AUTHOR: Michele Steinberg

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Wildfire preparedness is in the cards…the social media cards, that is!

May 1 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and people all over the country are organizing projects and activities for that day and throughout the month. One great way to help people get excited for what kinds of activities they can do to reduce their wildfire risks is to share the great examples highlighted on our social media cards.  The “cards” are images with a message about a wildfire preparedness or pre-fire action someone can take that will make a real difference around their home and in their community.  To use them, simply click to open and save, or right-click on the image to save, and post them on your Facebook or other social media platform. Then, include the suggested link that goes with each image so when your friends and neighbors click on the image, they can learn from pages on NFPA’s website that provide more detailed information. These key tips to prepare for wildfire include: Clear and dispose of debris in your yard, as well as lawn cuttings, to reduce fuel for a wildfire. Move firewood piles at least 30 feet from any buildings. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place before wildfire threatens your area. Protect from embers by installing metal mesh screening in attic and crawl space vents. Remove needles or leaves from roofs, gutters, porches and decks to prevent ignitions. Pets are part of the family. Make sure your evacuation plans include your pets. Using social media is a great way to spread the word about wildfire preparedness. When you post them, be sure to also include the social media hashtag #wildfireprepday to help spread the word!

Strengthening the safety net: a healthy insurance market will help us Outthink Wildfire

A new policy brief by NFPA highlights insurance as a key component required for all of us to collectively Outthink Wildfire™ and eliminate the loss of communities to wildfire in 30 years. NFPA’s recent launch of a bold policy initiative, Outthink Wildfire™, describes five areas we must address to end the wildfire destruction of communities by 2050: making existing homes ignition-resistant; building new structures to safer standards; equipping our fire service with training and protective gear; managing the nation’s fire-prone landscapes; and educating the public on risk reduction. A healthy insurance marketplace is vital to achieving these actions. Property insurance is the primary and largest financial safety net for recovering from disaster-caused property damage, including wildfires. Some 70 million home insurance policies are in force across the country. When wildfires destroy hundreds, even thousands, of homes, the payout of these policies is key to rebuilding communities and reducing the demand on taxpayer-supported disaster relief. Yet many Americans don’t carry enough insurance to allow them to recover after a wildfire. Recent disasters have also meant rising insurance rates in some cases, and denial of insurance coverage for high-risk properties in others. Until the nation’s high-risk areas have many more communities with mitigated homes and safer newly built structures, there is still a significant risk of repeating the multi-billion dollar property losses we have seen in recent wildfire disasters. That’s why people need to understand how important it is to carry enough property insurance to cover their potential losses, and to support the tenets of Outthink Wildfire. To keep insurance affordable, available, and able to help people recover from wildfire disasters, people must take risk reduction steps on private property, and local and state governments must enforce sound land use and construction standards for buildings in high-risk areas. Read NFPA’s latest policy statement on insurance to understand more and visit the Outthink Wildfire webpage to see how these and other actions will go a long way to helping end the loss and suffering of wildfire disasters.
Wildfire Prep Day toolkit
Paradise RIdge destruction

The rush to rebuild: Local reaction to disasters perpetuates a vicious cycle and sacrifices safety

The truism that things only change after a disaster is once again proved false. While it is comforting to believe that following the destruction of thousands of homes – in northern California, in southern Oregon, in the Front Range of Colorado – that rebuilding will happen carefully, with all precautions against future wildfires put in place, it simply isn’t happening. Why not?  A recent op-ed by a resident of Talent, Oregon, points to the ugly truth. Along with many others, he was evacuated during a major wildfire that entered town. In mourning the devastating loss of more than 600 homes, he noted that the wildfire became an urban conflagration – a disaster fueled by structures, not trees – when it entered the town. He wrote “As an evacuee, it’s only natural for me to feel angry about the abject neglect for public safety that could have been avoided with proper planning by elected officials in a region that is feeling unprecedented pain.”  State and local officials in wildfire-prone areas have kicked the regulatory can down the road for so long, it’s almost as if they don’t realize there are alternatives to the brutal cycle of build, burn, repeat. The stale, unsupported arguments against sound safety standards and land use planning come down to this: it costs too much. But who is it costing? And how much is too much? Has anyone calculated the cost to future generations of building substandard housing intended to last 50-100 years, that may burn to the ground in a decade or two?  Recent articles have revealed that communities devastated by disaster aren’t rebuilding safely because state and local officials have abdicated their responsibility for public safety, bowing to pressure to maintain the increasingly hazardous status quo. As soon as special interests from the building industry raise the specter of “too expensive,” it shuts down any meaningful debate or change. These articles ponder the failure of governments to enact sensible building codes and zoning, highlighting the arguments put forward by builders. They warn of tens of thousands of dollars added to the cost of building a new home but provide no basis for these figures. They preach that Americans have the right to build where and how they want, and that people are smart enough to figure out how to build safely without “onerous” or “draconian” rules governing new home construction and siting. Research by NFPA and others demonstrate how off-base these kinds of statements are. In 2018, Headwaters Economics and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety demonstrated that new homes built to meet wildfire safety codes cost no more than – or even less than – the same type of home built with combustible materials and elements. In 2017, NFPA commissioned an independent survey of 1,000 Americans, showing that 8 in 10 adults assume their homes met the most up-to-date codes when constructed, and even more of them (86%) were confident that if they built a newly constructed home, it would meet the most up-to-date fire and electrical safety codes. What a shock, then, for people who lose everything they own to wildfire to learn that the government they trusted with their safety has done absolutely nothing to secure it.   NFPA and other code-making organizations have sound, science-based standards available for local jurisdictions to address the serious and growing threats that wildfire poses to life, property and the fabric of our communities. But these standards do no good unless they are used and enforced. In the aftermath of wildfire disasters, when the desire to rebuild and “get back to normal” is overwhelming, new regulations are an extremely hard sell. But to end the vicious cycle of rebuilding with inadequate safety measures, state and local governments must act now. The security of our children and grandchildren depends upon it.   Photo: Michele Steinberg, Paradise Ridge Destruction
Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

What you do makes a difference: Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2021 launches to help protect homes and neighborhoods

Now more than ever, it’s vital that people take steps to protect their homes from wildfire. That’s why NFPA and State Farm® are hosting the eighth annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Financial support from State Farm will once again enable NFPA to provide 150 applicants from across the country with $500 awards to complete a wildfire risk reduction project. Research show there are proven methods to prepare properties to withstand the devastating impacts of a wildfire. NFPA encourages project award applicants to focus on eliminating ignition hazards in the Home Ignition Zone – the home and everything right around it. Simple, low cost projects such as clearing dead leaves, debris, and pine needles from roofs and gutters, keeping lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches, removing anything stored underneath decks or porches that could burn, and other similar actions are being actively supported by NFPA and State Farm on Preparedness Day and can be easily undertaken by most homeowners. Given the current challenge to holding large in-person gatherings, Preparedness Day can be the ideal time for individuals and families to focus on improving fire protection and safety where it can make the biggest difference – around your home and property. Get ready to make a difference and get involved in wildfire risk reduction where you live. Plan your project and apply now through February 26, 2021 for an award.  
HIZ Class26 TX 2015

FEMA's Fire Prevention & Safety Grant to support creation of a digital wildfire risk reduction program

To meet the needs of homeowners and business owners at risk from wildfire, and the fire departments that serve them, NFPA will develop a digital wildfire safety hub containing online learning modules, 3D simulations, educational videos, and other essential resources, all thanks to a generous FEMA grant. The Fire Prevention & Safety Grant was awarded to NFPA for a two-year project to transform its classroom-based wildfire risk reduction training into a comprehensive digital learning experience that reaches millions of Americans living and working in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). While the past few years of devastating wildfires in California have captured national attention, it's not only California communities that are vulnerable. The recently released Wildfire Risk to Communities data shows that 24 states, nearly half outside the Western U.S., have a significant risk to homes.With nearly 44 million properties identified as vulnerable to the impacts of wildfires nationwide, the potential for future structure damage and loss is enormous. NFPA chose a digital experiential approach to ensure the widest possible dissemination and implementation of critical wildfire mitigation measures to these high-risk areas. The project will be conducted in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization, and overseen by a technical advisory panel of experts. NFPA will develop three curricula: one each for homeowners, business owners/property managers, and fire service and public safety personnel. Each will provide the appropriate knowledge for each audience regarding WUI fire mitigation practices, using interactive web-based training and engaging simulations in a 3D virtual environment. The experiential training modules and additional tools will be readily available, along with NFPA's rich wildfire safety content, on the planned website hub. NFPA believes the courses and tools we will build with the support of this grant will help spur much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels, buoying the voluntary efforts of residents and firefighters who engage in fire adaptation including NFPA's Firewise USA Recognition Program and its annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign. Image: An in-person classroom training, Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire. The new training and resources will use the information and knowledge this class is based on to expand NFPA's wildfire safety education to millions of Americans through digital delivery.
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