in the comments below.

And check out Chief Goldfeder’s What’s YOUR Problem? video about fire prevention.

Christian Sliker, MPIO, FM, began his career with the City of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Fire Department in 2005 and currently holds the rank of deputy fire marshal/captain. In August 2017, Captain Sliker completed FEMA’s Master Public Information Officer program, with his capstone project focused on messaging solutions for tourist-driven areas. During Captain Sliker’s time as public educator, the Myrtle Beach Fire Department won the Richard S. Campbell Award for Excellence in Public Education 8 years in a row.