Wildfires are a community problem that have a community solution

When reading about the wildfires ravaging the western United States, it is easy to get bogged down with a sense of sadness as scenes from the frontlines are more and more heartbreaking. However, one thing is certain. People are pooling brainpower and mobilizing efforts to control what can be controlled. Out of the ashes rise stories about neighbors helping neighbors implement successful mitigation efforts in Firewise USA sites, researchers using data to identify pockets of high-risk residents who may need unique support during evacuation, and local agencies re-designing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) on the fly to consider added complications of living in wildfire risk zones amidst a global pandemic.   

Firewise Photo Library Wildfire6Community is at the heart of the issue.  We only need to look as far as the wildland urban interface to find this intersection of data-informed decision-making, energetic community partners, and residents who portray an ever-valuable sense of responsibility for safety. In fact, Firewise USA can serve as the perfect micro-model of Community Risk Reduction (CRR). Leaders in local initiatives collect information about the people, geography, weather, and hazards such as building materials and local vegetation to assess wildfire risk. They take stock of available services and resources. Then they pull local partners together to develop plans and take measurable action to mitigate risk.

Most importantly, these initiatives truly reflect the “C” in CRR with a never-wavering connection to the people who live in the community. As we hear more and more about the silver linings that peek through the ash, I suspect we will find creative ways to leverage the passion and energy found in Firewise sites to reduce risks even beyond wildfire.

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks of all kinds, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. It requires a deep look at local data and consideration all of the puzzle pieces - geography, systems, and resources – to get a clear view of how hazards might impact resident safety. This Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the critical first step in the CRR process. Once that information is gathered, a local team determines the priority issues and then develops plans to address those risks. The process, while it can be challenging, is hugely beneficial to those who are laser-focused in allocating resources in impactful ways.

Stop by NFPA's CRR page for updates about Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction and access to NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. You can also follow me on twitter @KBerardReed for updates about these important topics.

Photo Credit: Firewise Photo Library

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

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Karen Berard-Reed
Senior Strategist, Community Risk Reduction Lead

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