NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Conference emphasizes technological advancements in wildfire mitigation and preparedness.
NFPA Journal®, October 2011
By Fred Durso , Jr.
The key to truly understanding the worldwide wildfire phenomenon — and ways to mitigate its damage — may rest with technology. Education sessions at NFPA’s fourth Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference, scheduled for October 27–29 in Denver, Colorado, delve into recent high-tech developments, as well as other advancements in wildfire emergency management, firefighting operations, and NFPA’s Firewise® Communities Program. The following is a sampling of some of the conference’s five educational tracks that include more than 50 education sessions. For session times and locations, as well as up-to-the-minute information on the event, visit firewise.org.
Discovery in the digital age
Getting a handle on wildfires affecting larger areas, Tom Patterson from the Environmental Systems Research Institute, which develops geographic information system (GIS) technology that analyzes environmental concerns, will discuss the development of mobile GIS devices and mapping capabilities. His session, "Evolution of Real-Time Mapping in Disaster Management," on October 28 highlights geospatial technology providing timely information to all parties responding to wildfires.
Steve Quarles, session presenter and IBHS scientist, is certain technological advancements will play a crucial role in mitigating wildfire damage. "Research will continue to update existing tools based on what we and others learn about the vulnerabilities of homes to wildfire," he says. "With better tools, homeowners can become more certain about the vulnerable parts of their home and the areas that need to be addressed."
The firefighter perspective
Also on October 28, Chief Rich Graeber of the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District in La Plata County, Colorado, presents "A Fire Department’s Approach to Achieving Mitigation Around Homes" with the idea of sparking dialogue between communities and their local fire service. Using his community as an example, Graeber explains how his team effectively connected with residents to explain how fuel mitigation can safeguard their property.
Defensible space, however, is only a component of a community’s readiness. Effective emergency preparedness through proper code enforcement, public education, and other mitigation activities are equally important, and are the focus of "Proactive Hazard Mitigation Tools and Educating the Public" on October 28. The presentation highlights steps taken by Borger, Texas, the first U.S. city officially recognized as a Firewise Community.
Firewise for all ages
Also, on October 29, NFPA’s Michele Steinberg and U.S. Forest Service scientist Jack Cohen will discuss the evolution of Firewise during their special presentation, "From an Idea to a National Movement: Firewise Communities/USA® — 10 Years Young," commemorating the more than 700 communities that have officially adopted Firewise principles.