AUTHOR: Lucian Deaton

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Firewise in South Africa making a world of difference to residents at risk

Wildfire is a global issue and Firewise is playing its part around the world by enabling residents to make a difference, wherever they live. In early February, NFPA had the great privilege to meet with its wildfire partner in South Africa, the Kishugu Non-Profit Company (NPC), and others in fire and emergency services in Cape Town to learn from them about their experiences with wildfire and how NFPA can be a part of their preparedness outreach. Since 2006, Kishugu NPC has worked with NFPA in adopting the Firewise Community model to help at-risk residents with wildfire educational materials and empowering community action. South Africa has 11 official languages and socio-economic hurdles that make such positive outreach all the more valuable.  Kishugu NPC, implements the South African Government's Working on Fire Programme, utilizing Firewise as a job creation public benefit.   Each Firewise Community has a committee that delivers neighbor-to-neighbor educational outreach, risk assessments, mitigation project work, and even evacuation response as trusted voices in their community.  Working on Fire also trains and employs wildland firefighters across South Africa for response efforts, while building their fire professional abilities.While there, NFPA attended a beneficial meeting hosted by the Western Cape Government Disaster Management staff which highlighted the common wildfire issue and challenges we all face to public perception and education.NFPA visited with Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler, City of Cape Town Fire & Rescue, to learn about the department's experience with wildland fire response across the Cape region and its work with residents on WUI fire understanding.  NFPA also spent time with Chief Director Colin Deiner, of the Western Cape Government Disaster Management and Fire & Rescue Service, to learn about their fire public education and preparedness efforts with populations at risk.  NFPA's Learn Not To Burn and other initiatives have been used by them for fire safety messaging to school children.  Out in the field, we were honored to visit the Kishugu - South Africa Firewise Community of Goedverwacht, north of Cape Town, and applaud their Firewise board members who received fire training certification from their regional Fire Protection Association.  Goedverwacht, like many others, utilize a Firewise Garden to explain less fire-prone succulent plant use around structures.  NFPA also spent time visiting with the Firewise Community of Sir Lowry's Pass east of Cape Town (committee pictured above) to learn from their experiences in community outreach. We look forward to the work ahead with Kishugu NPC and all those addressing wildfire risks in South Africa.  Opportunities like these provide NFPA great learning experience in the field and illustrate where we can positively work with international partners to provide influence to the truly global conversation on fire safety. 
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Highlights from the FAC Reference Guide: Collaboration and Outreach

We continue to promote the contents of the, “Guide to Fire Adapted Communities,” and the additional resources and expertise of the various Fire Adapted Community Coalition members.  The guide's “collaboration and outreach” section speaks to the importance of this in a Fire Adapted Community, creating a strong local team, and available tools for success.  The outreach role of fire departments in a Fire Adapted Community is key.  The International Association of Fire Chiefs' Ready, Set, Go! Program Manager Caitlin McGuire shared with me that, “A fire service members' voice is uniquely trusted, respected, and admired by the general public. The FAC fire preparedness message can save lives, and resonates to the community t hrough the voices of our fire service members.”  Caitlin went onto explain that, “Implementing FAC outreach into your department's educational plan is the simplest way to provide important information to the varied audiences within your community. Not only does this outreach enable you to engage with the residents you serve, but it can provide great relationship-building opportunities with other agencies, local officials, local businesses, and neighborhood associations.” The guide's outreach section provides both information and context on available tools for local success.  These include the IAFC's Ready, Set, Go! Program for fire department outreach; the National Volunteer Fire Council's Wildland Fire Assessment Program for the fire service; and NFPA's Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program for residents and community groups.  The section also provides a great collaboration and outreach case study of the Towns County, GA, Fire Adapted Communities effort.  Wildfire safety outreach materials for the fire service can also be obtained from the US Fire Administration.  Learn more about the role of collaboration and outreach in a Fire Adapted Community.  Please visit the resources page on Fireadapted.org to learn more or download the guide from here.
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Clearing a Path for People with Special Needs Clears a Path for Everyone

NFPA's Conference & Expo 2014, Las Vegas, NVDispatches from Mandalay – “Clearing a path for people with special needs clears a path for everyone,” was the message on Tuesday at NFPA C&E from Alan Fraser, Senior Building Code Specialist with NFPA.  In his well-attended session on emergency evacuation planning and the 20% of the population missed, Fraser explained to the audience that we must consider what evacuation means to us when we become disabled, and not if we become disabled.  Often referred to as, “people with access and functional needs,” Fraser explained that, in addition at-risk populations like children and the elderly, approximately 56 million Americans deal with speech, hearing, sight, mobility, or cognitive challenges that complicate their ability to receive and respond to evacuation calls.  In wildland fire, whether it be a half-acre leaf fire in a housing development, or a multi-thousand acre “media fire” out west, the risk to residents and resources remains the same.  The ability for all residents in a community to receive important information and have the ability to act upon it in a timely manner is important for their wellbeing, and that of public safety personnel moving into effected areas.  Fraser stressed that in the, “emergency evacuation cone of response” – which starts at the individual and builds out past the home and community, to jurisdiction and beyond depending upon the risk – the role that each resident can play and the requirements for necessary communication between levels and local actors must be identified and connected before an event occurs.  Fire Adapted Communities strongly promotes such interaction and dialogue between the various audiences that face the common threat of wildfire.  Learn more about the role you can play and the connections you can make with others in your greater community.    
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