By William

MCPHERSON – Recently T.J. Wyssmann, McPherson Fire Chief, announced that the local McPherson Fire Department had been selected as one of the 250 fire departments nationwide to participate in a pilot program sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association.

According to the media announcement, the McPherson Fire Department will be participating in the second phase of a NFPA pilot program to build a digital community risk assessment (CRA) tool.

The NFPA was founded in 1896 and is a global self-funded non-profit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission.

Aligned to NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development, the tool, or “dashboard”, enables community leaders to gain valuable insights and make data-informed decisions around fire prevention and other risk-reduction activities in their communities.

According to the NFPA, the concept of community risk reduction (CRR), which is 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, the NFPA’s CRA (Community Risk Assessment) tool works to help fire departments aggregate and disseminate data that pinpoints where risks exist withing a given community.

According to Karen Berard-Reed, Community Risk Reduction strategist at the NFPA, “Access to accurate data will allow CRR leaders to use insights and make informed decisions about where to focus efforts and resources. While many fire departments have struggled to work with data sets, the 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.”

With the first phase of the pilot project, which included participation from 50 fire departments across the country, they 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 fire departments nationwide, the City of McPherson’s Fire Department will provide insights around the use of the dashboard through June of 2021 to help continue refining and enhancing its effectiveness.

Berard-Reed added, “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.”

As a participant in the pilot program, the City of McPhersons Fire Department 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 the dashboard access, participants will be provided rich networking and professional development opportunities with other communities engaged in CRR.

Fire Chief T.J. Wyssmann reflected on the opportunity and said, “We are thrilled to be participating in this important project. Not only will access to the tool give us invaluable information about our community’s needs, but it is rewarding to know that using the tool will increase its effectiveness and help other fire departments in the long run.”

Those interested can follow the NFPA’s CRR efforts on social media by using #itstartswithinsights, or for more information online one can visit

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