AUTHOR: Michele Steinberg

Using Codes and Standards to Protect Homes and Businesses from Wildfire

Solving the problem of wildfire disasters—events where whole communities are impacted and thousands of buildings are destroyed—isn’t simple. Using codes and standards to address wildfire risks to the built environment is a critically important activity, but it is also quite intricate. To make the job of elected officials and AHJs easier, NFPA recently consolidated its wildfire-related documents into one convenient package, NFPA 1140, Standard for Wildland Fire Protection. A two-page, downloadable explainer, “Using Codes and Standards to Reduce Risk in Wildfire-Prone Areas,” has also been created to help local officials, AHJs, and policymakers navigate the complexity of this process. The asset draws connections between sections of NFPA 1140 and the relevant needs of community wildfire protection, from fire protection infrastructure to building materials to defensible space. Part of the Outthink approach Launched last year, NFPA’s Outthink Wildfire™ initiative promotes five key tenets based on decades of experience and research that we believe can make a significant difference in saving property and lives. Two of those five key tenets focus on using codes and standards to help make new construction safer and to address the hazards and exposures that existing homes and businesses face. NFPA 1140—which combines the previous standards NFPA 1051, NFPA 1141, 1143, and NFPA 1144—represents the consensus of wildfire experts on the most effective and efficient means for reducing risk to people and property. As communities consider how to mitigate wildfire dangers to existing and future development, as well as allocate resources for safe and effective emergency response, these standards should serve as the basis for their actions. The two-page explainer on using codes and standards to address wildfire risks notes when and where standards for wildfire mitigation should apply. It points out the relevant chapters of NFPA 1140 and other standards that can be used to protect existing structures. It addresses the need for water supplies and other firefighting infrastructure, including multiple access and egress routes enabling first responders to quickly enter threatened communities and allowing safe evacuation for residents. Finally, it suggests the roles and responsibilities for community officials who may be charged with enforcing elements of the standards. Wildfires are part of our natural environments, and they are inevitable; wildfire disasters are not. Learn more about the value and effectiveness of using codes and standards to bend down the wildfire risk curve for your jurisdiction by downloading our brief explainer here.

Free online learning courses launched: learn how to reduce wildfire risk to property

Thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA, NFPA has transformed its existing classroom-based wildfire mitigation training into a digital learning experience. Two new courses on Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property – one for property owners, the other for wildfire mitigation professionals – will help bring key information and knowledge to millions of people. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Protecting Your Home or Business helps educate homeowners, business owners, and property managers on the key factors that determine risk to property from wildfire, steps they can take to protect their homes and businesses, and tips on how to share the information with other community members. An Individual Property Protection Plan is built into the course, which offers tailored, practical steps to help prevent the destruction of property. The course also comes with a mobile app, the NFPA Wildfire Risk Simulator that includes an interactive 3D and augmented reality (AR) tool illustrating wildfire risk to structures. Users can select the environment, type of structure, and other details that most closely match their own scenario. As the simulated wildfire approaches, users will see the variables that help contribute to the destruction of their virtual home or building. Based on this learning, users can then adjust those variables for a more successful outcome. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Professional Online Training is designed for wildfire mitigation professionals who want to increase their knowledge and confidence in evaluating wildfire risk in their communities and effectively communicating with property owners and community leaders. The two-hour self-guided online training includes interactive exercises to help users practice how to communicate risk and mitigation options to home and business owners and guide them to take effective steps to protect their property. This course provides continuing education units that can support job requirements as well as the maintenance of the NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (CWMS) credential. In addition to the financial support from the FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, NFPA’s training team had expert support to develop the course from wildfire experts including former NFPA Wildfire Field Office Manager Tom Welle (currently with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office); Jerry McAdams, MC Fire, LLC and Boise (Idaho) Fire Department; and Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Officer at City of Austin (Texas) Fire Department. The course material is distilled from seminal research by Dr. Jack Cohen (ret.), US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and the Disaster Research Center of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The new courses support the tenets of its Outthink Wildfire™ policy initiative by dramatically increasing public access to wildfire risk reduction education. With nearly 45 million American homes at high risk to damage from wildfire, it is critically important that property owners and professional advisors have access to knowledge about wildfire causes and disaster prevention strategies. The trainings are designed to engage people in safety actions long before a fire starts, spurring much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels. To learn more about reducing wildfire risk to property and to register for these free courses, visit nfpa.org/wildfirepreparedness.

Free online learning courses launched: learn how to reduce wildfire risk to property

Thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA, NFPA has transformed its existing classroom-based wildfire mitigation training into a digital learning experience. Two new courses on Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property – one for property owners, the other for wildfire mitigation professionals – will help bring key information and knowledge to millions of people. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Protecting Your Home or Business helps educate homeowners, business owners, and property managers on the key factors that determine risk to property from wildfire, steps they can take to protect their homes and businesses, and tips on how to share the information with other community members. An Individual Property Protection Plan is built into the course, which offers tailored, practical steps to help prevent the destruction of property. The course also comes with a mobile app, the NFPA Wildfire Risk Simulator that includes an interactive 3D and augmented reality (AR) tool illustrating wildfire risk to structures. Users can select the environment, type of structure, and other details that most closely match their own scenario. As the simulated wildfire approaches, users will see the variables that help contribute to the destruction of their virtual home or building. Based on this learning, users can then adjust those variables for a more successful outcome. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Professional Online Training is designed for wildfire mitigation professionals who want to increase their knowledge and confidence in evaluating wildfire risk in their communities and effectively communicating with property owners and community leaders. The two-hour self-guided online training includes interactive exercises to help users practice how to communicate risk and mitigation options to home and business owners and guide them to take effective steps to protect their property. This course provides continuing education units that can support job requirements as well as the maintenance of the NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (CWMS) credential. In addition to the financial support from the FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, NFPA’s training team had expert support to develop the course from wildfire experts including former NFPA Wildfire Field Office Manager Tom Welle (currently with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office); Jerry McAdams, MC Fire, LLC and Boise (Idaho) Fire Department; and Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Officer at City of Austin (Texas) Fire Department. The course material is distilled from seminal research by Dr. Jack Cohen (ret.), US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and the Disaster Research Center of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The new courses support the tenets of its Outthink Wildfire™ policy initiative by dramatically increasing public access to wildfire risk reduction education. With nearly 45 million American homes at high risk to damage from wildfire, it is critically important that property owners and professional advisors have access to knowledge about wildfire causes and disaster prevention strategies. The trainings are designed to engage people in safety actions long before a fire starts, spurring much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels. To learn more about reducing wildfire risk to property and to register for these free courses, visit nfpa.org/wildfirepreparedness.

PyroLife: training the next generation of wildfire scientists

Did you know about NFPA’s partnership with the European PyroLife project? Read on to learn more about this project and the importance of international partnerships in advancing Integrated Wildfire Management around the world. PyroLife is a PhD training network funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (EU Horizon 2020). Specifically, it is a PhD training program on wildfires, aimed at advancing holistic, integrated wildfire management in Europe and globally, with the support of a worldwide network. The network is made up of 15 PhD candidates and over 20 academic and non-academic institutions in Europe and beyond, including NFPA (more information about the network here). The PyroLife PhDs conduct research from very diverse areas, such as wildfire impacts on water and soil systems; the economic costs of wildfires; wildfire governance; wildfire building safety; and communicating with communities at risk. To foster learning and research across disciplines, sectors and geographies, and help them become the next generation of wildfire scientists, the PhDs are involved in multiple activities beyond their individual research projects. These include trainings, workshops, dissemination activities, and secondments. And this is where NFPA’s partnership with PyroLife comes in. NFPA has greatly contributed to organizing and facilitating training and dissemination events, like the PyroLife International Symposium in 2020, the PyroLife webinar series during 2021, and the Basics of Risk Communication training in November 2021.   Moreover, NFPA hosts four of the PyroLife PhDs for secondments. By doing these research exchanges, the PhDs are exposed to working environments that are complementary to where they usually conduct their research. This fosters cross-disciplinary, intersectoral, and geographical transfer of knowledge, building networks, and paving the road for future wildfire collaborations across the globe. For instance, Isabeau Ottolini, who researches community-based wildfire communication at the Open University of Catalonia (Spain), has recently spent her secondment with NFPA. Thanks to this, she has presented her research at two conferences: the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo and the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference. Furthermore, she travelled across California, Colorado and Massachusetts, learning about wildfire management, communication, and community engagement on the ground. These extremely valuable learning opportunities would not have been possible without the PyroLife network and the partner's willingness to be so actively engaged in it. In a next blogpost, Isabeau will share lessons learned on wildfire communication from her time with NFPA, so stay tuned! About the author: Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and part of the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication and has recently spent her secondment at NFPA’s Wildfire Division.
A facilitator listening to a group

Outthink Wildfire summit works to build a bridge between barriers to wildfire mitigation and strategies to overcome them

As the past several years have shown, the mounting wildfire crisis in the U.S. presents a significant danger to people, homes, and communities, particularly those in wildfire urban interface (WUI) settings. While we know what’s needed to measurable reduce these risks, putting them into action requires buy-in and support from individual property-owners, communities, and policymakers at each level of government. Therein lies the challenge. Motivating these audiences to do their part isn’t always easy. But to truly increase safety from wildfire, we need to identify viable pathways to better combat the growing wildfire problem and put those measures into action. As a next step toward that end, NFPA hosting its first Outthink Wildfire™ summit last week in Sacramento, CA. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year as a major policy initiative to stem the tide of wildfire-caused human and property losses through significant changes at all levels of government. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and bringing policymakers, fire service and the public together to solve the problem. The summit focused on developing a set of recommendations for the built environment, primarily tackling ways to get existing homes better protected from wildfire. Representatives from nearly 40 organizations were invited to share their input, insights, and recommendations, and to help create a template for effectively reducing wildfire risks in WUI communities. While space for this event was limited, it serves as a launchpad for many more individuals and organizations to participate going forward so that we can collectively move the needle on wildfire mitigation. Outthink Wildfire participants (in alphabetical order) American Property Casualty Insurance Association Brian Meacham Associates Build Strong America CAL FIRE California Association of REALTORS® California Building Industry Association California Building Standards Commission California Fire Safe Council California Fire Science Consortium/Cal Poly San Luis Obispo California Governor's Office City of Austin (TX) Fire Department Colorado Div. of Fire Prevention & Control Colorado Wildfire Partners Desert Research Institute Fire Marshals Association of Colorado U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Insurance Information Institute International Code Council Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. National Association of State Fire Marshals National Disability Rights Network National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) National Volunteer Fire Council National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NorCal Fire Prevention Officers Oregon Building Codes Division, Dept Consumer & Business Svcs Oregon Fire Marshals Association Oregon State Fire Marshals Office Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Foundation Sonoma County (CA) Fire Prevention & Hazardous Materials Div. Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment U.S. Fire Administration UL Fire Safety Research Institute USDA Forest Service Western Fire Chiefs Association Wildland Fire Leadership Council A full report on the summit and next steps will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, a tremendous thank you to the 50-plus representatives who attended the summit this week. The enthusiasm and commitment displayed reinforces my hope and belief that we will truly be able to meet the ultimate Outthink Wildfire goal of eliminating wildfire hazards in 30 years. I also look forward to hearing from all the wildfire safety advocates and officials who were not at the summit but would like to get actively involved in the Outthink Wildfire initiative. It takes buy-in and engagement from all of us to make holistic, impactful wildfire mitigation a reality.
Representatives of a Firewise community

Stepping up to the challenge - Firewise USA participation increases along with more rigorous criteria

It’s never been more important for communities to engage in wildfire risk reduction around homes and neighborhoods. During 2021, participation in the only nationally available, standardized, and documented community wildfire risk reduction program, Firewise USA® increased to 1,839 sites in 43 states. Thirteen percent of the current total are new to the program; more than half of participating sites have been working on wildfire risk reduction for five or more years. Wildfire risk reduction is an ongoing process and must be addressed continuously due to the dynamic nature of wildfire risk. NFPA staff are especially proud of all communities that stepped up to the challenge of new criteria meant to ensure the continued high quality of the Firewise USA program. Behind every smiling face holding a Firewise sign, there is a tremendous amount of work and coordination that happens each year. Let’s take a look at the numbers! There are nearly 1.5 million people living in Firewise USA® sites around the country, working on wildfire risk reduction for 645,874 dwelling units. During 2021, these sites: Invested $133.9 million in wildfire risk reduction work Logged 2 million volunteer hours Removed 2.49 million cubic yards of flammable vegetation The volunteer hour for 2021 was valued at $27.20, and participating sites must accomplish the equivalent of one hour of work for every dwelling unit (home) in the community. They can achieve this through documenting work hours, cash spent, or in-kind services received. Most encouraging in the numbers was the significant effort to make changes to homes and home landscapes within 100 feet of the structure – modifying the Home Ignition Zone to reduce vulnerability to flames and embers. A solid 70% of the documented work was in the Home Ignition Zone last year, up from about 65% in 2020. The $133.9 million in risk reduction investment was split roughly 60/40 between volunteer hours vs. cash or in-kind. Nearly half of the annual cash investment in risk reduction were costs for professionals to do the work needed. Nearly a quarter of these investments involved home improvements to reduce ignition potential. While growth has been significant in the West, a number of states that usually aren’t associated with wildfire risk show strong commitment to wildfire risk reduction when we look at the top 10 states for Firewise participation. In 2022, NFPA will be creating more tools to help interested communities work through the Firewise process more readily. Stay tuned for what’s new as the year goes on!
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